A knowledgeable and well-trained human resources department in any organization is a very valuable asset due to the scope and importance of employment relations and the effects that those relations have on the profitability of that organization. New laws and regulations regarding employee relations appear often and the ability to manage these rules and regulations is mandatory if that business desires to be successful. The purpose of this essay is to explore a specific human resources issue and design a plan to address the problems that may arise from this issue.
This essay will examine the important circumstances that arise when dealing with employees with disabilities. The human resources plan presented in this example will address the issue of an introduction of new technology for employees who may experience physical limitations. Before detailing the plan, I will list and describe the federal and Maryland state laws that are pertinent to this issue. The essay will then detail the plan and describe the advantages that accompany the proposal before finally addressing the possible negative outcomes if the plan is not implemented.
The workplace is a complicated and diverse arena where many different types of people are joined together in unique and challenging circumstances. The concept of a disabled worker is a very fluid and ever-changing standard that requires the human resources department of an employing organization to be consistently aware of rules that may impact the workplace. Disabled workers are not simply those who are handicapped, but in today's world, disability is a growing quality within the workforce and may not be as noticeable as someone sitting in a wheelchair.
Technology is another term that is gaining a more diverse meaning in today's world. Technology is more than the newest smart-phone or automobile feature. Technology comes in many different forms and represents the advancement of human development in terms of material artifacts. It is important that human resources departments have clear and concise definitions and examples of technology and disabilities before developing and implementing programs that are designed to merge these two ideas.
Differing Laws and Statues
It is primarily important that those responsible for creating the standard operating procedures for employment relations within a company are familiar with both state and federal rules before implementing those rules. At the company level there is no single source that presents these rules and laws in a neatly organized folder. It is the responsibility of the human resource manager and the leadership of the company to know, understand and ultimately comply with the varying laws in order to prevent violations of these laws which may result in serious and costly penalties.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
According to the United States Department of Labor, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) " prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunications relay services." Five federal agencies are responsible for the enforcement of this law: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), The Department of Transportation, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), The Department of Justice and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB). Human resources planners must be able to comply with each one or these organization's compliance rules that relate to the ADA.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The United States Department of Labor describes the FMLA which "entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave." While this law is not obviously directed at disabled personnel, if a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job is entitled to the prescribed leave.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 503
Another piece of federal legislation that deals with disabled employees is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This act "prohibits discrimination and requires employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that exceed $10,000 to take affirmative action to hire, retain, and promote qualified individuals with disabilities. All covered contractors and subcontractors must also include a specific equal opportunity clause in each of their nonexempt contracts and subcontracts." Additionally, the rules regarding section 503 of this act demands that employers refrain from discrimination in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities.
Maryland State Regulation Article 49B
Employers within the state of Maryland must adhere to state laws on top of the previously mentioned federal regulations. Article 49B according to the State of Maryland Code deals with discrimination and offers the punishment for violating these statutes. According to the Legal Action Center " Article 49B gives the Maryland Commission on Relations ("MCHR") the power to enforce the state's anti-discrimination law, and gives individuals complaining of illegal discrimination prohibited by the state law the right to file complaints with the MCHR. However, Article 49B does not give individuals a right to sue, in court, to seek remedies for violations of the state's law."
Article 49B was enacted about forty years ago to provide a state counterpart to the federal discrimination statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Article 49B, however, differed from Title VII in significant ways. Under Article 49B, an aggrieved employee could file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations. The MCHR's investigation would conclude either with a finding of probable cause or no probable cause that there was discrimination. Thereafter, the MCHR could move the case to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge who could award only compensatory damages of three years back pay. No further damages were available. The limited damages available under Article 49B made it unappealing to some plaintiffs.
Under Article 49B's remedial scheme, a discriminatorily terminated employee who, as required, diligently sought alternative employment would not be eligible for very much net back pay. The same would hold true for an employee claiming harassment who continued to work for the employer and suffered no loss of back pay.
Maryland Workers' Compensation Law
The State of Maryland requires employers to obtain workers' compensation insurance from a licensed insurance company to protect both themselves and their employees. Maryland's state website states that "Employers failing to secure workers' compensation insurance as required by law shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be subject to a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both fine and imprisonment. If the employer is a corporation, the officer of the corporation having the responsibility for the general management of the corporation in the State shall be liable for such fine and imprisonment as herein provided." It is important to note that this requirement is not uniform to every state and is specific to employers that reside in the State of Maryland.
Maryland Technology Assistance Program
The Maryland Technology Assistance Program (MDTAP) is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Disabilities and it is purpose is to "enhance the lives of all Marylanders with disabilities, older Marylanders, and their families by helping support access to assistive technology (AT) devices and services." This program not only informs employers about technology that is available for their disabled employees, but also offers recommendations on appropriate technologies, allows for trials of certain technologies and offers financial assistance to acquire these technologies.
Any human resources plan of action requires the entire employing agency to adhere to the specifics of the plan. Therefore it is extremely important that all key players within the organization are aware of the plan and contribute to its content. The first step in this plan mandates that all individuals within the employee relations or human resources office become fluent in the aforementioned laws and regulations. There is too much to risk for employers to minimize these rules and ignore the serious impacts that can result if violations are found within the organization.
Next, a standard operating procedure needs to be produced in writing that outlines the specific duties and tasks of each person that is a stakeholder in the organization. Training and education are most likely needed to ensure that rules and regulations are being properly addressed. This training needs to be constantly monitored and updated due to the constant changing of laws and regulations that are being presented to employers.
The third step of this human resources action plan would be to educate the employees that are disabled within the company. This would require a screening process and monitoring program to ensure that all rules and regulations are understood by the employees. From a political standpoint it is much better that an employee feels comfortable and safe with their employer and a high level of trust is established. It is very easy for the disabled to file law suits and take civil action in today's society and the importance of having a strong rapport with these individuals may save the company much distress in…