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Human Rights Errors that lead to an unEqual Employment Opportunity and Discrimination.

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Dialogue with the Human Rights Commission.

Graeme's initial communication with the Office of the Human Rights Commission can be read on his EEO Blog This is about what we call Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO), in New Zealand and if it is any good at helping people with Disability get employment.

--- Original Message ---

From: Sue O'Shea (email withheld)
Sent: Friday, 14 November 2008 4:08 p.m.
To: Graeme Axford
Subject: EEO data in the Public Service

Dear Graeme
Thank you for your correspondence raising concerns about advice to government departments about the collection of disability data.

This is a complex issue in which a positive intent (to increase the number of people with disabilities employed in the state services) may have an unintended consequence (discriminating against those who identify that they have a disability).

The Commission supports and indeed encourages the collection of data on the employment of disadvantaged groups, including people with disabilities. Data collection is an essential component of accountability for fair employment practices.

As you rightly point out, there are potential risks that this data is not used to monitor the fair treatment of people with disabilities, but to exclude them. It is believed that disability information is under-reported due to fear of discrimination. See "Enabling Ability: Meeting the employment requirements of people with disabilities in the Public Service," a recent publication from the State Services Commission (SSC).

The advice from SSC is to separate the collection of disability data from other information collected at the time of application to minimise the risk of discrimination. It is considered that collecting disability data at this time enables EEO monitoring to identify when barriers to employment may be occurring. For example, if people with disabilities are not applying for jobs then further investigation of the recruitment process is indicated, if people with disabilities are applying but are not being appointed, then scrutiny of the appointment process is indicated.

Collecting disability data after appointment reduces the possibility that an applicant for a job might be discriminated against, but means that the opportunity to monitor, and if necessary amend, recruitment practice is lost.

The wording of the question in the CYFS application form does not appear to be data gathering for the purposes of equal employment opportunities. You report that the application form states:
“Do you have, or have you ever had, a medical condition caused by an injury, illness, disability or gradual process that the tasks of the position may aggravate or contribute to, or that may affect your ability to carry out the work of the position applied for?”

In my view this question is problematic as it raises the possibility of unlawful discrimination. An employer is entitled to establish whether a job applicant has the abilities needed for the job. In its publication “Getting a Job An A-Z for employers and employees Pre–employment guidelines” the Commission suggests that a job applicant should first be made aware of the job’s requirement and then asked about any medical conditions or disabilities that might prevent them carrying out the work satisfactorily.

The question asked above is overly generic. If for example the job involves a high level of exposure to stressful situations then the ability to manage stress should be ascertained at interview and through reference checks rather than the use of a screening question which will preclude otherwise worthy applicants being considered. It is possible that if a person answered "No" to this question and had previously experienced mental illness, physical illness or other physical impairment and this re-occurred they could be dismissed for providing false information.

We will follow up this issue with CYFS and State Services Commission. Please contact me in a few weeks if you would like to hear about progress on this matter. Thank you for bringing the matter to our attention.

Yours sincerely
Sue O'Shea
Principal Advisor EEO
Human Rights Commission
PO Box 12411, Thorndon
WELLINGTON

FYI - For Your information

These pages have been written by Graeme on the fly, sometimes with, but more often without the aid of software. Knowing that Graeme has dyslexia is also accepting that these pages contain broken sentences, spelling and grammatical errors along with other errors that are left largely unedited.

Welcome to his world.

 

--- Original Message ---

From: Graeme Axford
Sent: Wednesday, 26 November 2008 12:35 p.m.
To: Sue O'Shea
Subject: RE: EEO data in the Public Service

Dear Sue
Thank-you for your email and "thank God" someone finally gets what it is I have been going on about after so long. It seems to have been a long battle to get people to recognize the problems as you did so clearly in your reply and look at trying to address them. While I no its early days any progress been made as per your last email and follow-up as you suggested.

Cheers
Graeme Axford

 

--- Original Message ---

From: Sue O'Shea (email withheld)
Sent: Monday, 1 December 2008 2:29 p.m.
To: Graeme Axford
Subject: EEO data in the Public Service

Hello Graeme.
A quick update: I have contacted CYF HR managers who are following this up. I understand that CYF / MSD are reviewing their application forms. I have also discussed this issue with the State Services Commission.

I'll keep you informed about progress.

All the best
Sue

 

--- Original Message ---

From: Graeme Axford
Sent: Monday, 22 December 2008 10:26 a.m.
To: Sue O'Shea
Subject: RE: EEO data in the Public Service

Hi Sue,
I just wanted to wish you the very best for Christmas and the New Year and thank you for your help so far.

Any word from the SSC about the changes?

Cheers
Graeme Axford

 

-----Original Message-----

From: Sue O'Shea (email withheld)
Sent: Tuesday, 23 December 2008 1:10 p.m.
To: Graeme Axford
Subject: EEO data in the Public Service

Hi Graeme, and all the best to you too. Sadly the person we're working with at the SSC had a family bereavement and so we didn't get as far as we would have liked before Christmas. But, the issue is still "live" and I'll continue to work with both SSC and CYF/MSD to progress the matter.

Have a great Christmas and New Year.

Cheers Sue

Sue O'Shea
Principal Advisor EEO
Human Rights Commission
PO Box 12411, Thorndon
WELLINGTON

 

--- Original Message ---

From: Graeme Axford
Sent: Friday, 30 January 2009 6:41 p.m.
To: Sue O'Shea
Subject: RE: EEO data in the Public Service

Hi Sue
I hope you had a good Christmas & New Year.

It was sad to her about the person family bereavement, let alone so close to Christmas & New Year, not that there is ever a good time for that to happen …

Any updates or progress?

Cheers
Graeme

 

--- Original Message ---

From: Graeme Axford
Sent: Monday, 16 February 2009 10:46 a.m.
To: Sue O'Shea
Subject: RE: EEO data in the Public Service

Hi Sue

I will be meeting with the MSD and possibly Minister in Wellington on the 24th of this month and hoped to have some news on the progress and changes being made.

I have found some more cases wherein people have been disadvantaged from not declaring conditions like a breakdown 20 years ago and until recently did not have a relapse in that time. They did not declare the breakdown of 20 years ago, feeling it was not relevant. When a incident happened that triggered off another melt down as they called it, it affected there ability to work. They got asked to resign in order to save a blemish on their perfect record and they would leave with a good reference. It seems this policy has been abused along with the people and it can be used as a good excuse if agencies are asked to cut back on staff. This is about the third time I have been told a similar story. I have no if you can make retrospective changes to help those who could be caught out with this, but it would be nice if you could.

It seem some managers knew about how the policy could be misused and did just that, which makes we question why no one picked up on it sooner at the SSC…

Cheers
Graeme

 

-----Original Message-----

From: Sue O'Shea (email withheld)
Sent: Monday, 23 February 2009 1:43 p.m.
To: Graeme Axford
Subject: EEO data in the Public Service

Hi Graeme
I'd hoped to get you a final outcome rather than a progress report, but we're not quite there and I'm keen for you to have up to date information for your meeting. SSC checked out the statement by MSD/CYF that the question you drew our attention to was "standard practice in the state sector" . SSC found that yes indeed it was and a letter to HR managers across the state sector advising them that such questions are inappropriate and potentially discriminating is being prepared. I am waiting to see a final copy of that letter and to hear that it has been sent and will let you know as soon as possible when that happens. All the best Sue

Sue O'Shea
Principal Advisor EEO
Human Rights Commission
PO Box 12411, Thorndon
WELLINGTON

 

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