Geographic diversity: Dealing with rural-urban differences in the workplace

February 19, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The rural-urban divide in America has had people talking since the 2016 presidential election, which showed a marked difference in the way urban and rural areas tend to vote. The 2016 election wasn’t the first sign of a divide, and individuals in both rural and urban areas often defy aggregate data, but various statistics show differences in attitudes and political opinions that seem to be defined by whether an area is urban or rural. Spring Urban and Countryside Landscape City Village Real Estate Summer

Such divisions also can be found in the workplace. For years, employers have touted the advantages of diversity and have worked toward racial, ethnic, religious, and gender diversity. But what about geographic diversity? Is there a business advantage to attracting a mix of people from rural and urban backgrounds?

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Wild kingdom: sexual harassment at the NPS

May we fire employee who doesn’t fit in?

EEOC issues new guidelines on national origin discrimination

by Saul Glazer

With the increase in terrorism and attention given to immigration- related complaints, there is commensurate potential for workplace conflict and harassment related to national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued new guidelines to help employers prevent national origin discrimination in the workplace. This article discusses national origin discrimination and highlights the key examples in the EEOC’s newly issued guidelinesEEOC-jpg

National origin discrimination defined

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Are rules for same-sex marriage about to change in Texas?

by Jacob M. Monty

The Texas Supreme Court recently announced that it will review a case arguing that Texas employers shouldn’t be required to spend taxpayer funds to provide benefits to employee spouses in same-sex marriages, even if they do offer benefits to employee spouses in opposite-sex marriages. Depending on the outcome of the case, the ruling could lead to plenty of confusion over what Texas employers are required to do (and prohibited from doing) when it comes to employee benefits.  Justice is served

Background

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Handling challenges to diversity in era of divisiveness

January 15, 2017 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

It may seem there’s no escaping political divisiveness. All manner of news and social media sources carry angry, frequently hurtful, and often untrue communication. And the workplace is not immune from the damage of those messages.  Two angry businesspeople with boxing gloves having an argument

Presidential campaigns have been heated before, but the 2016 contest seemed especially rife with venom. Since the campaign was so divisiveparticularly on race and religion issues that were aggravated by comments about Mexicans, Muslims, and other minoritiessome of that discord has found its way to the workplace.

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Are decisions made for the reasons you think?

by Dinita L. James

Employment laws prohibit intentional discrimination based on race, sex, or other protected characteristics as well as practices that have a discriminatory impact if they’re not supported by business necessity. Implicit or unconscious bias isn’t technically unlawful in the workplace if it doesn’t cause an unjustified adverse impact.  Bias

Yet a presidential candidate in the most-watched debate ever recently responded to a question about whether she “believed that police are implicitly biased against black people” by stating, “Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” The FBI director also recently acknowledged overwhelming research demonstrating the presence of widespread unconscious biases and the way in which those biases may manifest in policing.

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Walking the workplace proselytizing tightrope

by David L. Johnson

“Have a blessed day.” “I’m praying for you.” “Are you a believer?” “Would you be interested in attending church with me?” Comments and questions like those may be common in your workplace. On the one hand, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against employees because of their religion. On the other hand, employers have a legitimate interest in preventing employees from expressing their religion in a manner that is disruptive to business operations and preventing proselytizing from creating a religiously hostile work environment. That can be a real tightrope walk because it’s often unclear where the line should be drawn.  Tightrope walker businessman

Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs. That may present challenges when an employee claims that a need to share her faith or seek to convert others is a fundamental tenet of her religion. Employers need not provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship. Of course, what amounts to a “reasonable” accommodation and what kind of hardship is considered “undue” is open to interpretation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted an “undue hardship” to be a hardship that presents “more than a minimal burden on [the] operation of the business.” An accommodation that would impede coworkers’ right to work in an environment free from religious harassment would be considered an undue hardship.

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ADA interactive process: When does your obligation to engage begin?

by Susan Hartmus Hiser

Q We have an employee whose work performance has been slipping lately. We have reason to believe that she is suffering from depression because she was diagnosed as bipolar and had a bout of depression a few years ago that led to a similar decline in her work performance. We allowed her to work a modified schedule for a brief period while she was being treated by her therapist. She hasn’t requested another accommodation recently. Can we discipline her, up to and including termination, based on her performance, or do we need to take steps to address her depression under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?   depressed businessman at office working on computer asking for help

A Both the ADA and many state laws place the initial burden on the employee to inform her employer of a need for an accommodation. However, in the situation you describe, given the employee’s history of depression and her attendant performance issues, a court could find that your company was on notice of her need for an accommodation, even though she didn’t request one. That’s particularly true since she required an accommodation to address her performance issues the last time she had a bout with depression. When an employer has knowledge of an employee’s disability, she need not use the word “accommodation” to trigger the ADA obligation of engaging in the interactive process.

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U.S. Supreme Court to consider transgender restroom lawsuit

by Ryan B. Frazier

During the 1990s, Saturday Night Live, a popular TV sketch comedy show, featured a recurring gender-ambiguous character, Pat. The gag in Pat’s comedy sketches often involved others’ failed attempts to determine the seemingly androgynous character’s gender. The skits played off the then-prevailing view that a person’s gender falls into one of two categories: male or female.  Gender transition concept

Society’s view of gender has evolved significantly since then. The rigid dichotomy of a two-gender world view is frequently challenged and, in some cases, rejected outright. As society’s views on gender morph, the law is attempting to keep pace.

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