Posted in Department of Defense, DoD, EEOC, military
In mid-June, the Department of Defense announced that it had updated the military’s “equal opportunity” anti-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation in its protected classes. This would allow gay, lesbian and bisexual service members to openly serve in the military without the risk of harassment or discrimination.
Race, religion, gender and age — among other federally protected classes under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — are also protected classes within the U.S. military.
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed in 2011, which made it legal for gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals to serve in the military without having to hide their sexual orientation. However, those service men and women were not protected from discrimination in the aftermath of its repeal.
Adjusting policies to protect these individuals will allow for more people to serve their country without facing harassment or discrimination.
“Recognizing that our openness to diversity is one of the things that has allowed us to be the best in the world, we must ensure that everyone who’s able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so,” said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
This announcement brings the military’s discrimination policies in line with last year’s Human Goals Charter, which states that the Pentagon will “strive to make military service in the Department of Defense a model of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or national origin.”
Posted in Department of Labor, employment
The Obama administration, along with the U.S. Department of Labor, has proposed a measure that would allow a significantly higher percentage of Americans to qualify for overtime pay. The details of the proposal have not yet been released, but reports state that the overtime threshold — currently at $23,660 annual salary — could be raised to as high as $52,000.
Under the current threshold, any salaried, white-collar employee who earns more than $23,660 per year does not qualify for overtime pay. Only about 12 percent of the workforce is eligible for overtime pay under this threshold, which falls below the poverty line. (Some estimate that fewer than 10 percent qualify.) The overtime threshold has not been adjusted since 1975. In the 1970s, more than 60 percent of employees qualified for overtime.
By increasing the threshold to $50,000, more than 5 million additional workers (and up to an estimated 10 million workers) would qualify for overtime pay. This updated threshold would be more in line with the median income in America.
Business lobbyists and Republicans in Congress are expected to attempt to fight the passing of this proposal, despite not knowing entirely what the proposal would entail. Some argue that employers will cut employee hours in an attempt to avoid having to pay them overtime. The Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee Sen. Lamar Alexander said this measure “seems engineered to make it as unappealing as possible to be an employer creating jobs in this country.
However, back in March 2014, President Obama wrote that “[Overtime regulations] have not kept up with our modern economy.” The current overtime threshold has not increased with inflation.
The President does not have to get Congress’ approval in order to pass this measure. Republicans can introduce legislation in an attempt to fight it, but President Obama can veto opposing legislation.
Posted in VA, Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that it is launching a new employment program aimed at helping homeless and at-risk veterans find work that matches their skills and abilities. The program, called Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services, will require VA medical centers to employ a Community Employment Coordinator (CEC) that can function as a liaison between local businesses and VA services.
The goal of the CECs will be to identify opportunities and resources that will benefit not only the veteran population, but specifically those who are already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless after leaving service. The CECs will also collaborate with existing VA employment programs.
In addition to employment services, Veterans Affairs offers housing assistance, health care, support services, and other programs that will further assist veterans who want to succeed in making the transition back to employment.
“We know that finding gainful employment can change the life of a veteran,” said Robert A. McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “This new program is a key component in the overall strategy to prevent and end veteran homelessness.”
According to the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs website, Veterans Affairs will focus on reaching out methodically and proactively to veterans that may be in need of this assistance. VA is also focusing on expanding the housing program for veterans that need an affordable place to live.
Posted in drug and alcohol testing, drug screening, drug testing policy, FAA, Federal Aviation Administration
Allegiant Air, a budget airline that competes with Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue, is expected to pay the Federal Aviation Administration fines of more than $260,000 for failing to include all of its employees in a random drug and alcohol testing pool, per FAA requirements.
According to the FAA, 25 of Allegiant Air’s employees were not included in random screening pools, including employees whose jobs required on-the-job safety sensitivity, such as pilots, air traffic controllers, security workers and flight attendants.
A statement on the FAA’s website said that 11 of those 25 employees performed their normal job functions even though they hadn’t been included in the drug testing pool.
In addition, one employee had tested positive on a previous drug and alcohol test, and proper protocols were not followed regarding follow-up drug tests.
The FAA and the Department of Transportation have guidelines in place regarding airline staff drug testing, including testing regulations for those who hold safety-specific positions. The DoT requires that, if an airline employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol, he or she must be monitored during follow-up drug tests. The employee in question was allowed to take the follow-up test unsupervised.
“The safety of our passengers and crew is always our number one priority at Allegiant,” said Eric Gust, Allegiant’s Vice President of Safety and Security. “We are currently reviewing all of the records and events associated with the FAA allegation. However, our initial assessment is that the safety of our operation was not compromised.”
The FAA is expected to meet with Allegiant Air representatives again in the coming weeks.
photo credit: N872GA via photopin (license)
Posted in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Federal law, Medicaid
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a letter early this month to Medicaid directors, which stated that beginning August 1, some providers must begin fingerprinting employees at locations that are considered “high-risk” for Medicaid fraud.
This fingerprinting provision was actually part of the regulations for the Affordable Care Act, and was passed in 2011 in an attempt for the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent healthcare fraud. CMS finally implemented this provision and started conducting fingerprint checks in August of 2014.
After August 1, 2015, Medicaid providers will have 60 days to implement background checking requirements, and one year to ensure their employees are fingerprinted. If they fail to complete these two provisions, the provider will be terminated from Medicaid enrollment. (They will also lose enrollment privileges for felony crimes, as well as crimes related to Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program over the previous 10 years.)
In 2014, Medicaid spent $310 billion on medical services for 60 million people in the United States. CMS estimates that, during this time, $17.5 billion of those dollars were lost to Medicaid fraud, up from only $3 billion lost to fraud in 2013.
Each state will be required to determine which of its Medicaid providers are considered high, moderate or limited risk, and so far only those high-risk providers would have to comply with fingerprint background checks.
All home healthcare agencies and durable medical equipment agencies will be subject to the fingerprint checks, as those providers have previously been considered significantly high-risk for fraud.
“Strengthening and improving upon programs that provide vital services like Medicaid to millions of Americans is a continuous process,” said Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, CMS Center for Program Integrity Director. “At CMS we take seriously our responsibilities to taxpayers and beneficiaries.”
Those agencies that have already conducted background checks on employees will not be required to do new ones.
Posted in Office of Personnel Management, OPM
A few weeks ago, the Office of Personnel Management’s computer system was hacked into, and the Obama administration said that up to 4 million current and former government employees may have had their records compromised.
The information that may have been accessed included social security numbers, birth dates and some bank information. However, other U.S. officials said that the hackers may have gotten access to information about federal employees’ security clearances and background checks dating back to 1985.
Since the original report, government officials have said that the breach may have affected more people than previously suspected. Two officials estimate that between 9 million and 14 million current and former government employees from the 1980s to present day may have had their records compromised.
“We believe that the Central Personnel Data File was the targeted database, and that the hackers are now in possession of all personnel data for every federal employee, every federal retiree, and up to 1 million former federal employees,” said J. David Cox, American Federation of Government Employees President.
The hack originally took place in December 2014, though OPM did not become aware of it until four months later. When the breach was discovered, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security got involved.
“We take all potential threats to public and private sector systems seriously, and will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace,” an FBI spokesperson said in a statement on June 4.
Officials are concerned that private citizens may also have had information compromised, as those with security clearances often have to provide information about family members and friends in order to obtain clearances. If those records were breached, civilians may have had their birth dates, home addresses, places of employment and other information hacked.
This OPM breach was the second time that office’s computers had been hacked in the past 12 months.
In an attempt to tighten up security, the Office of Management and Budget is requiring that, by the year 2016, all government websites should update their site protocols from HTTP to HTTPS, which will allow for greater online security. Currently, about 31 percent of federal websites (.gov) have made the transition, accounting for approximately 1,200 government websites.
Posted in employment
The National Security Agency has announced that it is planning to launch an intelligence-hiring website for those interested in working with the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and other security agencies in the United States. That “brand-new applicant gateway” is expected to go live in the fall.
The website is expected to include tools to help applicants determine what types of jobs are available within the government’s intelligence agencies, and will have diagnostic tests available to assist candidates in finding the position for which they would be the best fit. This is in an effort to improve employee retention by providing information to applicants, as well as improve the hiring process by allowing managers to interview high-quality candidates that have self-qualified and are serious about jobs in the intelligence community.
“It takes a while for our employees to come in and develop the skills they need to execute the tradecraft of our incredible mission,” said NSA Human Resources Director Kathy Hutson. “To think that employees would come in and be out the door in two to three years, it will not serve them well and it probably won’t serve our mission well.”
Applicants are required to undergo proctored or unproctored exams as part of the application process for the NSA, depending on the position for which they are applying. They also must provide a slew of background information about their previous education, experience and military service.
The new NSA portal will likely be similar to existing government job site USAjobs.gov.
Posted in Department of Labor, employment
According to a release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. saw an increase of 280,000 jobs in May, though the rate of unemployment remained steady at 5.5 percent. The mining industry continued to see a decline in available jobs, though available jobs in professional and business services increased, as did positions within the health care and hospitality industries. Approximately 8.7 million people remain unemployed; this is unchanged from the previous few months.
Of the new jobs available, 63,000 were in professional and business services. Just under a third of the jobs (20,000) were in temporary help services, though computer systems design services and technical consulting both saw decent leaps, at 10,000 jobs and 7,000 jobs respectively.
The leisure and hospitality industries also saw a surge in new jobs — to the tune of 57,000 jobs — after remaining stagnant over the previous few months. The bulk of the new positions (29,000) were created in the arts, recreation and entertainment field; eating and drinking establishments saw little change from the previous few months.
Health care also saw plenty of new positions, with 47,000 new jobs, most of which were in home health care and outpatient care, under the umbrella of ambulatory care services. There were also 31,000 new jobs in retail trade.
While construction, transportation and financial activities also saw small gains, the manufacturing, information, government and trade sectors held steady at last month’s numbers.
Unfortunately the mining industry continued to lose jobs in May; this marks the fifth month in a row mining jobs have decreased. Approximately 17,000 jobs in mining support activities were eliminated, resulting in a total loss of 68,000 jobs thus far in 2015.
Posted in EEOC, employment, Federal law
A few months back, we posed the question “What obligations do businesses have when it comes to avoiding religious discrimination?” Well, the Supremes have spoken: in a 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court declared that employers must accommodate prospective employees’ religious affiliations “if the employer at least has an idea that such accommodation is necessary.” Even if the applicant does not specifically request accommodation during the interview.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Abercrombie & Fitch clothing retailer on behalf of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who applied for a job at an Abercrombie store in 2008, when she was 17 years old. Elauf wore a headscarf to the interview, and despite receiving high marks in her interview, Elauf did not receive a job offer because her headscarf did not fit in with the “Look Policy” Abercrombie had for its sales staff/in-store “models.”
Elauf did not specify her religious beliefs in the interview, but Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in the court’s decision that Abercrombie must have “at least suspected” and therefore should have known that a religious accommodation would be required.
Abercrombie has settled several other similar lawsuits. It has also revised its policy regarding headscarves, according to the Associated Press.
The EEOC’s website states that employers must provide reasonable accommodation for employees’ religious beliefs and practices, including attire and grooming habits, provided it does not cause “undue hardship” on the employer. The Supreme Court’s decision shows that even if an applicants’ religious garb doesn’t fit with the company’s brand, the company may not refuse to hire a qualified applicant.
photo credit: Luxuriously Casual via photopin (license)
Posted in background checks, EEOC, employment background screening, Federal law
Over the past couple of years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found itself in the midst of some tangled lawsuits. In the suits it brought against Dollar General and BMW Manufacturing late last year, the EEOC argued that the companies’ hiring practices screened out minority candidates disproportionately, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. When Dollar General and BMW requested to see how the EEOC’s own hiring and background screening policies differed from their own, the EEOC balked and said their policies were not relevant to either of the lawsuits.
When we last covered this issue, a South Carolina District Court judge had demanded that the EEOC turn over its hiring practices in order to proceed with its case against Dollar General. However, since then a federal court overturned that decision, stating that the EEOC’s policies are not relevant to the discrimination case it was bringing against Dollar General, though it did say the EEOC must provide documentation specifying what would constitute “reasonable” and “acceptable” background check practices for companies.
However, that judge’s decision goes against the decisions made in two other high-profile EEOC cases over the past year. The EEOC lost its cases against both Freeman and Kaplan Education after they were appealed. The courts in both those cases determined that the EEOC’s own background-screening practices were, in fact, relevant to the defense.
The EEOC can sue for discrimination on behalf of individuals on a number of factors, including race, national origin, gender, disability and age. When the EEOC provides concrete screening guidelines, it will help businesses — all businesses, not just the ones being sued — to reform hiring and background screening processes so employers can ensure they are staying within their legal rights. Having more specific guidelines for appropriate background screening will ultimately benefit both employers and job-seekers.
Next Page »