The Department of Labor Releases Final Updates to Regulations Implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act

Last month, The Department of Labor (DOL) released final updates to regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.  Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities, and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals.

For the first time in 40 years, federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to meet the goal of ensuring that 7 percent of each job group in their workforce be qualified individuals with disabilities. The rule sets out required activities that contractors and subcontractors will need to take in recruitment, training, record keeping, and policy dissemination. The new rules are similar to those that have long been required to protect women and minorities against discrimination in the workplace.

The unemployment rate among people with disabilities is unacceptably high. The Arc has long urged DOL to hold federal contractors and subcontractors to the same non-discrimination standards for hiring people with disabilities as it does concerning women and minorities. Federal contractors employ about 25% of the workforce in the US and employ millions of workers. The Arc is pleased to see these rules which open new doors to employment for people with disabilities. DOL is hosting a webinar about the new rules on September 18.

The Section 503 rules can be viewed on the Department of Labor website.

UNICEF Releases 2013 Edition of The State of The World’s Children

Last week, the 2013 edition of UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children was released. This year’s publication is entitled Children with Disabilities, and examines the discrimination and deprivations that these children and their families confront. The report describes the progress that is being made, albeit unevenly, in ensuring that children with disabilities have the fair access to services and opportunities that is their right. The report also urges governments, their international partners, civil society, and employers to take concrete steps to advance the cause of inclusion – as a matter of equity and for the benefit of all. Download the PDF version of the report.

Update on Henry’s Turkey Farm Case

Due to a provision in federal law, the $240 million jury award for employment discrimination and harassment that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) won for 32 men with intellectual disability may have to be reduced to $50,000 each.  A jury in Iowa awarded the larger sum to the men based on the harm they suffered while employed at a turkey processing plant in Iowa.  The jury’s verdict was the largest verdict ever obtained by the EEOC in an employment discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The Iowa jury’s recognition of the inherent value of the lives of individuals with intellectual disability was historic. However, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 limits damages for discrimination to $50,000 for punitive and compensatory damages combined in cases where the employers have 15 to 100 employees.  If the award is reduced by the court, it will not affect the $1.37 million award the men won previously due to wage discrimination.   Despite the fact the Henry’s Turkey Service is believed to have no more than $4 million in assets, EEOC has pledged to pursue the men’s awards vigorously.  Kenneth Henry, president of Henry’s, has said he will appeal the decision.

Over four decades, Henry’s sent hundreds of men who had disabilities from Texas to Iowa to work at a West Liberty meat-processing plant for wages far below minimum wage.  The men lived in a 100-year-old former school building that had been converted to a bunkhouse.  Federal law limited EEOC to the final two years of Henry’s operation which limited the number of workers who could claim compensation.  Henry’s has been fined by the US Department of Labor and Iowa Workforce Development for labor law violations for a total of $2.96 million. To read The Arc’s statement, visit our website.

EEOC Releases Updated Publications on Employment Rights of People with Specific Disabilities

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released four revised publications on protection against employment discrimination on the basis of a disability. The publications describe how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to job applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disability. Visit the EEOC website to view the full question and answer series.

Department of Justice Sends Letter to the Department of Public Instruction in Wisconsin to Ensure That Private Voucher Program Schools Do Not Discriminate Against Students With Disabilities

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in Wisconsin directing it to ensure that private voucher program schools do not discriminate against students with disabilities. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, and Disability Rights Wisconsin filed a complaint in 2011 alleging that the programs discourage students with disabilities from participating in the voucher program, deny admission to students with disabilities, and expel or otherwise force students with disabilities to leave the programs by failing to accommodate their needs.  DOJ told DPI that, regardless of the fact that the voucher schools are private or secular, the voucher program must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act since public funds are used.

Historic Verdict on Behalf of Workers with Intellectual Disabilities

Thirty-two men with intellectual and developmental disabilities each were awarded $2 million in punitive damages and $5.5 million in compensatory damages by an Iowa jury for discrimination and harassment they endured while working at Henry’s Turkey Farm. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the case against Henry’s Turkey Farm alleging discrimination and harassment for the treatment they received while working at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa. For decades, Henry’s sent hundreds of men with I/DD from Texas to Iowa to work for 41 cents an hour. The men lived in a 100-year old Atalissa school building that had been converted to a bunkhouse. The Atalissa operation was closed down in 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which filed the case, was restricted to the final two years of operation limiting the number of workers who could seek compensation. The settlement is groundbreaking in that the jury put a value on the lives of men with I/DD comparable to that of men without disabilities.

Settlement Reached in Employment Discrimination Lawsuit on Behalf of an Employee with an Intellectual Disability

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) entered into a settlement agreement with Alia Corporation, a franchisee with over 20 fast-food chain restaurants in central California, to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit on behalf of an employee with an intellectual disability.  Derrick Morgan was a good employee who was promoted by previous management from crew member to supervisor.  When Alia took over, Mr. Morgan was demoted, his hours were cut, and his hourly wages were reduced.  He was forced to find other employment and resign.

The three-year consent decree requires Alia to hire an equal employment opportunity monitor, establish anti-discrimination policies and procedures, develop a complaint process, track complaints, and provide training to human resources and management employees.  Alia agreed to pay Mr. Morgan $100,000.

ADA Waiting Period Bill Introduced

H.R. 777, a bill to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has been introduced by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA).  The bill would require people with disabilities to wait for a period of time before filing a discrimination lawsuit in order to give businesses, stores, restaurants, and other public accommodation time to correct the problem.  The Arc opposes this bill.  The ADA was passed over 20 years ago.  Businesses have had ample time to make their establishments accessible to people with disabilities.

Disability-related employment discrimination claims increased in 2012

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported a slight decrease in employment discrimination complaints it received in fiscal year 2012. However, EEOC received a higher number of disability-related employment discrimination complaints in FY 2012 than it had during the previous year. In 2012, 26,379 complaints alleging disability employment discrimination were filed with EEOC, an increase over 2011’s 25,742 complaints. Claims of employment discrimination based on disability represented 26.5% of total complaints in FY 2012.

The Department of Education releases 2012 report entitled, “Helping to Ensure Equal Access to Education”

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a 2012 Report to the President and Secretary of Education entitled, “Helping to Ensure Equal Access to Education.” The report covers fiscal years 2009-2012. During that time period, OCR handled 24% more cases than during the preceding 4 year time period. Over half (55%) of the 28,971 complaints OCR handled concerned disability discrimination. OCR reported that almost one-third of school districts reported at least one incident of bullying or harassment based on disability. OCR reported that students with disabilities served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were twice as likely to be suspended out of school (13%) than their peers without disabilities (6%).

In addition to investigating complaints of discrimination, OCR also issues guidance for school districts. Since January 2009, OCR has issued four guidance documents that address or include topics related to disability rights: (1) equal access to electronic book readers and other technology for postsecondary students with disabilities; (2) equal access to emerging technologies for all students, including elementary and secondary school students; (3) schools’ obligations to respond to bullying and harassment based on disability; and (4) changes in the meaning of “disability” made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.