Disability developments: the shape of things to come?

by Christopher J. Pyles

Employers often face difficult challenges when they’re called on to determine if employees are “disabled,” especially when considering characteristics like height and weight. 

It’s up to you

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Resources available for employers trying to recruit people with disabilities

September 15, 2013 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

As October nears, employers may be hearing a lot about how people with disabilities can benefit the workplace. Every year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) designates October as a time to raise awareness about the value of employing people with disabilities.

This year’s theme–“Because We Are EQUAL to the Task”–was chosen to show employers “the reality that people with disabilities have the education, training, experience, and desire to be successful in the workplace,” according to an announcement from ODEP.

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Same-sex couples stand to receive benefits after DOMA provision’s demise

by Scott Evans

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions favorable to the gay rights movement. In United States v. Windsor, the Court ruled that same-sex married couples are entitled to federal benefits, and by declining to decide a California case, the Court effectively allowed same-sex marriage in the state.

In the Windsor case, the Supreme Court held that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman and denied more than 1,000 federal benefits to same-sex married couples, was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s decision to strike down Section 3 may dramatically transform the legal and financial standing of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority’s opinion in the 5-4 decision, with the four liberal-leaning justices―Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan―joining.

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Who is GINA, and why should I care about her?

by Mark Jeffries

Those of us in HR and the field of employment law sometimes feel like we’re being force-fed a veritable alphabet soup of federal statutes. We have to mind our p’s and q’s under the FLSA, FMLA, ADA, ADAAA, and ADEA, just to name a few. But there’s a relatively young law that some of you may not be aware of: the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, or GINA.

Because GINA just became law a few years ago and her scope is fairly limited, many employers may not have given her much thought. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed its first GINA lawsuit against an employer, resulting in a $50,000 settlement. So beware―GINA is out there, and the facts of the EEOC’s case show how easy it can be to run afoul of her prohibitions.

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EEOC steps up enforcement of genetic information nondiscrimination

by Roberta Fields

Each year, scientific advancements in the field of genetics broaden our understanding of health issues and, specifically, the impact heredity plays on a person’s chances of developing certain medical conditions. Such research has led to more and more genetic tests designed to help people understand their risks for getting cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of other diseases and conditions.

While such tests are beneficial in understanding, detecting, treating, and preventing disease, the information they yield―if it falls into the wrong hands or is used for the wrong purposes―can be used to hurt people as well.

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Transgender employee, sex stereotyping, and a heart attack

by Steven T. Collis

Do an employer’s criticisms of a transgender employee’s unruly hair, disheveled clothing, poor writing and speaking skills, and negative client interactions support a discrimination claim based on her failure to conform to a gender stereotype? The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado recently said no to that question. However, the employee’s termination following a heart attack raised sufficient issues of fact to allow her disability discrimination claim to proceed.

Employee receives mixed performance reviews

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Finding a way to drive gender diversity in STEM fields

August 18, 2013 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Most employers would agree that STEM careers—jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—are on the upswing in both numbers and importance. Most also would agree that there are far more men than women in STEM jobs.

A 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” signals a promising future for women in STEM careers since statistics show they earn an average of 33 percent more than their non-STEM colleagues. The problem, though, is a lack of women in those lucrative jobs. The report shows that the percentage of STEM jobs held by women stood at just 24 percent in 2009. An October 2011 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce in puts the figure at 23 percent.

So the fact that women seem to have some catching up to do is a wake-up call for employers interested in cultivating and retaining women for STEM jobs. read more…

Sex, religion, and retaliation

by Mark I. Schickman

I keep waiting for the day that employment discrimination claims disappear. We spend a ton of time training employees to prevent and avoid discriminatory conduct, and the proper behavior is pretty intuitive. So, logically, employment discrimination should have been eradicated, like polio and smallpox.

It would be terrible for my business if discrimination cases went away because defending them is much of what I do. But no worries―there isn’t much chance of employment discrimination disappearing. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received about 100,000 charges in 2012, up from 75,000 in 2005. Religious discrimination is the fastest- growing category of charges, fed by a rising fear of those who practice Islam and the misplaced view that, unlike race or sex, a person can just change religion. The EEOC is putting extra enforcement effort into that area. read more…

Lessons from an office ‘kick me’ prank

by Robert P. Tinnin, Jr.

Q I recently read a newspaper article concerning a lawsuit filed in federal court in Albuquerque by an Intel employee who is suing his employer for race-based harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Coworkers secretly taped a “kick me” sign to his back and then kicked him as others laughed hysterically. What are we coming to? Can employees sue their employer for anything these days?

A The lawsuit has garnered quite a bit of attention in both the local and national press. The primary allegation involves a grade-school prank that many of us participated in as children. Indeed, at the very least, it was a juvenile prank. Few of us would think it would be the basis for a lawsuit in federal court, but it is. read more…

DSM-5 offers new opportunities for disability accommodations

by Tobias S. Piering and Andrew Moriarty

What do menstrual cramps, temper tantrums, and getting old have in common? They’re all symptoms of new mental health disorders recognized in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)―a controversial but widely used authority on mental health diagnoses.

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