Retailers and businesses may soon need to begin preparing for a new public accommodations issue related to an altogether different kind of access barrier: websites. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is developing a plan to amend Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require websites to become accessible to disabled users. The DOJ is concerned about the accessibility of websites operated by public entities, such as state and local governments, which are subject to Title II of the ADA, as well as those run by private-sector businesses actively involved in e-commerce, which may or may not be covered by Title III of the ADA.
With the recent emphasis on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) regarding employers’ affirmative duties to pregnant employees, it is important for employers to remember that they also have obligations when employees return to work after childbirth. Specifically, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers have certain obligations to nursing mothers.
What’s required of employers?
A Turkish-born Muslim teacher claimed that her school had a culture of racial and ethnic hostility. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose decisions apply to Colorado employers) recently ruled that her complaints of national origin discrimination may move forward. This case offers several lessons on how to handle cultural differences in the workplace.
Principal made and allowed insensitive comments
Efforts to create more diverse workplaces have landed on many employers’ radar screens in recent years. The tech industry, notably, has been exposed as being overwhelmingly male and white, leading some of those influential employers to do some soul searching. They and employers in an array of other fields have devised programs resulting in improvement, but they acknowledge that more progress is needed on the diversity front.
Now that many employers have implemented programs aimed at hiring, retaining, and promoting a diverse workforce, a new term—unconscious bias—is coming into the spotlight. But how can employers fight something if they’re not conscious of it? If people don’t even see their biases, they’re fighting blind. That may sound nearly impossible, but those who have studied the issue have identified ways to start.
The concept of equal pay for equal work is receiving attention from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), President Barack Obama, and the 2016 candidates for president. That means there’s no better time than the present for a review of what “equal pay” does and doesn’t mean, recent amendments to the Equal Pay Act (EPA), and proposed regulatory changes.
What is the EPA?
On January 29, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with administering and enforcing the civil rights laws that prohibit workplace discrimination, proposed a significant revision to its Employer Information Report (also known as the EEO-1). The federal government uses the EEO-1 to collect demographic data about an employer’s workforce. The EEOC’s proposed amendment to the EEO-1 would require employers with 100 or more employees to report pay data in addition to their workforce demographics. So what’s the purpose of the proposed change, and how will it impact you?
EEOC’s proposed EEO-1 changes
As backlash is rising steadily in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is taking an active approach to addressing current and potential workplace discrimination. EEOC Chair Jenny Yang issued a statement urging employers and employees to be mindful of instances of harassment, intimidation, or discrimination in the workplace against “vulnerable communities” such as employees who are or are being perceived to be Muslim. She cautioned employers to “take steps to directly address potential problems to prevent harassment, retaliation and other forms of discrimination” and encouraged employees to “report incidents to their workplace official and to the EEOC or its state and local partners.”
The agency also released two resource guidance documents, one for employers and one for employees, in Q&A format to explain federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination against individuals who are targeted for being Muslim or perceived to be Muslim. The guides note well-established strategies to curb and prevent workplace discrimination and warn employers that “reactions in the workplace to world events demand increased efforts . . . to prevent discrimination.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released a detailed breakdown of the 89,385 workplace discrimination charges it received in fiscal year (FY) 2015, which started on October 1, 2014, and ended on September 30, 2015. Retaliation charges increased by nearly 5% and continue to be the leading complaint raised by workers across the country. Disability discrimination charges increased by 6% from FY 2014 and were the third most commonly filed charge.
The EEOC resolved 92,641 charges in FY 2015 through voluntary resolution and litigation. The year-end data show that 39,757 retaliation charges were filed, representing 44% of all private-sector charges. The agency is currently seeking public input on its proposed enforcement guidance on retaliation and related issues.
The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, 2nd Department, recently issued an important decision in which it held that an employer faced liability under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) for allowing employees to mock the religious beliefs of a coworker’s spouse. This case has important ramifications for both public and private-sector employers.
Employers and academics alike have long touted the value of diversity in the workplace. But diversity efforts also have detractors—a fact born out in December when criticism was heaped on the CEO of Sam’s Club after she spoke out about her commitment to building her own diverse leadership team and encouraging the same from her company’s suppliers.