DOJ Settles Over Hijab

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

DOJ Press Release

hijabWASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with the Board of Education of Berkeley School District 87 in Berkeley, Ill. that, if approved by the court, will resolve a religious accommodations lawsuit filed in December 2010.  In its lawsuit, the United States alleged that the school district violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of Safoorah Khan, a Muslim teacher at McArthur Middle School. “Employees should not have to choose between practicing their religion and their jobs,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The facts of this case show the consequences of an employer refusing to engage in any interactive process to understand and work with an employee to find an accommodation of the employee’s religious beliefs that will not cause undue hardship to the employer.  We are pleased that Berkeley School District has agreed to implement a training program that puts into place an interactive process to ensure that each request for a religious accommodation will be considered on a case-by-case basis and granted if it poses no undue hardship on the school district.” The government’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, alleged that Ms. Khan requested an unpaid leave of absence in December 2008 to perform Hajj, a pilgrimage required by her religion, Islam.  According to the complaint, Berkeley School District denied Ms. Khan a reasonable accommodation of her religious practice, compelling Ms. Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, thus forcing her discharge.  The United States also alleged that the school district maintains a policy under which it refuses to grant leave to non-tenured teachers as an accommodation for their religious practices if the leave requested is not already provided for in the school district’s leave policy.  The lawsuit was based on a charge of discrimination filed by Ms. Khan with the Chicago District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  After investigating Ms. Khan’s charge, finding reasonable cause to believe that Berkeley School District had discriminated against Ms. Khan, and unsuccessfully attempting to conciliate the matter, the EEOC referred the charge to the Department of Justice.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Berkeley School District will pay $75,000 to Ms. Khan for lost back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.  Berkeley School District also is required to develop and distribute a religious accommodation policy consistent with Title VII’s requirement to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs, practices and/or observances of all employees and prospective employees.  In addition, Berkeley School District is required to provide mandatory training on religious accommodation to all board of education members, supervisors, managers, administrators and human resources officials who participate in decisions on religious accommodation requests made by its employees and prospective employees.  This is the first lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a pilot project designed to ensure vigorous enforcement of Title VII against state and local governmental employers by enhancing cooperation between the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division. “As the favorable resolution of this case demonstrates, closer collaboration between the EEOC and the Department of Justice will strengthen the enforcement of this nation’s civil rights laws,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the EEOC.  “Our partnership is critical to ensuring that workplaces are free of bias.”  Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin or religion, and prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes an unlawful employment practice, or because the employee has made a charge or participated in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the Act.  More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp/index.html

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

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The Texas Unmiracle

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Krugman

As expected, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, has announced that he is running for president. And we already know what his campaign will be about: faith in miracles.

Some of these miracles will involve things that you’re liable to read in the Bible. But if he wins the Republican nomination, his campaign will probably center on a more secular theme: the alleged economic miracle in Texas, which, it’s often asserted, sailed through the Great Recession almost unscathed thanks to conservative economic policies.

And Mr. Perry will claim that he can restore prosperity to America by applying the same policies at a national level.

So what you need to know is that the Texas miracle is a myth, and more broadly that Texan experience offers no useful lessons on how to restore national full employment.

It’s true that Texas entered recession a bit later than the rest of America, mainly because the state’s still energy-heavy economy was buoyed by high oil prices through the first half of 2008. Also, Texas was spared the worst of the housing crisis, partly because it turns out to have surprisingly strict regulation of mortgage lending.

Despite all that, however, from mid-2008 onward unemployment soared in Texas, just as it did almost everywhere else.

In June 2011, the Texas unemployment rate was 8.2 percent. That was less than unemployment in collapsed-bubble states like California and Florida, but it was slightly higher than the unemployment rate in New York, and significantly higher than the rate in Massachusetts. By the way, one in four Texans lacks health insurance, the highest proportion in the nation, thanks largely to the state’s small-government approach.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts has near-universal coverage thanks to health reform very similar to the “job-killing” Affordable Care Act.

So where does the notion of a Texas miracle come from? Mainly from widespread misunderstanding of the economic effects of population growth.

For this much is true about Texas: It has, for many decades, had much faster population growth than the rest of America — about twice as fast since 1990. Several factors underlie this rapid population growth: a high birth rate, immigration from Mexico, and inward migration of Americans from other states, who are attracted to Texas by its warm weather and low cost of living, low housing costs in particular.

And just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a low cost of living.

In particular, there’s a good case to be made that zoning policies in many states unnecessarily restrict the supply of housing, and that this is one area where Texas does in fact do something right.

But what does population growth have to do with job growth? Well, the high rate of population growth translates into above-average job growth through a couple of channels. Many of the people moving to Texas — retirees in search of warm winters, middle-class Mexicans in search of a safer life — bring purchasing power that leads to greater local employment. At the same time, the rapid growth in the Texas work force keeps wages low — almost 10 percent of Texan workers earn the minimum wage or less, well above the national average — and these low wages give corporations an incentive to move production to the Lone Star State.

So Texas tends, in good years and bad, to have higher job growth than the rest of America. But it needs lots of new jobs just to keep up with its rising population — and as those unemployment comparisons show, recent employment growth has fallen well short of what’s needed.

If this picture doesn’t look very much like the glowing portrait Texas boosters like to paint, there’s a reason: the glowing portrait is false.

Still, does Texas job growth point the way to faster job growth in the nation as a whole? No.

What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states.       

I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is “Well, duh.”

The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs — which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice — involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.

In fact, at a national level lower wages would almost certainly lead to fewer jobs — because they would leave working Americans even less able to cope with the overhang of debt left behind by the housing bubble, an overhang that is at the heart of our economic problem.

So when Mr. Perry presents himself as the candidate who knows how to create jobs, don’t believe him. His prescriptions for job creation would work about as well in practice as his prayer-based attempt to end Texas’s crippling drought.

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Tips on Negotiating a Sound Physician Agreement

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq.

I was recently invited to speak at the Michigan State University Radiology Department, in front of their Residents, on a topic that is very much overlooked by new physicians, or even experienced physicians: Understanding their employment agreement.

StethiscopeMore and more physicians entering into their profession are ignoring some of basic concepts that come with their agreement. However, there is always one clause that is never ignored – their salary. While the complexity and details of a contract can vary with depending on the employer and location, certain clauses must always be addressed. This article will illustrate the three (3) primary areas of concern that every physician, whether new or experienced, should take into consideration when negotiating their Physician Employment Agreement.

Non-Compete Agreements:

A non-compete agreement is a restriction placed on you that bars you from practicing with competitors within a specific geographic area and within a specific period of time. Two factors that should be considered: (a) Whether the state you are working in enforces non-compete agreements (Michigan does as of 1987); and (b) if your state does, are the restrictions placed on you reasonable.

In order to determine reasonableness, courts have laid out three (3) elements: (1) Geographic area; (2) Duration; and (3) Market Description.

Geographic area: In Michigan, courts have established that a 50-mile radius is deemed reasonable. Therefore, if you are terminated from your employment and you are seeking employment, anything within 50-miles from your previous employer will be unacceptable.

Duration: Case law has also established that anywhere between 18-24 months is considered a reasonable timeframe; meaning, you are prohibited from working within the guidelines for at least 18-24 months.

Market Description: It is always important to read and understand exactly what your Employer is restricting you from. If the contract states you are prohibited from practicing in the field of medicine upon the termination of this contract (and you are a radiologist), then clearly that will not be accepted as a reasonable restriction and would not be enforced. However, if it states that you are not allowed to practice in the field of radiology within the stated guidelines, than courts can consider that as reasonable.

Duties/Responsibilities

For no apparent reason, Employers tend to be lazy when it comes to defining and explaining what your job actually entails. Through my experience, I have noticed that the majority of contracts will define duties as “what is reasonably conducted in the (insert field) profession.”

It is always advised to question the employer and receive a thorough explanation on what “reasonable” actually means. There could be several implications, and more often than not, no two people will carry the same definition and meaning to the word. I always advise my clients to ensure you have a detailed understanding as to what is expected of you when you enter into your profession, and stay clear from ambiguity.

Fringe Benefits

Your employment agreement should always indicate exactly what benefits you are to receive. Furthermore, keep in mind that the variety and flexibility in your benefits will depend on the type of practice you are in. If you find yourself in a smaller practice, you may be able to negotiate a more individualized package. However, in larger practices you will more likely have a uniform program covering all employees; thus, less room for negotiating.

The following are the more common benefits that tend to be addressed the most during negotiations:

Insurance: Always make sure to ask what types of insurance you are being offered; whether it is health, dental, life, or disability. Health insurance is traditionally the most common of the four, however depending on the size of your company, employers do still offer life and disability.

Vacation: It is inevitable that you will receive vacation days, however what you may not know is whether you are permitted from carrying over those days to the following year. Furthermore, is Continuing Medical Education (CME) time included as part of your vacation days, or are they in addition to them?

Malpractice Insurance: No matter how perfect of a physician you are, or consider yourself to be, having malpractice insurance is vital. More importantly, knowing which type you have can be equally as vital. There are primarily two types of malpractice coverage that an employer can offer:

Occurrence. The physician is covered for malpractice that occurs during the period that the policy was in force, regardless of when the claim is filed.

Claims. The physician is covered for claims filed during the coverage period regardless of when the malpractice occurred.

More often than not, because of the expensive premiums associated with occurrence based coverage, you will find yourself in a claims based insurance coverage. Therefore, it is imperative that you inquire into the purchase of a “tail” policy, which covers claims that can be filed after your coverage period ends.

Whether you are a newbie or an experienced physician, always remember that employers always have their own best interest in mind. Therefore, it is important to never simply browse over your contract without giving it the attention it truly deserves. I advise every physician I have encountered, always seek the opinion and advice of a trusted professional who can provide you with a sound analysis and possibly assist you during your negotiating phase. Remember, as a physician, the large salary and healthy lifestyle is expected, but to live a peaceful life, it is the parameters of your contract, the additional clauses that make the difference.

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Getting Past the Paralysis on Jobs

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

TV CNN ZakariaEvery week brings fresh evidence that America’s unemployment crisis is much deeper and more systemic than predicted — yet Washington seems unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Fears of the budget deficit and a dysfunctional political climate have paralyzed people on both sides of the political aisle. The result is that America is “sleepwalking” through its biggest crisis, writes Mohamed El-Erian, the low-key co-CEO of PIMCO.

Around 24 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed (the latter in part-time jobs that average $19,000, half the median wage). If these people don’t find jobs soon, they will lose skills and work habits and become permanently unemployable, with grim consequences for their families, communities and the country. And if employment growth does not pick up significantly, tax revenue will stay depressed, unemployment costs will rise and the deficit will balloon well beyond current projections.

We still seem to be hoping that somehow this problem will resolve itself, but it won’t. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explained this week that the economy has gone through the worst financial crisis and the deepest housing collapse since the Great Depression. In fact, the problem is even worse. Employment growth has been stalled since 2000. If not for the housing and credit bubble, this jobs crisis would have revealed itself much earlier.

We’re in a new world for the American worker. Technological change and globalization allow companies to get more output with fewer workers. Emerging markets provide millions of skilled workers who can produce the same products at a fraction of the price that Americans can. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that from 1947 till 2000, productivity growth was correlated with employment growth. Since 2000, they have diverged. Productivity has risen while employment has fallen. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence has concluded that in America, growth and employment will diverge in the future.

Does this mean that we are stuck in a low-growth, low-employment future? No, but the crisis is structural, and we have to recognize its scope and urgency. “Shutting off the alarm and pulling the blanket over one’s head is not a solution,” says El-Erian.

Republican concerns about government spending over the long term are understandable, but cutting spending in the short run will result in more unemployment and slower growth. President Obama talks about jobs but seems too paralyzed to do something ambitious to help create them. Even Bernanke said this week that there isn’t much he could do about the slow-growth, high-unemployment trajectory we are on. Have we all become fatalists?

In fact, we could enact some measures that would spur job creation, many with a limited effect on the deficit. Most immediately, Washington needs to find ways to employ the millions of workers whose jobs disappeared with the housing bust. The simplest way to help them, and the country, would be to create a national infrastructure bank to repair and rebuild America’s infrastructure — which is in a shambles and ranks 23rd globally, according to the World Economic Forum — down from sixth only a decade ago.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has played down this proposal as just more stimulus, but if Republicans set aside ideology they would see it is actually an opportunity to push for two of their favorite ideas: privatization and the elimination of earmarks.

The United States builds infrastructure in a remarkably socialist manner; the government funds, builds and operates almost all American infrastructure. In many countries in Europe and Asia, the private sector plays a large role in financing and operation of roads, highways, railroads and airports, as well as other public resources. An infrastructure bank would create a mechanism by which such private-sector participation would become possible here as well. Yes, some public money would be involved, mostly through issuing bonds, but with interest rates at historic lows, this is the time to rebuild. Such projects, with huge long-term payoffs, could genuinely be called investments, not expenditures.

A national infrastructure bank would also address a legitimate complaint of the Tea Party — earmarks. One of the reasons federal spending has been inefficient is that Congress wants to spread money around in ways that make political sense but are economically inefficient. An infrastructure bank would make these decisions using cost-benefit analysis, in a meritocratic system, rather than basing decisions on patronage and whimsy.

The country needs much more: a revival of manufacturing, emphasizing technical training and apprenticeship programs; aggressive measures to promote those industries that are booming, such as entertainment and tourism; an expansion of retraining; streamlining the patent process; more visas for skilled immigrants to stay and create companies and jobs in America. These should be part of a national plan for jobs that President Obama must lay out soon. But start with something that would have an immediate impact and put people back to work — the rebuilding of America.

comments@fareedzakaria.com

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Skilled Labor?

October 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service Middle East correspondent (MMNS)

hand-holding-diploma The economic boom and unprecedented growth of the Middle East over the past several years has made it a lucrative venue for employment seekers. Barely scathed by the global economic turndown, that has brought the rest of the world to its’ knees, most Middle Eastern countries continue to ride a wave of economic independence and expansion.

As a result of the sheer speed of growth, an increased demand for skilled workers has evolved. Doctors, nurses, teachers, IT professionals, architects and engineers are just a few of the careers that are in high demand in the Middle East region. However, not everyone seeking a job has the proper credentials and, unfortunately, many people who have already acquired high paying jobs in specialized fields have done so with fake university degrees.

Within the past few months, the extensive reliance of unqualified persons utilizing the services of fake degree mills has come to light. The Spokesman newspaper in Washington State recently published a list of more than 10,000 names of people who have already purchased fake university degrees or were in the process of doing so. The majority of persons on the list were Arab Americans who now face possible criminal charges from the US Department of Justice.

What is most surprising is that the majority of the wealthier Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain offer free university education for their nationals. So, it is not necessarily a matter of someone being denied access to higher education but actually it is often about someone lacking the initiative to attend university for the required number of years to earn full accreditation.

With the problem in the international spotlight, some Middle Eastern countries are taking swift action to punish anyone attempting to utilize a bogus university degree to get employment. The United Arab Emirates has launched a stellar campaign to crackdown on anyone currently employed or seeking employment by presenting a fake university degree. Violators face a lifetime ban from working or even entering the UAE and face up to 24 years in prison. In the State of Kuwait, the Public prosecution has received several complaints from employers regarding job seekers presenting phony academic certificates. Most recently, this past week, 19 potential teachers were ordered held for prosecution as their educational certification was proven to be counterfeit by the Ministry of Education.

Obtaining a fake university degree is not difficult. A short trip to Southeast Asia or even Hungary can help someone achieve a PHD or CPA without spending a lot of time or money in school and for a fraction of the cost of a long stint in college. However, the odds are against such persons once they are on the job and cannot fulfill the work that their forged certification claims that they can do. Such was the case recently in Kuwait when a man went to the Ministry of Education seeking a job as a teacher. His forged university degree came from Hungary. However, he could not speak Hungarian or even English and simply claimed that he studied with the aid of a translator.

Unscrupulous degree dealers can be found all over the Gulf region offering a variety of degrees for under $1000 and in less than a month. A local reporter in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently exposed one such degree dealer. The dealer advertised on the Internet and communicated exclusively by email or mobile phones to elude detection from Saudi authorities. He promised the reporter “you name it and we provide it”. The degrees for sale bore the name of “Buxton University” in the UK and could be made to order immediately.

The real losers in this scam are the people who hold authentic university certification and now find themselves having to prove that their degree is worth the paper that it is printed on. Degree cheaters have forced most Mideast governments to cast out an overly wide net to root degree violators out, unfortunately authentic degree holders are getting caught up in it as well.

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