Thursday, July 28, 2016

Massachusetts Legislature Passes New Pay Equity Law

On July 23, 2016, the Massachusetts Legislature became the latest state legislature to pass comprehensive pay equity legislation, following the lead of similar measures in California and New York in the past year. Governor Baker has been reported to have said that he will sign the new law, which is named The Act to Establish Pay Equity (the Act). The Act will become effective on January 1, 2018.

Read more by Goodwin Law here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A University Makes a Rare Call to Ditch Its Title IX Exemption

Early this year Pepperdine University’s president quietly sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The subject line was nearly identical to that of a letter that a previous president had sent, in 1976: "Pepperdine University’s Title IX Exemption."

But the two letters had opposite goals. In 1976 Pepperdine had asked to be made exempt from Title IX, a law that bans sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funds. Now, four decades later, the university was taking the unusual step of asking to waive that exemption.

"Please accept this letter as Pepperdine University’s withdrawal of its 1976 request for an exemption from certain provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972," wrote Andrew K. Benton, president of the university, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, in the January letter. Within two months, Catherine E. Lhamon, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, acknowledged the request, promising to "take steps to ensure that Pepperdine’s status will be accurately reflected."

Read the full Chronicle of Higher Education story here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADH

U.S. Department of Education
Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office
400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202

July 26, 2016

Press Office, (202) 401-1576 or

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.”

Over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. The most common complaint concerns academic and behavioral difficulties students with ADHD experience at school when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services.

Today’s guidance provides a broad overview of Section 504 and school districts’ obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities, including students with ADHD. The guidance:

  • Explains that schools must evaluate a student when a student needs or is believed to need special education or related services.
  • Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
  • Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
  • Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD. 

In addition to the guidance, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document that provides a brief overview of schools’ obligations to students with ADHD.
The mission of OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information about OCR and the anti-discrimination laws that it enforces, please visit its website and follow OCR on twitter @EDcivilrights.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Brown & Brown Insurance Brokerage Firm Is Sued By EEOC in Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Job Offer Rescinded After Company Learned of Applicant's Pregnancy, Federal Agency Charged

MIAMI - A Daytona Beach-based insurance brokerage firm violated federal law by rescinding a job offer to a woman because of her pregnancy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to EEOC's suit, Brown & Brown, which owns and operates 180 offices across the United States, made a written employment offer to the applicant and also sent her an employment agreement for a "personal lines technical assistant" position at its Daytona Beach location. The company proposed start dates of either March 30 or April 6, 2015. Upon receipt of the offer letter, the applicant emailed the department leader, affirming her interest and seeking to ask a few questions regarding the offer. About two hours later, the applicant spoke with the department leader's assistant and inquired about maternity benefits because she was pregnant. The assistant immediately advised the department leader of the applicant's pregnancy and, minutes later, the applicant received an email rescinding the job offer because, according to Brown & Brown, it "had a very urgent need to have somebody in the position long term …We appreciate you telling us beforehand."

Read more here.

Oilfield Instrumentation Unlawfully Rescinded Job Offer Because Of Disability, EEOC Charges in Lawsuit

Company Denied Job Based on View That All Type I Insulin-Dependent Diabetics Are 'Fragile' and Not Suited to Work Offshore, Federal Agency Charges

NEW ORLEANS - Oilfield Instrumentation, USA, Inc., an oilfield services company, violated federal law by withdrawing a job offer to an applicant because of his diabetes, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to EEOC's lawsuit, on Feb. 4, 2013, Carl J. Devalcourt, III, a Type I insulin-dependent diabetic, applied for a service technician position at Oilfield Instrumentation. Two days later, he interviewed with Tom Walker, a hiring manager. Devalcourt received a job offer and informed Walker that he would like to move forward with the hiring process, which included taking a required drug test and physical examination.

Read more here.

Federal Judge Awards $1,470,000 in EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Case Against Z Foods

Workers Who Were Sexually Harassed and Fired for Complaining Vindicated in Court's Ruling

FRESNO, Calif. - A federal judge has ordered Z Foods, Inc., once one of the largest dried fruit processors in the United States, to pay $1,470,000 in damages in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

EEOC had charged that Z Foods allowed male supervisors to sexually harass a class of female employees and fired male and female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment. The court awarded the maximum allowed by the statute, offset by a previous settlement, and ruled that the claimants suffered severe emotional distress as a result of actions of Z Foods.

Read more here.

EEOC Issues Resource Document, Announces Plans to Improve Data Collection and Outreach on Religious Discrimination

New Fact Sheet Addresses Rights, Responsibilities for Youth

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Jenny Yang and Commissioner Charlotte Burrows participated in an interagency briefing at the White House today and announced the release of a one-page fact sheet designed to help young workers better understand their rights and responsibilities under the federal employment anti-discrimination laws prohibiting religious discrimination. The fact sheet is available at EEOC's Youth@Work website, which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination.

Combating Religious Discrimination Today, a community engagement initiative coordinated by the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, brought together EEOC and other federal agencies to promote religious freedom, challenge religious discrimination, and enhance efforts to combat religion-based hate violence and crimes.

Read more here.

View the one-page fact sheet here.

View the report from the U.S. Department of Justice here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Some Diversity Thinkers Aren't Buying The Tech Industry's Excuses

"It's certainly commendable that tech giants have gotten in the habit of airing their diversity efforts and commitment to doing better. But the numbers show that actual progress in hiring more underrepresented minorities — for tech, that's black, Latino and female — seems to be stuck in neutral."

Read the full NPR story here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity Statement on the Gallup Opinion Poll on Affirmative Action

Association takes issue with July 8th Opinion Poll on Affirmative Action and calls it "Misleading and Inaccurate"

Washington, DC, July 20, 2016 - The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity (AAAED), an association of equal opportunity, affirmative action, diversity and human resources professionals, has taken issue with an opinion poll's results published by Inside Higher Ed (IHE) on July 8, 2016.

The article is titled "Poll: Public Opposes Affirmative Action." This poll was released on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, where the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, claimed that the University violated the Constitution by using race as a factor in admitting students. Ms. Fisher failed to gain admission. The Court held in favor of the University. 

In a letter to Inside Higher Ed dated July 13, 2016, AAAED wrote:
"At issue is the way the questions were presented, which yielded the predictable results. The primary question posed is: 'Which comes closer to your view about evaluating students for admission into a college or university - applicants should be admitted solely on the basis of merit, even if that results in few minority students being admitted....?'"

The Association's letter stated: "The decision is never race vs. merit. Selective colleges and universities have for decades considered a number of factors including test scores and grades. Geography, athletics, musical ability and other talents, socio-economic status, legacies, being first generation college-going, or extra-curricular activities are examples of these factors."
"Race is also not simply a matter of skin color and is an equally valid consideration as is athletic ability or socio-economic status," added AAAED Executive Director Shirley J. Wilcher. The letter states: Race "reflects experiences as members of minority groups, like, e.g., being profiled by police or subjected to sub-standard schools."

Read the Inside Higher Ed article here.

Read the complete AAAED statement here.

Read the AAAED letter to Inside Higher Ed here.

Time to Think More Inclusively About Accessibility

Access to all aspects of the college experience is a critical component of the work we do in higher education. Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act 26 years ago, all campuses have seen an increase in accommodations—mobility ramps, adjusted restrooms, braille signage, and more—leading to a more diverse campus population. But recent, successful law suits brought by students against several universities across the country should remind us there is much more to be done, and it begins with being open to thinking about access in all its many forms.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, one of the nine colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology, was established nearly 50 years ago as the first and largest technological college in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. It was designed with accessibility in mind and can serve as a model for other campuses to follow.

Read the full Inside Higher Ed story here.

[Tech Tuesday] Facebook's Excuse for Its Lack of Workplace Diversity

Facebook is among many multi-million corporations that struggles with diversifying its workforce.

Last week, the corporation's head of diversity blamed what those inside tech refer to as "the pipeline" for the company's unimpressive percentage of Black and Hispanic employees. The numbers? Two percent and four percent respectively.

Forbes reports that Williams told the Wall Street Journal that "it has become clear that at the most fundamental level, appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system."

Read the full story by Ebony here.

EEOC Sues Rent-A-Center for Sex Discrimination Against Transgender Employee

Assistant Manager of Rantoul Store Was Fired Because of Her Gender Identity, Federal Agency Charges

URBANA, Ill. - Rent-A-Center violated federal civil rights law by discharging an employee from its Rantoul, Ill., store because she is transgender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today. Rent-A-Center owns and operates more than 3,000 stores across the United States, offering furniture, electronics, appliances and computers through rent-to-own agreements.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, the EEOC's pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that the company's managers disapproved of the employee's gender transition and found a pretext for firing her.

Read more here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) Announces 2016 Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act Hiring Benchmark

On June 15, 2016, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) published the 2016 Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) benchmark on its website based on data released by theBureau of Labor Statistics on March 4, 2016.

Read the full National Law Review article here.

Why Removing Bias Is Not Enough For A Balanced Workplace

Last week we had the pleasure of attending the Celebrating Women Creators event, organized by Build and, focused on the growth of female leadership in the entertainment industry. Katie Couric moderated a panel that featured Katie Dippold, Jenni Konner and Lucia Aniello.

The entertainment industry has recently come under fire for its dismal record on diversity, including heavy criticism for the lack of people of color nominated for Oscars earlier this year. More recently, a report by Slated revealed striking disparities between women and men at virtually all levels of cinema in terms of representation, access to budgets and distribution.

When the moderator brought up the subject of diversity, Jenni Konner (of HBO’s Girls fame) made a strong statement: “ You have to mandate diversity, you can’t leave people to figure it out .” She explained that even if a filmmaker indicates they are open to any race and gender, the existing biases and imbalances in the industry mean that casting agents and recruiters will continue to present imbalanced pools of candidates. She pointed out that mandating diversity will require longer times for hiring and casting, but it’s the only way to make it work.

Read the full Forbes story here.

Here’s the Next Sleeper Challenge to Affirmative Action

The guy who engineered the Fisher case in the Supreme Court isn’t done yet.

Apparently Abigail Fisher is going to stay mad. #StayMadAbby is the Twitter hashtag Fisher earned during the course of her long-running lawsuit against the University of Texas-Austin when she alleged that the flagship Texas university had discriminated against her, a white woman, when it denied her admission in favor of less qualified black students. In June, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 against her, ending eight years of litigation that extended long after Fisher had graduated from Louisiana State.

Now that her legal saga is over, it seems Fisher hasn't given up attacking affirmative action. She's become a board member of Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded and run by former Texas stockbroker Edward Blum, the same man who recruited her to file suit against the University of Texas.

Read the full Mother Jones article here.