This month, EARN spotlights pregnancy as a disability…
IT’S TIME TO CONSIDER UPDATING YOUR PREGNANCY DISABILITY LEAVE POLICIES
In the first update in more than 30 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new Enforcement Guidance on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC offers guidance to help employers and employees understand the updates and new regulations. This guidance also highlights some tips on how to effectively address the new changes in the law.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KATHLEEN MARTINEZ: DISABILITY RIGHTS ARE CIVIL RIGHTS
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Assistant Secretary of ODEP Kathy Martinez posted a blog reflecting on these two major changes on the disability community. “In the 1960s, the unified disability rights movement was just emerging,” said Martinez, “and its leaders learned a great deal from those who brought the Civil Rights Act to fruition.”
DAYTON TELLS MINNESOTA STATE AGENCIES: HIRE MORE WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES
On August 4, 2014, Governor Mark Dayton signed an Executive Order directing state agencies to hire more workers with disabilities. The order requires a percentage increase of state workers with disabilities to rise from its current rate of 3.2 percent to 7 percent of the workforce by August 2018. In addition, it directs Minnesota Management and Budget and the State Director for Equal Opportunity to create a clear benchmark model for recruitment and hiring strategies to increase employment of people with disabilities. Gov. Dayton stated each executive branch agency must develop a “plan for promoting employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”
HOW TO EVALUATE MENTAL ILLNESS ANTI-STIGMA PROGRAMS IN THE WORKPLACE
As awareness grows on the impact of mental health issues in the workplace, substantial efforts have been made to increase the number of programs and services to address mental illness and associated stigma. Social stigma plays a profound role in keeping mental health topics in the dark and prevents people from reaching out for help. Employers are in a unique position to make positive changes and create realistic views of mental illness. Although many questions emerge on how an employer can make progress in reducing mental health stigma, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has created the Opening Minds initiative with direct and significant experience with program evaluations for effective stigma-reducing strategies. Their intent is to share what they have learned and how to measure the effects of anti-stigma programs in the workplace.
With new regulations, executive orders and changing demographics in the workforce, companies are acknowledging how important it is to educate and train employees, managers and executives on how culture and diversity impact business. Although compliance is important to the solvency and sustainability of federal contractors, most companies realize the importance of efficient systems, processes and policies that support key business initiatives while creating an organizational culture that fosters and supports employee productivity.
Have a small business? Want to expand and draw from a larger talent pool? People with disabilities are waiting to dedicate their talents and expertise to your small business. Don’t know where to start? The link from the Department of Labor is a great resource to get you started! Click here and reap the benefits of a culturally diverse workplace, and watch your small business dreams flourish.
CELEBRATING WORKFORCE RECRUITMENT PROGRAM INTERNS
On July 28, Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez participated in an awards ceremony celebrating Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) participants who spent their summers interning in the federal sector. “You should be very proud of your association with the WRP,” said Martinez, “because WRP internships lay the groundwork for employment and empowerment.” The WRP helps connect employers with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities and is co-sponsored by ODEP and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity.
MARATHON SURVIVOR HAS NEW OUTLOOK ON DISABILITIES
At the age of 38, Heather Abbott never thought she would become a person with a major physical disability. However, during the Boston Marathon bombings, Abbott lost part of her left leg and her world was transformed immediately. Currently, Abbott promotes fair employment practices as the HR compliance manager for Raytheon Inc. Heather is a strong advocate for equitable employment, making accommodations and flexible work arrangements for people with disabilities. Her passion is promoting disability awareness to other HR professionals, emphasizing that they “can fundamentally change not just one life, but the future of all those who depend on what we do for a living.”
Many military veterans are making the transition to regular civilian jobs, and veteran Erica Jeffries is helping others make the best choices for career transition. Having served as one of the few female helicopter pilots in the Army, Erica understands the challenges and opportunities available to our veterans. This understanding comes from her military experience and her work as a White House Fellow. Erica says the first step is having the right mindset. “As a transitioning military leader, you have world-class training that makes veterans a valuable asset to most types of civilian organizations. Take the time to analyze and embrace those skills and strengths,” according to this vet. She currently serves as the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Exelis, Inc., a global aerospace, defense, information and services company headquartered in McLean, VA.
In 1802, DuPont was established with a strong foundation for high-quality products, fairness and concern for workers’ safety. Over the next two centuries, DuPont remained committed to those core values. As a result, the company was one of the first to establish a corporate support program, which evolved into the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). DuPont’s Global EAP team created an award-winning campaign that has been circulated to their international workforce of 70,000 employees, in seven different languages. The company’s ICU or “I See You” campaign contains a five-minute animated video, representing a diverse workforce working together to support colleagues and find proactive ways to move forward as a team. By taking the necessary actions, employees removed the certain stigma associated with emotional distress and encouraged help-seeking behavior. These actions support a workplace culture that allows colleagues to improve their emotional health and make DuPont an emotionally safe workplace.
*In July 2014, the employment rate of people 16-64 years of age was 26.2% for persons with disabilities compared with 72.2% for persons without a disability. The gap between the employment rate of persons of 16-64 years of age with and without disabilities was 46.0%, not seasonally adjusted.
COMING TO WORK FULLY
How can a person with a disability love coming to work each day? By bringing their “whole selves” to work, explained Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). A person with a disability who happens to be blind, Ms. Martinez recognizes she is so much more: a Latina, lesbian, mother, daughter and sister. She appreciates the fact that her employer recognizes all aspects of her identity and embraces the unique perspectives she brings to work. According to the Assistant Secretary, employers can create a welcoming culture and promote a disability-friendly workplace to encourage voluntary self-identification—a requirement under the new Section 503 regulations.
On July 22, President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. This new law replaces the outdated Workforce Investment Act (WIOA) of 1998. It represents a renewed commitment to workforce development with an eye to the future through innovation and support for individual and national economic growth. WIOA aims to increase opportunities, particularly for those facing barriers to employment, and invests in the important connection between education and career preparation. WIOA will become effective on July 1, 2015; however, the act includes several provisions that become effective on other dates. Visit the Department of Labor website for more information on the Act.
States and local governments can play a significant role in advancing the employment of individuals with disabilities through their own hiring activities. In a recent EARN report from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, research showed that several states emerged as “leading by example” in the hiring of people with disabilities. The report highlights key practices and activities that states can implement to become model employers of people with disabilities.
On August 6th, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez addressed the 32nd Annual National Industry Liaison Group (NILG) Conference in Washington, D.C. that recognized and celebrated “50 Years of Civil Rights.” Secretary Perez said that by taking action to expand opportunity and promote fairness in federal contracting, President Obama carries on a long tradition of U.S. presidents ensuring that federal dollars are spent in ways consistent with our national values– like fair pay, equal opportunity and non-discrimination. NILG fosters dialogue between federal contractors and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to help contractors comply with laws and regulations related to civil rights and equal opportunity. “I hope you take great pride that so much we’ve accomplished in this nation is because of you,” said Perez. President Obama has signed executive orders to increase the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, to ensure that the federal government continues to serve as a model employer.
The July’s LEAD Center Policy Update has been released. The LEAD Center focuses on the connections between disability, employment and health care policy. Its goal is to provide policy makers, disability service professionals, individuals with disabilities and their families with information about relevant policy development regarding Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and related topics, with a focus on improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW INSTITUTE 19th ANNUAL AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT WORKSHOP
With all of the recent legislative changes, the National Employment Law Institute (NELI) is offering ADA workshops in eight cities across the country. Training will cover ADA workplace developments, significant court cases, EEOC’s latest policies and developments on the Final Regulations on the ADA Amendments Act, as well as the new EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the ADA and Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
Nordstrom is hyping its trendiest fall styles by including four people with various disabilities in its anniversary sale catalog. Featured in the promotion are model and Afghanistan veteran Alex Minsky, who lost his right leg after his patrol vehicle hit an improvised explosive device; 7-year old Emilia Taguchi, who has Down Syndrome; Jillian Mercado, who models boots while seated in a wheelchair; and Shaholly Ayers, who was born without her right arm below the elbow.
Tara Darrow, a Nordstrom spokeswoman, said the company recognizes inclusion as a key to good business, stating “we hope when our customers receive the catalog, they see themselves in it.”
THE UNTAPPED TALENT POOL OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Many companies face a serious talent shortage, and qualified people with disabilities can help fill this void. Yet, some employers still shy away from hiring people with disabilities. Many employers are unsure of the kind of accommodations needed and think that these come with a high price tag. Moreover, hiring managers feel uncomfortable or unsure how to discuss disabilities, and/or what questions they are allowed to ask. However, the reality is that accommodations are most often free or cost less than $500 according to a report from Job Accommodation Network (JAN). People with disabilities usually know what they need to perform their jobs.