This week in 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. The DOL is celebrating 25 years of the ADA this month. The law is designed to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities and strive for full participation for all people in economic opportunities and in independent living. The ADA has since been amended in 2009. More information on the anniversary is available on the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division website, by clicking here.
Gender identity issues continue to be a hot topic in the media, and by extension in the workplace. This month OSHA has published a Best Practices memo providing suggested guidelines for restroom access for transgender workers. The memo is available on the OSHA website or by clicking OSHA Best Practices, Restroom Access.
Click here to see the recent update from Wilson Worley PC on the EEOC case involving the extent of an employer’s ability to set dress codes or “physical appearance” policies. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer.
I was in a court proceeding recently involving a termination. The proof consisted of numerous text messages between the employee and a manager. It struck me as we sorted through the electronic discussion just how much communication occurs in the job setting via text message.
It is a good idea to review your employment policies to make sure that they contemplate all the different types of electronic communication that are being used in your workplace. Do you specify how an employee must give notice about attendance or request time off? Odds are, you have some employees requesting time off via text. If you require a more formal means, you’d best spell it out in your policy. Do you have a communications tree for getting information disseminated? If so, it is likely that text messages will go to cell phones rather than phone calls to home land lines. Does your harassment policy make clear that harassment can occur via text messages (not to mention photos and videos sent via text)?
You get the picture. This is definitely an area of communications that has changed profoundly in the last decade. Make sure your policies have changed with the times.
Specifically, descriptions are important under the ADA as well. They provide a framework to review whether an applicant with a disability is otherwise qualified to perform the job. They, then, allow the employer to consider what accommodations would be necessary for the applicant to handle the essential functions of the job. That, in turn, leads to clarity on whether accommodation would be reasonable.
The ADA has no express requirement to adopt job descriptions; however, the law requires that applicants and employees be capable of performing the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation. When defining essential job functions, the EEOC reviews job descriptions written before an employer advertises a job opening. Thus, employers should be accurate in reflecting those essential functions, and generic wording does not provide sufficient detail when questions arise. Describing the specific tasks that a position requires allows for compliance with ADA and EEOC guidelines and a basis to defend your actions if you are questioned.
The White House announced some time ago that President Obama would sign an executive order that prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender workers who work for the federal government, its contracting agencies, and federal contractors. That order become official today.
Several state and local governments have already adopted similar protections. Estimates are that the federal changes will affect nearly twenty-five thousand companies and touch approximately twenty percent of all workers in the U.S. The signing comes after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly referred to as ENDA, again failed to move forward in the U.S. House.
The signing served to amend prior executive orders that prohibited discrimination against federal workers and federal contract workers on the basis of race, nationality, gender, and religion. The DOL is tasked with enforcement.
Restrictions against discrimination, both federal and state, have become an unquestioned part of the landscape for human resources. With very few exceptions, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of several protected classes.
This week we marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While not the first civil rights legislation, the Act was sweeping in its scope and significance when President Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1964. The Act made discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin illegal in the workplace and places of public accommodation.
What has become commonplace and expected for recent generations of workers was a landmark achievement in United States history.