On Friday, the Women's Bureau held California's first "Stand Down" for women veterans in Long Beach. Director Sara Manzano-Díaz welcomed veterans and guests to a day-long program of workshops and panel discussions that addressed the special needs of women veterans. The more than 300 participants took advantage of dental and child care services, and obtained information about housing, legal assistance, financial planning and interview techniques. Attendees also heard from fellow women veterans who have successfully transitioned back into civilian life. More Stand Downs are scheduled for August 20 in San Antonio, Texas, September 8 in New York City and September 10 in Tampa, Florida.
The Philadelphia Region's Office of Public Affairs hosted a free forum Monday as part of the annual Federally Employed Women's National Training Program. Attendees from across the country participated in sessions on topics ranging from the Federal Employees Compensation Program to equal employment issues and priorities of the department's Women's Bureau.
Commitment to Disability Hiring
Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris recognized 50 human resource representatives of the financial services sector for their commitment to disability hiring and retention at a call to action summit on Tuesday. "The Labor Department is committed to creating that environment of opportunity for every person with a disability who wants a job, and using every technique at our disposal to do so. Partnership with the people in this room is proof that businesses can succeed because of, not in spite of, their commitment to disability hiring and retention," said Harris. The event, co-sponsored by DOL and the Financial Services Roundtable, also included Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy; Raymond Jefferson, assistant secretary of the Veterans' Employment and Training Service; Steve Bartlett, president and CEO of the Roundtable; and John Dalton, president of the Roundtable's Housing Policy Council.
As part of the 21st anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disability Act, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, Kathy Martinez delivered the keynote speech at the 8th Annual "Wheelchair Wash" hosted by Familia Unida Living with Multiple Sclerosis – a Los Angeles based non-profit organization. Legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta served as the event's honorary chair, along with Irma Resendez, the organization's founder and president. The more than 2,000 people in attendance received free wheelchair washing and tune-ups. They also received information on employment support services such as child care, vocational training, transportation, mental health and social security. "Events like this celebrate inclusion and diversity, and go hand in hand with the department's focus on supporting efforts to expand opportunities for all Americans," said Martinez.
The Secretary's Representative Ken Bennett joined Labor Department officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Wage and Hour Division and Employee Benefits Security Administration in a meeting with the Milwaukee Building Trades Council. The group also hosted an informational outreach seminar on departmental services for the local community. "This meeting is a great example of DOL's commitment to reaching workers and labor leaders throughout the Midwest to discuss the services and resources available to them at the Labor Department," said Bennett.
YouthBuild on YouTube
YouthBuild USA – a non-profit organization designed to support local YouthBuild programs around the country – invited students to show off their creativity and the impact the program has had on their lives through short video submissions. The results were impressive for their display of talents, but also for the important message conveyed by the videos: YouthBuild makes a difference. Submissions from YouthBuild Long Island and YouthBuild Sangamon County in Springfield, Ill., were recognized as winners of the contest, while the entry from Kingsport, Tenn. received an honorable mention.
Women are enlisting in the military more than ever today. But too many women return from their deployments victims of trauma. On Wednesday, Secretary Solis released a new online guide for service providers to better help female veterans after they return from duty. "Too many women who once proudly wore our uniform now go to sleep in our streets, under our bridges and in vacant homes," Solis said. "Over the last decade, the number of homeless women veterans has nearly doubled. Many of them are sick, hungry and without a shred of certainty about what tomorrow holds." At a special ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Theater on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, Solis announced "Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers." Among the 200 guests in attendance were U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught (retired), Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and DOL's Women's Bureau Director Sara Manzano-Díaz. The guide explains the unique needs of women veterans and provides organizational self-assessment tools to help social workers and community service organizations that assist this growing population.
As record heat continues across the country, Secretary Solis issued a heat alert this week to educate employers and workers on the dangers of working outdoors in extreme heat. Solis provided simple guidelines for staying safe that include: having a work site plan to prevent heat-related illnesses; providing plenty of water at the job site so workers are able to drink small amounts frequently; having scheduled rest breaks throughout the work shift in shaded or air conditioned areas; and allowing new workers to gradually increase their workload to get use to the heat. "Remember: water, rest, shade — the three keys to preventing heat-related illnesses in this extreme heat," said Solis.
Guidance will soon be available for those who want to use electronic delivery to comply with retirement plan service provider and participant fee disclosure regulations. These regulations will require service providers to furnish specific fee information to pension plan sponsors so that plan sponsors can disclose fee information to plan participants. "The Employee Benefits Security Administration is arranging guidance for e-disclosure in response to multiple requests from those affected by the regulation," EBSA Assistant Secretary Phyllis Borzi said. She made the announcement this week during a meeting with the ERISA Advisory Committee to provide updates on EBSA's regulatory agenda. Borzi also noted that EBSA continues to work on regulations addressing the definition of the term "fiduciary," adding that extended comment periods, public hearings and dozens of meetings have enabled EBSA to identify and address issues important to affected stakeholders.
The unemployment rate among African-American men is nearly double the national unemployment rate. For this reason, the Department of Labor is focused on making sure that employment and training programs reach this community. This effort includes extensive outreach to inform the community about resources and job opportunities. Ben Seigel, deputy director of the department's Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, participated in a community forum in Baltimore this week at the Center for Urban Families, a nonprofit group that helps fathers and families find work. He shared findings from the department's recent report, "The Black Labor Force in the Recovery," and provided information on DOL grant programs and resources, such as CFBNP's new Job Clubs project and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. More than 100 community leaders attended the event, including representatives from a Baltimore program recently awarded funding under the department's Civic Justice Corps grant program to help young adults get job skills as they transition out of the juvenile justice system.
Advisors Sought For Council Overseeing Employee Pensions
The Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration is currently seeking nominations to fill five three-year vacancies on the 2012 ERISA Advisory Council. Established by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the council consists of 15 members who are appointed by the secretary of labor to represent specified groups and fields. Five nominations are being accepted to represent employee organizations, employers, corporate trust, investment management and the general public. The deadline for receipt of nominations is Sept. 16, 2011. The council meets at least four times a year and makes recommendations regarding employee compensation and benefits plans.
Renette "Uilani" Soares was a young mother barely making ends meet, but she was determined to go to college. She received counseling from ALU LIKE Inc., a Hawaiian grantee of the Labor Department in Hilo whose program helps Hawaiians, Alaska Natives and American Indians achieve self-sufficiency. Soares, 28, received adult job training in pre-school and daycare programs and eventually enrolled in a local community college to study social work. She did so well as a student that she was eventually hired as a summer school instructor. The program "ultimately changed my life, for, without it, I wouldn't have known how gifted and talented I was," Soares said. DOL funding "gives us the opportunity to empower the community and change lives," said ALU LIKE employment and training director Carla Kurokawa.
Hiring Fair Helps Vet Make Numerous Job Contacts
When unemployed Army veteran Sheila Hill heard a radio broadcast about a veterans hiring fair co-sponsored by the Department of Labor, she picked up the phone. She spoke with Assistant Secretary Raymond Jefferson of the Veterans' Employment and Training Service and decided to attend on July 10. Hill received promising feedback from the Social Security Administration, Southern California Gas and ITT among other companies who were impressed with her legal administrative background. She said she had "never been in an arena where there were so many fresh and promising job leads" from a network of people seeking employees. VETS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will continue to sponsor dozens of hiring fairs across the country this year.
Grant Takes Aim at Skills Development for Laid-Off Gun Makers
About 60 workers affected by layoffs at Thompson/Center Arms in Rochester, N.H., will receive access to re-employment and training services under a $248,878 National Emergency Grant from the Labor Department. The firearms manufacturer, which is part of Smith & Wesson Holdings, produces pistols, rifles and accessories. The grant awarded to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, will be operated by Southern New Hampshire Services Inc.
Defunct Florida Leasing Company Finally Pays Workers
Owners Robert Wilske and Mike Alexander of the now-defunct First National Leasing Inc. have agreed to pay eight former telemarketing employees $34,235 in back wages and accrued interest. The consent judgment resolves a department lawsuit that alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime pay and record-keeping provisions. The Labor Department filed suit following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that found the Tampa-based company had misclassified several employees as independent contractors.
Kentucky Mine Operator Slapped with Permanent Injunction
Mine operators know that warning miners underground when federal inspectors arrive on the property is illegal. CAM Mining LLC of Pike County, Ky., failed to heed that law and has been slapped with a permanent injunction. Judge Amul R. Thapar ordered the mine operator not to interfere, hinder or delay the inspection of its Mine No. 28 by giving advance notice of a pending inspection by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. "We are very pleased that the court not only prohibited advance notice of MSHA inspections to those working underground, but also required the employer to post the order and train workers and contractors, so this incident will not recur in the future," said MSHA Assistant Secretary Joseph Main.
The Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Full Circle Enterprises Inc. of Conroe, Texas, for illegally terminating an employee after he filed an initial compliant with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding illegal drug use and a lack of proper respirators to protect employees from inhaling paint fumes. OSHA opened an investigation after the worker filed a whistleblower complaint with the agency alleging retaliation by the company in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. "Employees should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator.
Hurricane Ike Cleanup Workers Receive Nearly $105K in Back Wages
An investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division found that in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, 57 cleanup workers employed in Anahuac, Texas, were denied overtime compensation after being misclassified as independent contractors. Company owner Cecil Parker Jr. violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by paying "straight time" wages instead of time-and-a-half for overtime work. Parker paid $104,837 in back wages to these workers and has agreed to properly classify and compensate his workers in the future.
Florida Utility Contractor Cited Again for Safety Violation
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Florida-based Prince Contracting LLC for a repeat safety violation with a $70,000 proposed penalty for allegedly endangering workers while digging a storm water trench in Clermont, Fla. A protective trench box had been at the site but was removed the morning of the inspection. Since 2008, the company has been inspected by OSHA five times, with four of the five inspections resulting in citations for failing to provide an adequate protective system for workers. "This company is gambling with its workers' lives by not installing protective systems when excavating deep trenches," said Les Grove, director of OSHA's area office in Tampa. "While it is fortunate that no one was seriously injured or killed at this site, we hope management sees this citation as a wake-up call that laxity in safety has consequences."
Preliminary Injunction Against Pennsylvania Coal Mine Operator
When the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 passed, it required every underground coal mine to develop an emergency response plan. An important component of such a plan includes the purchase and installation of a wireless tracking and communication system to more easily locate miners during an emergency situation. S&M Coal Co., which owns Buck Mountain Slope Mine in Lykens, Pa., failed to comply with this requirement so the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a closure order. Subsequently, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting all mining activities at Buck Mountain until the operator purchases and installs the necessary equipment. "S&M's refusal to comply with this order as well as the requirements of the MINER Act threaten the safety of workers at this mine, and must be halted immediately," said MSHA Assistant Secretary Joseph Main.
Assistance for Laid Off South Dakota Call Center Workers
A $379,500 National Emergency Grant will provide training and employment services to about 200 workers affected by the closure of the Premier Bankcard call center in Spearfish, S.D. In May, the company announced the closure of the center and the permanent layoff of its workers. Under the grant, the South Dakota Department of Labor will provide services to train workers with skills necessary to obtain good, stable jobs in the area's high-growth industries, including health care and education.