DOL Examines English Proficiency Project

The Department of Labor (DOL) has released a report evaluating its Limited English Proficiency and Hispanic Worker Initiative project.The program was launched in 2006 with $4.9 million awarded to organizations in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, and Texas so they could test innovative strategies for delivering language and employment services to limited English proficient and Hispanic workers.

The findings highlight both challenges and successes of the pilot project, which will serve as a guide for similar future employment programs and provide insight for employers seeking to offer occupational skills to prepare workers for jobs in high-demand industries. According to the report, factors critical to the success of the program include active engagement by employers to adapt a curriculum tailored to meet their specific workplace requirements and employers’ ability to provide incentives for program completion to limited English-proficient and Hispanic program participants.

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Categories: Agency Insight

Lawyer Who Denied Access to Service Dog Gets Bit

By Keeya M. Jeffrey

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado recently approved a consent decree resolving a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Department of Justice against a Colorado Springs lawyer who refused to allow a woman, her husband, and her lawyer access to his office for a deposition because the woman brought her service dog. The lawyer feared the dog would ruin his newly installed carpeting. The Justice Department argued that the lawyer’s refusal to allow the woman and her dog access was a violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the consent decree, the lawyer will pay the woman and her husband $40,000 in damages, pay $10,000 in civil penalties, and adopt and enforce a policy compliant with the ADA’s provision on service animals. Given the penalties and damages assessed against the lawyer, one can only hope the carpet was of really good quality. What follows is a primer for employers on federal and the applicable Colorado state law concerning service animals.

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Categories: Legal News

Overcoming Language, Hearing Obstacles for Safety’s Sake

May 16, 2010 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

By Jason Bohanan

Communicating with employees is essential to the health of any business. Daily communication between management, supervisors, and front-line employees helps keep every aspect of the business running, from planning meetings to ensuring everyday assignments are completed. Unfortunately, no method of communication is perfect. Communication breakdowns, such as lost memos and unchecked voicemails, can hamper almost every department within a company.

For employers, communicating detailed safety procedures with large numbers of workers can be difficult. Finding the most effective method of reaching employees and ensuring the lines of communication remain open takes work and innovation. Many firms, however, are encountering two relatively new obstacles to reaching workers: language barriers and hearing impairments. Companies are hiring more employees who either cannot speak English fluently or have hearing impairments than in the past. Unfortunately, many of these businesses have not planned how to provide adequate safety training to workers who have trouble communicating.

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Categories: Feature

Gender Identity Protection Resurfaces in Federal, Local Laws

By Lorraine Yeomans

Recent actions by President Barack Obama’s administration and a flurry of new local laws are reviving discussion on the issue of gender identity (sometimes also referred to as gender expression) discrimination. Since 1993, when Minnesota adopted the first state law protecting against discrimination based on gender identity, employers have been doing their best to modify workplace practices to ensure compliance with gender identity and often-related sexual orientation protections. This has not always been an easy task, and employers are often confused by the distinctions these laws create.

As you’re probably already aware, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a result, many state and local governments have specifically included provisions for sexual orientation and/or gender identity in their non-discrimination laws. Because these state and local laws often encompass one or the other (sexual orientation or gender identity), but not always both, it is important for employers to understand the distinction between the two terms.

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Categories: Diversity Trends

Unexpected Demographics of the 2007-10 Downturn

A Wall Street Journal analysis of recent data sets reveals unexpected characteristics of current employment losses. The last 10 years have seen an increasing parity in employment among men and women, but because the majority of women came into the job market later, it was expected that layoffs — following a last-in/first-out pattern — would hit women harder. Quite unexpectedly, however, more than 70 percent of the jobs lost since December 2007 were held by men.

One factor seems to be that the downturn hit manufacturing and construction hardest and men disproportionately are employed in these sectors. (In 2007, men represented 93 percent of construction and 72 percent of manufacturing employment.) The near collapse of U.S. auto manufacturing reduced the ranks of employees of the Detroit Three and their domestic supply chain. And construction had become overstaffed during the building boom because of easy mortgages. Many construction and auto supply companies were exhausted and undercapitalized, and they simply went out of business, lacking the will or resources to attempt to preserve their core workforces through reduced hours and alternative employment.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Asian Harassment Based on African American Racial Slurs

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) recently issued a probable-cause finding against an employer and its owner. The owner admittedly used the “n” word in the presence of an Asian employee who has a biracial child and a black fiance.

Facts

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Categories: Legal News

Minimizing Conflicts Over Workplace Diversity

The American workplace is changing. There are more women, minorities, immigrants, nonimmigrant contract workers, non-English-speaking or limited-English-speaking workers, and older workers in the workforce today. Those employees have different needs, expectations, and skills that present many challenges for management.

You must not ignore those differences. Ignoring them simply leads to confusion, conflicts, and eventually discrimination or harassment complaints. But how can you communicate with, coordinate, and manage such a diverse group? The following suggestions may help you get started on a workplace diversity program.

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Categories: Feature

Safety Challenges in Dealing with an Aging Workforce

With Americans living longer, they are also working longer, making older workers an invaluable part of any company. They bring wisdom, knowledge, and experience to many aspects of business. They can become mentors for younger and less experienced workers. But there are certain changes that occur to both the body and mind of every individual as they age, which can affect safety in the workplace if an employer is unaware of them and does not take steps to keep aging workers safe.

The first members of the “baby boomer” generation have entered their sixth decade — the eldest in a generation that comprises the most significant portion of the U.S. labor force today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost a quarter of all 65- to 74-year-olds are active in the workforce, representing the highest percentage of workers in this age group since 1970. As older adults return to work after re-tirement, whether due to financial need or the desire to continue working, health and safety professionals must address this population’s needs.

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Categories: Boomers

Heterosexual PR Contractor May Have Suffered Antigay Discrimination

By Terence H. McGuire

Recently, a federal district court in New York ruled that a worker retained to perform public relations and other promotional services for a clothing manufacturer could proceed to trial on claims under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) that he was fired because he was perceived to be homosexual. Interestingly, the worker contends that (1) he isn’t homosexual, (2) he lived and worked in California for most of the time he was engaged by the company, including when his services were terminated, and (3) he operates his own public relations corporation. The manufacturer claims that he was an independent contractor rather than an employee.

This case underscores the importance of being cognizant that the NYCHRL and NYSHRL prohibit discrimination based on both real and perceived sexual orientation and that the New York laws may permit even “out-of-state” employees to file lawsuits. Finally, if you intend to create independent contractor business relationships rather than employment relationships, you must consider the factors the courts use to determine which type of relationship exists.

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Categories: Flashpoint

Wal-Mart Settles Sex Discrimination Suit for $11.7

By Saul C. Glazer

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., has agreed to pay $11.7 million in back wages and compensatory damages, its share of employer taxes, and up to $250,000 in administration fees and will furnish other relief, including jobs, to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The settlement illustrates the substantial risks employers face with respect to claims of systemic discriminatory practices.

Facts

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Categories: Legal News

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