Female Inmates Sue for Equal Treatment

Four female inmates, incarcerated at the NH State Prison for Women in Goffstown, are suing the state over what they say is unequal treatment compared with male inmates incarcerated at the NH State Prison.

In an article written by staff writer Joseph Cote of the Nashua Telegraph:

The four inmates filed a suit in Merrimack County Superior Court on Monday alleging the state Department of Corrections hasn’t abided by a 1987 federal court order that it provide female inmates with services including vocational education, work, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education and housing programs comparable to those offered to men.

It’s not the first time the state’s treatment of women in prisons has come under fire. The suit comes a year after a federal civil rights committee lambasted the state over its treatment of female inmates.

The women are being represented by New Hampshire Legal Assistance and Devine, Millimet & Branch.

Read the entire story.

Discrimination affects people in all segments of our population.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer attorneys who specifically handle discrimination and civil rights issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Barbed wire image by Fiona Dalwood - Creative Commons

 

 

 

Veterans and the ADA: A Guide for Employers

Each year, thousands of military personnel stationed around the world leave active duty and return to jobs they held before entering the service, or begin the search for new jobs. Recent veterans report high rates of service-connected disabilities (i.e., disabilities that were incurred in, or aggravated during, military service).[1] About twenty-five percent of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability, as compared to about thirteen percent of all veterans.[2] Common injuries incurred by these veterans include missing limbs, burns, spinal cord injuries, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries, and other impairments.

There are several federal laws that provide important protections for veterans with disabilities who are looking for jobs or are already in the workplace. Two of those laws — Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) – protect veterans from employment discrimination. Title I of the ADA, which is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), prohibits private and state and local government employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability.[3] USERRA has requirements for reemploying veterans with and without service-connected disabilities and is enforced by the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL).

This guide describes how the ADA applies to recruiting, hiring, and accommodating veterans with disabilities, and briefly explains how protections for veterans with disabilities differ under USERRA and the ADA. The guide also provides information on laws and regulations that employers may find helpful if they want to make recruiting and hiring veterans with disabilities a priority.

Read the entire guide from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Are you a veteran who feels your employer is not complying with the ADA?  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent  attorney experienced with handling ADA issues in employment law.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

New Guidance on Using Criminal Background Checks

In a press release dated April 25, 2012, the EEOC Commission issued enforcement guidance on employer use of arrest and conviction records.

PRESS RELEASE
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an updated Enforcement Guidance on employer use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII). The Commission today voted 4-1 to approve the guidance document.  The Commission also issued a Question-and-Answer (Q&A) document about the guidance. The Enforcement Guidance and Q&A document will be available on the EEOC’s website at www.eeoc.gov.

“When the Commission met publicly to discuss this subject in July, 2011, I said that I hoped the meeting would help to inform the Commission’s consideration of revisions to existing EEOC guidance.  We had excellent testimony from two public meetings and hundreds of written comments submitted by a diverse group of commenters to inform our deliberations concerning the new guidance,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.  Chair Berrien added, “The new guidance clarifies and updates the EEOC’s longstanding policy concerning the use of arrest and conviction records in employment, which will assist job seekers, employees, employers, and many other agency stakeholders.”

While Title VII does not prohibit an employer from requiring applicants or employees to provide information about arrests, convictions or incarceration, it is unlawful to discriminate in employment based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.  The guidance builds on longstanding guidance documents that the EEOC issued over twenty years ago.  The Commission originally issued three separate policy documents in February and July 1987 under Chair Clarence Thomas and in September 1990 under Chair Evan Kemp explaining when the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions may violate Title VII.  The Commission also held public meetings on the subject in 2008 and 2011.  The Enforcement Guidance issued today is predicated on, and supported by, federal court precedent concerning the application of Title VII to employers’ consideration of a job applicant or employee’s criminal history and incorporates judicial decisions issued since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.  The guidance also updates relevant data, consolidates previous EEOC policy statements on this issue into a single document and illustrates how Title VII applies to various scenarios that an employer might encounter when considering the arrest or conviction history of a current or prospective employee.  Among other topics, the guidance discusses:

  • How an employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions could violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII;
  • Federal court decisions analyzing Title VII as applied to criminal record exclusions;
  • The differences between the treatment of arrest records and conviction records;
  • The applicability of disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis under Title VII;
  • Compliance with other federal laws and/or regulations that restrict and/or prohibit the employment of individuals with certain criminal records; and
  • Best practices for employers.

The materials for the public meetings held on the use of arrest and conviction records, including testimony and transcripts, are available at http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/index.cfm.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to qualified and experienced attorneys to assist you with your employment law issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a confidential online referral.

 

Report Bullying and Harassment of LGBT Students

Have you or someone you know experienced LGBT based bullying, harassment, or discrimination in school?

According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), you are not alone:

Approximately 85% of high school students report being harassed in school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and 64% of students report being harassed for being too masculine or too feminine. Even more troubling, only 18% of LGBT students report that their schools have policies which offer comprehensive protections.

Without  adequate statewide protections, what can members of school communities do to address these issues?

We can take action to ensure LGBT students claim their rights, create a record measuring anti-LGBT harassment, and use this record to advocate laws and policies that will address this epidemic plaguing our nation’s schools.

Empowering school communities with this information , and delivering reports to the U.S. Education Department is a critical first step in claiming our rights and getting the tools to create change and build safer schools. We need your help in this important educational and advocacy effort.

GLSEN recommends  that if you – or someone that you know – have experienced school-based bullying, harassment, or discrimination, please file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Education Department today.  For more information on how to file a complaint, visit GLSEN’s website.

For information regarding New Hampshire’s anti-bullying law and other resources check out Bully Free New Hampshire.

For discrimination matters in areas of employment, public accommodations and the sale or rental of housing or commercial property, because of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mental disability or national origin contact the NH Commission for Human Rights.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association has a panel of competent attorneys experienced with handling discrimination matters.  Most discrimination claims are time-sensitive so call LRS today at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Can I Be Fired While On Maternity Leave in NH?

According to the NH Commission for Human Rights, you cannot be fired or laid off while on maternity leave if it’s related to your temporary disability; however, you may be fired or laid off from a general and legitimate lay-off for performance requirements.

What else does the Commission say about the rights of pregnant employees?

1. Is a pregnant woman entitled to maternity leave?

Yes, an employer must grant a female employee leave for the period of time she is physically disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

2. Is there a set period of time for maternity leave?

No, there is no set period of time for maternity leave. It is based on the period she is disabled as determined by a physician, usually the employee’s personal doctor.

3. Is the employee entitled to full pay while on maternity leave?

The general rule is that pregnancy must be treated in the same manner that the employer treats other temporary physical disabilities. Therefore, if the employer continues to pay other temporarily disabled employees, it must pay pregnant women. If the employer requires use of vacation and/or sick leave for temporary disabilities, then it may require the same for pregnancy.

4. Is the employee entitled to her job back after she recovers from childbirth?

When the employee is physically able to return to work, her original job or a comparable position must be made available to her by the employer unless business necessity makes this impossible or unreasonable.

5. If the position is filled by another employee while the original employee is on maternity leave and the employer prefers the temporary replacement, can the employer refuse to provide the original job for the returning employee?

No, any change in position for the returning employee must be made for reasons of business necessity. An employer’s preference for one employee over the other cannot be a factor in this decision.

6. Can an employee be laid off or fired while pregnant or on maternity leave?

No, an employee cannot be laid off or fired while pregnant or on leave for reasons related to her temporary disability. However, an employee while pregnant or on maternity leave is not immune from a general and legitimate lay off of employees for performance requirements.

To find out more about rights for pregnant employees, go to the NH Commission for Human Rights.

If you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer because of your age, sex, sexual orientation, race,  physical or mental disability,  religion or pregnancy status, contact the Lawyer Referral Service.  LRS can refer you to competent attorneys who specifically handle discrimination matters in New Hampshire.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.