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.
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.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is proposed federal legislation to prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment decisions on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by businesses with 15 or more employees.
The bill prohibits preferential treatment and quotas but does not permit disparate impact suits. It also exempts religious organizations and the military. ENDA has been introduced in the United States Congress on numerous occasions since 1994.
The Senate voted 64 to 32 to pass the most recent version. ENDA is unlikely to pass the House.
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court released its unanimous opinion that found laws in several states requiring separate but equal educational institutions for African-Americans and whites violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Chief Justice Earl Warren framed the question as “the constitutionality of segregation in public education,” saying, “[w]e have now announced that such segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws.” The Court ruled on cases from four states but the practice occurred in many more.
While the opinion did not have an immediate impact on the workplace, it was a precursor to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
The EEOC has released its Performance and Accountability Report summarizing its fiscal year 2012. The EEOC reports a record level of recovery in discrimination matters for the year. The organization filed 122 lawsuits throughout the country with 20 percent of agency cases involving systemic allegations against the defendant. Administrative enforcement (mediation, settlements, conciliation) in the private sector amounted to $365,400,000. Through litigation, the agency recovered $44,200,000.
Wilson Worley attorney George Samuel asks, “Is Requesting Psychological Counseling the Same as Requesting a Medical Exam?” For his discussion of the recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Authority, click here.
The new ADA accessibility standards are in place, with most having become effective March 15. The standards, found in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, were originally announced in the summer of 2010 with regulations published during September 2010 in the Federal Register. These standards cover hotels, bars, stores, museums, schools, and eateries—in fact, most buildings that are open to the public. Among other requirements, they provide that counters and shelves be set no higher than four feet high along with reachable objects like fire alarms and add to the number of designated handicap parking spaces for vans.