The employment process in federal agencies is subject to various statutory laws. Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act are examples of the legislations with significant implications for recruitment and hiring. They protect applicants from discriminatory recruitment policies. Among the protected groups are people with disabilities, racial/ethnic minorities, and persons who identify with the LGBT group. This paper analyzes the relevant employment laws, the LGBT issue, and ethics training in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It concludes with recommendations for recruiting and training a diverse workforce at the NIH.
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Laws Affecting the Agency
The NIH, as a federal agency, is obligated to observe the employment regulations set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The central goal of the EEOC is to enforce laws geared towards eliminating discriminatory employment practices. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) is a statutory law enacted in 1964 that forbids discrimination in “employment terms and conditions based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015, para. 6). Title VII protects individuals with disabilities and ethnic and religious minorities against unfair employment practices.
Title VII coverage includes organizations with more than 15 employees. It protects individuals from discrimination in all aspects of personnel management, including recruitment/hiring, training, redeployment, termination, compensation, disciplinary action, and promotion, among others. Thus, under Title VII, the NIH must ensure that its personnel management policies are non-discriminatory to the protected persons.
The second legislation that has implications for personnel management in the NIH is the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). ADEA requires that people aged 40 or more be accorded an “equal employment opportunity” like other applicants (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015, para. 9). However, the Act permits employers to favor applicants aged below 40 years in their recruitment if youthfulness is an issue of business necessity. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2015), the ADEA’s coverage extends to all organizations with 20 or more workers and trade unions. However, law enforcement and military personnel are not subject to this Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires organizations to accord disabled persons an equal opportunity in their staff management policies. The Act prohibits discrimination of qualified workers based on physical and mental disability. Employers are required to provide ‘reasonable accommodation’ to enable individuals with disabilities to perform their work. Under the ADA, disability entails a state of physical or mental unfitness that affects an individual’s basic life functions, such as sight, movement, or hearing. Reasonable accommodation encompasses improvements in the workplace that enable a disabled person to carry out his or her job duties.
The Act has implications for personnel recruitment and hiring. Organizations, including the NIH, have the responsibility of making necessary accommodations in the hiring process. The Act prohibits the administration of recruitment tests that require disabled persons to employ their impaired abilities (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015). As such, employers are required to use a process that compensates for physical or mental disability. The Act further prohibits organizations from requiring applicants to provide medical exam results before the actual appointment. The NIH has to comply with the ADA regulations to avoid discrimination-related lawsuits.
Personnel Recruitment and Hiring Practices
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) coverage is an emerging issue in personnel recruitment and hiring. The NIH should address the issue of LGBT in its recruitment practices because of three factors. First, an LGBT-friendly policy will attract a diverse workforce, which brings many benefits to an organization. An inclusive policy attracts a pool of different perspectives and skills and enhances communication with LGBT clients (Kaplan, 2006). As an agency dedicated to clinical research, the NIH will benefit greatly from the recruitment of a diverse workforce. A positive LGBT image will attract skilled and talented professionals to drive the agency’s goals and objectives.
Second, addressing the issue of LBGT has implications for productivity. Organizational productivity improves because of the quality of employees hired. According to Kaplan, (2006), LBGT-friendly personnel policies reduce workplace stress and absenteeism and increase organizational commitment, resulting in productivity improvement. In addition, low turnover rates reduce recruitment and training costs, contributing to greater efficiency.
Third, initiating LGBT-friendly practices will ensure that the NIH meets statutory and legal requirements. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2015), although Title VII is not clear on whether LGBT is a protected group, discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual orientation, is outlawed. Federal legislations protect all workers, including those identifying themselves with the LGBT group. Thus, addressing the LGBT issue in its recruitment policy will cushion the NIH against potential lawsuits challenging its recruitment/hiring system.
On the other hand, the NIH can choose not to address the LGBT issue because of three reasons. The first reason the NIH should not address the LGBT issue relates to cost. It may be costly to formulate and implement a comprehensive LGBT policy in a large organization. The costs are associated with training of staff on LGBT, creating an LGBT support group, and care/sick leave for partners (Kaplan, 2006). In addition, implementing an LGBT-friendly policy will require changes to the agency’s equality/diversity procedures.
The second reason is the potential effect of such a policy on heterosexual workers. An LGBT-friendly institution may discourage heterosexual applicants from applying for jobs. Heterosexual workers perceive LBGT as a non-workplace issue that should be addressed by equality policies (Kaplan, 2006). LGBT is a sensitive subject and addressing it can increase workplace conflicts and turnover. A single equality scheme can avert such conflicts and promote integration in the workplace.
The third reason relates to the NIH’s lack of hostility towards LGBT workers. The NIH’s stance on equality means that the organization does not disadvantage any employee or applicant. Furthermore, the organization has no history of hostile actions against LGBT people. As an institution that collaborates with an international research organization, prioritizing the LGBT issue will hurt its relations with partners in countries that do not recognize gay rights. Thus, a general equality approach to recruitment/hiring can be appropriate for the NIH.
Ethics and Diversity Training
The NIH is committed to promoting ethical conduct in the workplace. The institution offers an ethics orientation program for new staff joining the agency as per the Ethics in Government Act. The orientation program involves an online training module that covers a range of topics, including financial disclosure, conflict of interest issues, ethical conduct, and political participation (National Institutes of Health, 2015a). A major strength of this program lies in its coverage. It covers a full range of topics related to government ethics.
Furthermore, the program cites relevant statutes on ethics that all federal employees must observe. It also provides new employees with a comprehensive training resource to enrich their understanding of ethical conduct. The only weakness of the ethics orientation program is that it is entirely web-based, which makes it less interactive. The program also does not provide past ethical issues that have taken place at the NIH.
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Non-federal NIH employees, such as visiting staff, are also required to complete ethics training modules. The program introduces the trainees to the ethical issues that may face while working with federal staff (National Institutes of Health, 2015a). The program covers the entire spectrum of the ethics statutes that public sector employees must observe. Thus, it helps promote mutual understanding and fruitful collaboration between local and foreign staff. The program’s only weakness is that only employees working on appointments are subject to the ethical statutes. Thus, visiting employees on detail are exempt from the federal ethical standards.
The NIH also provides a training module for ethics officials. The module contains a range of up-to-date resources that ethics officials can use to administer the employee-training program. Its primary strengths include the use of interactive videos and extensive coverage. Its weakness is that it is only web-based, hence, less interactive.
The NIH promotes diversity through various training programs. Through the LGBT-fellows and friends program, the NIH educates employees on issues related to sexual orientation, including career growth opportunities (National Institutes of Health, 2015a). The strengths of this program include inclusivity (any NIH employee can participate) and social support networks. The National Research Mentoring Network program offers training to researchers on issues of diversity and mentorship (National Institutes of Health, 2015b). The program provides networking opportunities to mentees from diverse backgrounds. A major strength of this program is that it involves partnerships with private and public institutions supporting minority students and employees. However, the training program lacks evaluation criteria for assessing the competencies acquired.
Recommendations for Recruiting and Training a Diversified Workforce
The NIH can enhance the diversity of its workforce by adopting recruitment and training procedures that support the integration and inclusivity. Concerning recruitment, my recommendation is that the NIH utilizes a standardized evaluation criterion to assess the applicants. Currently, the NIH ensures inclusivity through mentorship programs that support and develop minority interns and researchers. A standardized evaluation form will allow the agency to apply the same assessment process to all applicants and thus, avoid unfair hiring practices.
My second recommendation is that the NIH utilizes current staff from ethnic minorities to notify qualified individuals about new positions. Employee referrals will enable the NIH to attract diverse candidates for a job opening. Additionally, this approach will cut down recruitment costs. The NIH can also enlist the help of national and international partners and research centers to recruit a diverse workforce. The partnerships will expand the agency’s geographical reach. The agency can also place ads on online job websites that appeal to minority researchers.
The NIH should introduce training in English to enhance the efficacy of its diversity training programs. Visiting non-native English speakers can benefit from an English training course. In addition, offering a Basic English course will eliminate language barriers that hamper workforce integration. The NIH should also create evaluation criteria for assessing employees who have completed the training module on diversity. The agency should also invest more in mentorship programs targeting minority students to increase their representation in the workforce. Mentorship programs can increase the employee pool, leading to a diversified workforce.
Kaplan, D. (2006). Can Diversity Training Discriminate? Backlash to Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Diversity Initiatives. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 18(1), 61-72.
National Institutes of Health. (2015a). Ethics Training: Training Modules for Staff: Government Employees and Non-Employees. Web.
National Institutes of Health. (2015b). Guide to Training and Mentoring. Web.
U.S. Department of Labor (2015). Understanding the Legal Context of Assessment-Employment Laws and Regulations with Implications for Assessment. Web.