Staying on solid legal ground when seeking brain diversity in the workforce

March 15, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 3 COMMENTS

The benefits of diversity in the workplace are nearly universally touted. Human resources professionals are eager to assemble teams representing a variety of races, ethnicities, genders, and ages. But now another kind of diversity is gaining recruiters’ attention: brain diversity.  Male and female brains

A December 2014 article on the Fortune website reports that companies are beginning to seek out candidates with conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia for jobs that are particularly well-suited to the abilities and strengths people with those conditions often exhibit. For example, people with ADHD often excel at jobs requiring energetic, creative individuals, and people with autism often excel at detail-oriented jobs dealing with large amounts of data.

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The business case for diversity

by Kimberly Williams

Recently, my employer, Baystate Health, organized a regional Diversity and Inclusion Conference. While promoting the event on social media, I shared a video clip of one of the conference presenters who was making the “business case” for diversity. One of my Facebook friends asked, “Why are we still making a business case for diversity in 2014? Why is there a need?”  Light Bulb - Switched On

I was prepared for the question—as a diversity and inclusion practitioner, I hear it quite often. The question isn’t always framed exactly the same way. Variations I’ve heard along the way include, “Why are we still focused on the negative; things that make us different. Shouldn’t we be talking about our similarities?” To be honest, those are fair questions.

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Categories: Flashpoint


Interrupting gender bias: Fire away!

by Michael P. Maslanka

I am honored to be a Bedford mentor at the University of North Texas School of Law in Dallas. Mentors divide into numerous small groups with students, and each group reads a different book on a matter of public interest. Our book is Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski. So I read with interest an article in the October 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review, “Hacking Tech’s Diversity Problem” by Joan C. Williams. As its title indicates, the article deals with issues at tech companies, but her advice is portable to all businesses. First, though, some statistics. Solution - break the rule

According to the article, tech companies have a “brogrammer” culture that is very male-focused. Williams notes that 37% of computer science degrees were awarded to women in 1985; by contrast, that number dropped to 18% in 2012. Women held 37% of all computing jobs in 1991; today, it’s down to 26%. And in the tech industry, 41% of women leave their jobs after 10 years, as opposed to 17% of men.

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Are you obligated to notify employees of coworker out on leave with contagious illness?

by H. Mark Adams

Q An employee recently came to HR and said she has meningitis. She is now out on leave. What is our obligationif anyto notify other employees?  Woman with flu

A As someone who has survived meningitis during my professional career, I have more than passing knowledge about this subject. It’s highly unlikely that any employee diagnosed with meningitis would have the capacity to “come to HR” to tell you she has meningitis and ask for a leave of absence. Given the seriousness and potentially life-threatening nature of the illness, it’s more likely the employee would have been sent straight to a hospital without having the time to tell you anything. So the first thing you should do is send your employee or her healthcare provider the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) medical certification form to be completed and returned within the time allowed to confirm whether she does in fact have meningitis.

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‘Microaggression’: a new form of discrimination?

by Ryann E. Ricchio

Discussions about “microaggression” have become more common in the mainstream media. A simple Google search reveals college websites documenting students’ recently experienced microaggressions and articles analyzing microaggression from major media sources, including National Public Radio and the New York Times. This article provides the definition of microaggression, examines a recent case from a federal court that likely involved microaggression (although the conduct wasn’t described using that particular label), and provides a bottom line for employers.  Boss with employee

What is microaggression?

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Solid job descriptions can ease ADA worries

February 15, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 1 COMMENTS

Good job descriptions are vital in keeping employers and employees on the same page, but they take on added importance when an employee with a disability needs help being productive. And for employers facing disability discrimination claims, job descriptions that clearly outline the essential and nonessential functions of the job can be crucial.  Job Description

Although the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t require employers to have written job descriptions, they are practical, according to Mary Topliff, a San Francisco attorney specializing in employment law, counseling, training, and compliance. She gave employers tips on job descriptions during a recent Business & Legal Resources webinar and emphasized the importance of carefully considering how the ADA affects job descriptions.

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Which comes first—the Apple or the egg?

by Mark I. Schickman

Gender discrimination has been illegal for barely 50 years. Soon after the nondiscrimination law was passed, companies had to figure out how to address the gender gap and remedy the dearth of women in the workforce—especially in high-level career positions. Providing liberal leave benefits, on-site child care, women’s mentoring programs, and expanded recruitment channels were all typical steps advanced companies would take.  Freezing Eggs

A constant question has been whether a woman can lead both a business and a family. Would she have to choose between a promotional schedule and a biological clock? Or would she opt for a part-time “mommy track”—taking time off to have a child and a reduced schedule to raise it while being relegated to a lower rung on the corporate ladder?

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Avoiding reverse disability discrimination claims

by Andy Rodman

Q As part of my company’s diversity efforts, I would like to reach out to some disability advocate groups to try to fill a few vacant positions. I’m afraid that by doing so, I may be opening up the company to reverse discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Are my fears justified?  Able to Work

A First off, I applaud your company’s diversity efforts, particularly with respect to the disabled — a group that sometimes is forgotten when it comes to outreach efforts. As for your fears, they are justified only to the extent that there is little (or nothing) you can do to stop a rejected nondisabled applicant from filing a failure-to-hire claim based on perceived reverse disability discrimination. Unfortunately, as many companies see from time to time, some disgruntled applicants and employees will sue for almost anything — even if the claims have no legal basis.

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Tribal hiring preference not national origin discrimination

by Nancy Williams

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows employers on or near an Indian reservation to give preferential treatment to Indians living in the vicinity. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken the position that this provision doesn’t permit preference for members of a particular tribe. In the continuing saga of a case that has dragged on for years, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal (whose rulings apply to all Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington employers) recently issued its third decision, finally ruling against the EEOC.  The Right Candidate

Coal company leases have Navajo hiring preference

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Tech giants exploring gender gap within their ranks

January 18, 2015 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

What gives? The number of women graduating from college each year passed the number of men marking the same achievement years ago, but women remain underrepresented in the college majors sought by technology employers. That surely accounts for part of the gender gap afflicting tech employers, but corporate culture also is often seen as a culprit.

While it’s still largely a man’s world at the big tech companies in Silicon Valley and beyond, those employers are at least becoming self-conscious about the gender gap in their ranks. Last summer, tech leaders including Yahoo, Facebook, and Google joined the list of tech companies releasing figures showing how they lack diversity.  Gender gap

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