With an eye toward the future and the technological advances in the workplace that the future is sure to bring, the governor recently applied for a federal grant designed to improve job opportunities and train workers to be more competitive in that future workplace. The US Department of Labor (DOL) has recently announced that it recognizes the need identified in the governor’s proposal and has awarded the state a grant to help achieve these goals.
The Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative, or WIRED, will benefit workers in the state with a New York unemployment grant that will provide money, education, and training programs to regions that historically suffer from high rates of unemployment and poor economic outlook. Federal monies will be supplemented by state, regional, and private funding sources identified in the grant proposal.
“The Third Generation of WIRED is designed to position local Workforce Investment Boards as leaders of a strategic regional partnership,” said Emily Stover DeRocco when the New York unemployment grant was announced. DeRocco is Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employment and Training Administration of the DOL.
DeRocco adds, “Through talent development strategies and integration with regional economic development, this partnership can drive economic transformation in regions across the country and improve employment and advancement opportunities for workers.”
In describing the importance of collaboration across many fronts, DOL Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said, “This regional economic development strategy transcends political boundaries to better leverage a region’s assets to help workers succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy.” The DOL works with ten other federal agencies to bring economic growth through advanced job skills that generate higher paying jobs. The higher paying jobs bring a brighter economic outlook to the worker and to his or her community as well.
Competition for WIRED grant awards among state governors is fierce and the state’s need for the program must be clearly identified in their proposals. To date, the program has granted awards to 26 regions with grants totaling more than $260 million.
Under New York USERRA regulations, employees have a right to the same benefits, salary and job that they would have achieved had they remained in their civilian jobs instead of taking a military leave of absence. Employees are also often entitled to the same annual salary increases and raises to cover the cost of living that they would have received had they continued working at their civilian jobs.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protects service members, clarifies the law, and improves enforcement. It’s full of regulations that cover job rights for veterans and members of the Reserve and National Guard. Recently these regulations have been updated. The final regulations were recently released by the Dept. of Labor.
One division of the US Dept. of Labor, the Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS) provides assistance to everyone with claims under USERRA. New regulations to the USERRA allows federal government employees to now also be eligible to receive Dept. of Labor assistance in processing claims under USERRA.
Under the USERRA regulations, veterans and members of the Army, Navy or Air Force Reserve have their civilian jobs protected for up to five years while they serve their country. If an employee serves two years and then an additional three years, he or she would still be covered because the five years are cumulative.
Significant changes have been made to the most recent USERRA regulations concerning this five-year limit. Exceptions have been made meaning that a soldier whose initial enlistment lasts for more than five years may still have his or her civilian job protected. Timing, frequency, duration or nature of the individual’s service are specifically stated as irrelevant in the new regulations. What is important is that basic eligibility criteria are met. Periodic National Guard or Reserve training is not included in this five-year total.
Other rights military workers have under the revised USERRA include:
The same job, salary and benefits they would have achieved had they remained in their civilian jobs when they return to military service
Annual salary increases they would have received had they remained in their civilian jobs.
Sometimes, as several test cases showed, returning veterans were awarded promotions that they would have received based on length of service if they had not served in the military.
In the battle against illegal drug use and alcohol abuse one of the key tools is the New York Drug Free Workplace Alliance. Random drug testing and pre-employment drug screening are some tactics that many companies in a new program use.
This new program involves a nationwide commitment to create drug-free workplaces. Contractor associations and labor unions are cooperating to implement this new alliance. Both share the purpose of protecting the health and security of workers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, recognizes that drugs and alcohol use at work is a risk to be avoided. In a recent report, OSHA also said that American businesses could receive benefits and improve worker safety and health if they implement drug-free workplaces. Within certain environments, OSHA particularly supports extensive drug-free programs in the businesses including drug testing. This includes operations where employees handle heavy machinery, drive, or engage in other potentially hazardous work.
OSHA explains that alcohol and drugs are involved in most fatal vehicle accidents at work. Low employee morale and more days missed due to illness are also consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. American businesses pay a high price for alcohol use and drugs according to the Dept. of Labor. Increased rates of errors, absences and accidents are some of those costs.
New York employers can protect their companies from these problems by encouraging employees to seek help and by educating them about the dangers that alcohol and drugs pose.
With treatment, support and ongoing care, many workers with substance abuse problems can return to their jobs. OSHA recommends that employers incorporate drug testing, while taking the individual’s right to privacy into consideration.
Testing is one of 5 of key components of a good program. The other 4 are employee education, establishing a clear policy, supervisor training, and employee assistance.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established to set and maintain safety standards, regulations, and procedures for American workers on the job in the private business sector. Most states adopted this program for use within their own borders but 22 states, including New York, have opted to establish their own worker safety programs.
NYOSHA, or the New York Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was developed to establish a worker safety program that uses the guidelines established federally to provide the safest workplace possible for all workers in the private sector in New York. NYOSHA standards are designed to meet or exceed those mandated federally and must maintain approval from the federal OSHA program at all times to remain in operation.
Evidence of NYOSHA at work on your jobsite is the New York OSHA 300 form, which is required by law to be posted in every covered jobsite from February 1 through April 30. This form lists all documented injuries, accidents, illnesses, or other safety-related incidents that occurred during the previous year. Some goals achieved by prominently posting the form are to generate discussion, identify problem areas or systems, and correct or eliminate any potential danger zones.
Like New York, most states adopting their own worker safety programs have developed programs that effectively mirror that of the federal program. Other states, however, have chosen to increase coverage or expand the safety issues addressed.
Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and the US Virgin Islands have expanded coverage to include employees of local, state, and federal government agencies as well as those employed in the non-profit arena. California’s worker safety program addresses all issues required of the federal program and includes additional issues for safety and regulation. Kansas established its own state-run worker safety program but chose to abandon it later for federal coverage instead.
Is the New York OSHA 300 form in your workplace current?
Every employer is required by law to display the New York OSHA 300 form from the 1st of February to the 30th of April every year. The 2007 form lists the work-related injuries and accidents that occurred during 2006. It serves as a reminder of any lapses in worker safety. The New York Safety and Health Administration, or MIOSHA is the department that implements the work-related safety regulations, provides training and consultations, and conducts inspections.
New York is one of the 22 states that have opted out of the federal OSHA, to form their own employee health-related governing bodies. Some other states from these twenty-two include Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Alaska, North Carolina and Oregon.
For a state to have its own OSHA plan, a developmental plan has to be submitted to the federal OSHA for approval. The plan ensures the federal government to have health and safety standards equivalent to the federal standards, implemented within three years. They also have to provide details of the plan, including appropriate legislation; regulations and procedures for standards setting, enforcement, appeal of citations and penalties; and an adequate number of qualified enforcement personnel.
Mostly, the states follow the federal standards closely, trying to improve some areas, which have the need or the room for improvement. The OSHA plan in the state of California is one such example, where they have addressed some areas that were overlooked in the federal OSHA plan.
Three states, including Connecticut and New York have OSHA plans that cover state and local government employees only. Both businesses and non-profits are covered by the federal OSHA plan. Some states such as Kansas that once had a state OSHA plan, but have opted to discontinue it. Those states fall under federal jurisdiction now.