EEOC Issues New Guidance On Work/Family Balance And Promotes Employer Best Practices

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, May 23, 2007

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today held a public meeting focusing on employer best practices to achieve work/family balance, and issued a guidance document on how agency-enforced laws apply to workers with caregiving responsibilities.

The new guidance is being issued by the EEOC as a proactive measure to address an emerging discrimination issue in the 21st century workplace. The document, Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, provides examples under which discrimination against a working parent or other caregiver may constitute unlawful disparate treatment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The guidance notes that changing workplace demographics, including women’s increased participation in the labor force, have created the potential for greater discrimination against
working parents and others with caregiving responsibilities, such as eldercare ­ all of which may vary by gender, race or ethnicity.

Also from the summary:

The guidance, available online along with a question and answer fact sheet, states: “This document is not intended to create a new protected category but rather to illustrate circumstances in which stereotyping or other forms of disparate treatment may violate Title VII or the prohibition under the ADA against discrimination based on a worker’s association with an individual with a disability.”

Another Look at the Effect of State Mandates for Health Insurance Benefits

Source: Andrew Ma and Professor Scott Harrington, Wharton Scholars Research Journal, 2007

The research question we address is whether state laws that require health insurance policies to provide coverage for specified benefits have affected the size of the population without any private sector health insurance coverage. The laws are often alleged to increase the cost of insurance premiums and thus reduce incentives for smaller employers to offer and for individuals to purchase health insurance. Using data from the United States Census Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1996 to 2002, we measure the effects of 2 sets of high cost benefit mandates on the probability for workers to have health insurance through their employer. We use both individual and state level analyses. Generally we find weak and statistically insignificant effects associated with benefit mandates, though we see evidence that this relationship grows stronger over time.

Medical Surveillance for Health Care Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs Recommended in New NIOSH Report

Source: National Institute For Occupational Safety And Health, NIOSH Publication No. 2007-117, April 2007

A new report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that employers institute medical surveillance programs for health-care workers who are occupationally exposed to hazardous drugs, and suggests practical strategies and components for such programs.

The document, Workplace Solutions: Medical Surveillance for Health Care Workers Exposed to Hazardous Drugs, supplements previous NIOSH resources that highlighted potential health risks for health-care employees who are exposed to hazardous drugs.

The U.S. health care industry is one of the fastest growing sectors, with over 16.6 million workers in 2005. It is estimated that 5.5 million of these health care workers are potentially exposed to hazardous drugs or drug waste, including pharmacists, nurses, physicians, maintenance workers, operating room personnel, and others who may come into contact with these drugs while performing their job.

Hazardous drugs are those that have been determined through research studies to have a potential for causing harm to healthy individuals, including potential risks of cancer, skin rashes, birth defects, and reproductive toxicity. These same drugs also play a critical role in treatment of patients with serious illnesses like cancer and HIV infection. Although the potential therapeutic benefits of hazardous drugs outweigh the risks of side effects for ill patients, exposed health care workers risk these same side effects with no therapeutic benefit.

Federal Lobbying by Pork-Seeking State, Local Governments Skyrockets At Least 148% Since 1998, Americans for Prosperity Foundation Study Shows

Source: Americans for Prosperity Foundation, May 22, 2007

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to consider landmark lobbying reform legislation this week, the free-market Americans for Prosperity Foundation released a new study showing an explosion in the amount of taxpayer money spent by local governments and public universities to lobby Congress – often to secure pork-barrel earmarks for local pet projects — since 1998.

Using data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and pulled from federal lobbying disclosure forms, the AFP Foundation study found a whopping 148 percent increase in overall federal lobbying spending by local governments, transportation authorities, public water utilities and state governments, including public universities, between 1998 and 2006.

Public universities led the way, increasing their spending on federal lobbying efforts by 213% (from $10.1 million in 1998 to $31.7 million in 2006,) followed closely by a 193% spending increase by local governments (from $20 million in 1998 to $59 million in 2006.) At the same time, the number and cost of pork-barrel earmarks, often awarded to public universities and local governments, skyrocketed at almost exactly the same pace, the study showed.

Full Report

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA 3328-05, 2007

A comprehensive resource for healthcare planners and practitioners, the new guidance offers information and tools to assist the industry in preparing for and responding to an influenza pandemic. It includes technical information on infection control and industrial hygiene practices to reduce the risk of infection in healthcare settings; workplace preparations and planning issues; and OSHA standards that have special importance to pandemic preparedness planners and responders in the industry.

Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development

Source: Carlos A. Manjarrez and Jessica Cigna, Urban Institute, Urban Libraries Council, January 2007

The Urban Libraries Council commissioned this study to look at how public libraries contribute to the human dimension of economic development. In the process, researchers also uncovered more evidence of the important contributions public libraries make to strengthening places and community quality of life.

This report indicates that public libraries today are deeply involved with people, technology, and quality of life. Public libraries have tremendous reach geographically and virtually. Within the U.S. there are over 9,000 public libraries providing services in over 16,000 branch facilities and through the Web. Nearly every one of these locally-funded organizations offers collections and programs that support early literacy, workforce readiness and small businesses. As such, they are an important and dynamic part of the community’s learning infrastructure which supports local economic development.

This study finds that the return on investment in public libraries not only benefits individuals, but also strengthens community capacity to address urgent issues related to economic development. Public libraries are increasingly finding their “fit” in the formal and informal network of agencies, corporations, nonprofits, and community organizations working together to elevate levels of education and economic potential, making cities stronger.

Agency Guidance – Human Capital Management Policy for a Pandemic Influenza

Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The chart on the following page was developed to assist managers and supervisors in determining the appropriate course of action when confronted in the workplace with an employee who appears ill during a declared pandemic influenza outbreak or an employee who has been exposed to pandemic influenza. Employees who appear to be ill include those workers with pandemic flu-like symptoms (based on symptoms identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which will be posted at www.pandemicflu.gov once the symptoms are known). Employees who have been exposed to pandemic influenza include those employees who have a known, recent, and direct exposure to pandemic influenza (also based on guidance from CDC and from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The chart is intended to assist Federal supervisors and managers in assessing the capacity of their workforce to carry out the work for which the supervisor or manager will remain accountable during a pandemic influenza.

Social Isolation and American Workers: Employee Blogging and Legal Reform

Source: Rafael Gely and Leonard Bierman, Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 20 no. 2, Spring 2007

Times have changed. Americans, and particularly American workers, live in a much more socially isolated world than they did in the past. Union halls and employee group bowling are rare these days. In some respects, the Internet and today’s “virtual world” have contributed to these developments. For example, when employees are telecommuting or working “virtually” off-site, developing a strong sense of community with their colleagues is far more difficult. But while the Internet may be part of the problem, it also has the potential to be part of the solution.

Pandemic Influenza: Best Practices and Model Protocols

Source: U.S. Fire Administration, April 2007

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance for developing best practices and model protocols for use by State, local, tribal, and territorial personnel in the development of pandemic influenza plans, preparedness activities, training, and exercises. The content is a synopsis of input received from Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal emergency medical services (EMS), fire, emergency management, public works, and sector-specific participants during a three-day forum sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Chief Medical Officer and hosted by the U.S. Fire Administration on 23-25 February 2007. The results of this forum are being coordinated with the ongoing efforts of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services, and others.