US Labor Department pay equity and workplace flexibility initiatives announced as part of White House Middle Class Task Force forum

Posted October 4, 2010 by hamptoncm
Categories: Compliance

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Initiatives enhance work/life balance data and wage discrimination enforcement

WASHINGTON — A House Middle Class Task Force forum hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis July 20th, where several department initiatives designed to end wage discrimination while improving pay equity and work/life balance were announced. Among the attendees were U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett and Lily Ledbetter.

“Pay equity is a core family issue,” said Secretary Solis. “More money in a woman’s paycheck means a working family not having to choose between paying the mortgage, buying groceries, or buying necessary school supplies.”

Task force Chair Joe Biden noted that “Women make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and two-thirds of families with children are headed either by two working parents or by a single parent who works. Yet, the workplace has, for the most part, not changed to reflect these realities — and it must. Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility — these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle-class economic security.”

To implement Pres. Obama’s pledge in his State of the Union address, the administration created the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, bringing together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), the Dept. of Labor (DOL), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force identified five persistent challenges in the area of equal pay enforcement, then made recommendations to address each challenge and developed an action plan to implement those recommendations:

  • Improve interagency coordination and enforcement efforts to maximize effectiveness of existing authorities
  • Collect data on the private workforce to better understand the scope of the pay gap and target enforcement efforts
  • Undertake a public education campaign to educate employers on their obligations and employees on their rights
  • Implement a strategy to improve the federal government’s role as a model employer
  • Work with Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The White House Council on Women and Girls also announced the White House’s launch of a Work-Flex Event Starter Kit to encourage more dialogue around workplace flexibility at the community level.

Through a collaborative effort among the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the administration will ensure strategic enforcement of pay discrimination cases. In addition to hiring nearly 200 additional enforcement staff, OFCCP will publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking early next year that will seek input from stakeholders on how to improve the Equal Opportunity survey. The Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau will also launch new public education efforts including an Equal Pay Checklist, a revamped Equal Pay Employer Self-Audit tool, and an Equal Pay Research Summit.

“In addition to closing the gender pay gap, we must also increase workplace flexibility,” added Secretary Solis. “America’s families have evolved, so helping parents and other caregivers keep their jobs while balancing their responsibilities in the home is key to our long-term economic success.”

To address issues related to work/life balance, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division will conduct a new Family and Medical Leave Act survey in 2011 to provide insight into how families use leave. The survey will provide a baseline data collection of current family workplace policies and practices, as well as information on regulatory changes. In addition, the Women’s Bureau intends to sponsor a supplement to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey in 2011. The supplement will gather more information on parental leave, child care, family leave insurance program usage, and other issues related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities. The Women’s Bureau will also build on the White House’s Flexibility Forum by hosting a series of “National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility” forums across the country.

For more information on the Middle Class Task Force, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/strongmiddleclass/

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Department of Labor reaffirms commitment to the ADA’s principles

Posted October 4, 2010 by hamptoncm
Categories: Compliance

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides broad nondiscrimination protection in employment, public services, public accommodations, and services operated by private entities, transportation, and telecommunications for individuals with disabilities. As stated in the act, its purpose is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”

According to Sheridan Walker, President HirePotential, Inc., a study to understand the effect of accessible technology for the general population (with or without disabilities) was conducted by Forrester Research Inc. (2003) “In the United States, 60% (101.4 million) of working-age adults who range from 18 to 64 years old are likely or very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology.”

With the enactment of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of P.L. 111-5, the economic stimulus bill that the President signed into law on February 17, 2009, Internet accessibility issues are about to become increasingly topical. Last week the President and Department of Labor demonstrated this fact as they announced initiatives to begin a systematic focus on ADA accommodations and accessibility progress since the law went into effect twenty years ago.

An event on Friday to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of ADA provided a unique opportunity for the Department of Labor to reaffirm its commitment to the ADA’s principles of equality, access, and inclusion; and to commit itself to ensuring that the goals of a diverse workforce and good jobs for everyone includes workers with disabilities. The keynote speaker for the event was former United States Congressman Tony Coelho, an author and sponsor of the ADA and Board Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), who shared his thoughts on the impact of the ADA and the importance of initiatives designed to increase the effectiveness of the Act.

Congressman Coelho’s comments are further substantiated by a recent poll conducted to learn more about the opinions of people with disabilities, their family members and individuals who work with people with disabilities, the government sought information about how well the ADA is being implemented in their communities. Overall the results indicated that the majority of the more than 3500 respondents indicated that while they saw progress over the past 20 years, barriers to community participation and employment continue.

When asked if accessibility will become a part of the OFCCP assessment as it relates to the on-line application process, Patricia Shiu, Director of OFCCP responded, “Yes – on-line accessibility is one of the OFCCP’s focus initiatives. We consider it a critical element in ensuring that all applicants and employees have equal access to employment opportunities.” Currently, all Federal Agencies must have Section-508 Compliant web sites, and that includes anyone the Federal Government uses as a supplier/vendor.

In response, Naomi Levin from OFCCP said that “OFCCP will retain and investigate individual complaints involving a contractor’s online application system.”

The focus on accessibility is given credence by the DoJ who have long affirmed that web sites can be “places of public accommodation” and the lower courts have held that inaccessible web sites can give rise to ADA violations. A consistent argument holds that it is not economically un-feasible to make web site functions accessible.

However, the ADA, enacted on July 26, 1990, prior to widespread use of the Internet, did not specifically cover the Internet and the issue of coverage has not been definitively resolved. Although the Supreme Court has not addressed this issue there are some lower court case decisions that directly discuss the ADA’s application to the Internet.  Yet those decisions vary in their conclusions about coverage.

In Martin v. MARTA, Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr. stated in his order that “MARTA can do a better job of making information available in accessible formats.” The judge stated that although MARTA did provide information to people with visual impairments over the telephone, this service was not equivalent to that provided over the Internet to non-disabled passengers. Although MARTA is attempting to correct accessibility issues on its Internet site, Judge Thrash found that “MARTA must deliver on its promises”. “Until these deficiencies are corrected,” the judge stated, “MARTA is violating the ADA.” 

To attend to the shortcomings of compliance efforts, a directive for Evaluation of Online Application Systems was issued requiring online application systems to be accessible to persons with disabilities last month.  Although there is no current guidance from OFCCP, it is clear that they may ultimately require extensive redesign of websites to increase accessibility. The obvious take away is that OFCCP scrutiny can, and very likely will, lead to an increase in ADA suits for web accessibility.

OFCCP intends to publish new regulations late in 2010 for Veterans and Persons with Disabilities The Proposal is likely to strengthen requirements in AAP(s) for veterans and persons with disabilities and may include placement goals for veterans and persons with disabilities (even though no data on these groups exists!)

According to Walker, “it is clear what the courts are saying, if your company does business over the web, you need to consider if your website or web based applications give a person with disabilities the same access to information as a person  without disabilities?” She further states that “just as you provide ramp access to a building, you would provide a ramp access to your on-line site.”

Walker emphasizes that there is an upside for businesses working to increase accessibility of their on-line applications.  As a result of a technical review and upgrade, businesses also increase the on-line search and document management capability of their sites, as well as to ensure consistent branding capacity and meta-data quality.

To accomplish a system review, it is important that key transactional paths are tested and all functional pages sampled to ensure full documentation towards a plan to resolve, and implement solutions for accessibility issues.

Doing a review allows a baseline document to demonstrate “good faith efforts at compliance” with accessibility requirements, and also helps to achieve a more technical and user friendly environment with a software lifecycle enhancement through:

  • The ability to map to Internal Content Standards
  • Accessibility testing built into the QA & Development Cycle
  • Integration of accessibility into Content Management System work-flow processes

One thing is for sure, to not document, results in conciliation agreements issued by OFCCP and no longer will a more generalized outreach be sufficient.

You can connect with HirePotential by contacting Kelly Egan, Vice President Business Development or by visiting their website www.hirepotential.com, The Leader in Integrating the Untapped Workforce

Affirmative Action in 2010 and Beyond: Enforcement and Compliance Strategies

Posted October 4, 2010 by hamptoncm
Categories: Uncategorized

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July 26, 2010

In March, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) released its fiscal year 2011 budget request, along with its enforcement initiatives for 2010. The message is clear: OFCCP is better funded, more sophisticated, and more motivated than ever to aggressively enforce affirmative action rules and focus on systemic discrimination. Government contractors are well advised to prepare themselves for more audits and settlements, as there will be a marked increase in enforcement efforts by the OFCCP against non-construction federal contractors beginning October 2010.

OFCCP received a budget of $103 million for fiscal year 2010 under the appropriations legislation signed by President Obama on December 16, 2009. This amount was an increase of over $21 million from the fiscal year 2009 budget allotment of $82.1 million. For 2011, OFCCP has requested $113 million, a $10 million increase over 2010. With this increase in budget, OFCCP is in the process of significantly increasing its workforce and plans to increase the number of compliance evaluations by 20% in 2010.  Now, more than ever, the consequences for non-compliance places a bull’s eye on your company and can be serious: fines, negative publicity, potential civil lawsuits, and even debarment for severe cases.

“Compared with years past, OFCCP more quickly and accurately screens contractor establishments for indicators of potential discrimination … OFCCP is monitoring a larger portion of the federal contractor universe than it has in the past…We are proud of these results which demonstrate our commitment to enforcing the law,” said Charles James, deputy assistant secretary for OFCCP.

According to the OFCCP, the majority of ARRA funding and grants provided federal assistance to construction projects and therefore, special emphasis was placed on the construction industry beginning July 2009.  Their goal was to review a minimum of 360 construction contractors and 90 supply and service contractors, including at least 10% of first-time federal contractors.  These reviews are followed by quarterly compliance evaluations expected to last through September 30, 2010. If a non-construction firm, do not breathe a sigh of relief yet.  Keep in mind that once this period is over, the increased funding and staff will continue to be retained…

Diligent compliance analysis, to preserve privilege and anticipate likely audit concerns, can assist not only in improving overall compliance, but also in assuring that the company is getting the most out of its human resources program.  By understanding the most common compliance failures related to data retention and analysis, Business and HR Leaders can be better equipped with the ability to fully implement a compliant program and to successfully handle an audit.

A fact sheet with additional information about OFCCP’s enforcement results is available on its Web site at www.dol.gov/esa/ofccp.