Fort Riley, Kansas

 

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Special Emphasis Program committee forms at Fort Riley

By Season Osterfeld | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | June 09, 2017

     “This is all part of our policy to be proactive,” said Jeffery Greer, Special Emphasis and Disability Program manager. “If you’re very proactive and you have sensing sessions and you work on special emphasis issues, you can prevent issues before they happen and this is part of that process in getting ahead of the complaints.”

     The formation and beginning sessions of the Special Emphasis Program Committee at Fort Riley is underway to assist the civilian workforce, whether they’re an applicant or current employee, with overcoming a variety of needs before they become an issue, Greer said.

     “The Special Emphasis Program Committee is the Fort Riley committee created to work towards implementing the Army’s purpose and goals for the Special Emphasis Program at the installation-level,” said Eric L. Carter, the installation labor counselor and attorney-advisor, Administrative and Civil Law Division of the Fort Riley Office of the Staff Judge Advocate and member of the committee. “Specifically, the committee will focus on the overall employment, career development and advancement opportunities for both applicants and employees at Fort Riley.”

     The program is required by Army Regulation 690-12 and under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The committee looks to evaluate and remove what are known as triggers and barriers for the entire workforce, but special attention is placed on key groups, such as the disabled veteran, Hispanic populations and other Title VII groups, Greer said.

     “We consider all of those groups, but we don’t limit ourselves to only those groups,” he said. “We want to enhance the entire workforce. We try to find what we call triggers and barriers. Triggers are, when we look at the data, are like red flags — here’s an area that’s showing up as an issue, so you look at that area and see what the issue is with hiring and employment.”

     Through the program, 12 percent of the workforce is required to be disabled and 2 percent of that number need to belong to a group called targeted disability, which includes blindness, loss of limb, autism and post-traumatic stress syndrome, among others, Greer said. The Fort Riley workforce has successfully met and exceeded that number for several years because of the large veteran population in the area. Likewise, through the Hispanic initiatives, there is a percentage requirement for the workforce as well, however, the Special Emphasis Program should not be confused with Affirmative Action because of these requirements. An applicant or employee is still required to meet the merit and qualifications needed to be employed.

     “We have to maintain the merit system,” he said. “You can’t hire someone unless they’re qualified, so we try to bring people up if they’re not qualified or aware of our program, like K-State graduates, if they aren’t aware of the opportunity, so we try to interface with local universities and groups to let them know there are opportunities.”

     Committee members look at ways to assist applicants and employees in improving their skills, receiving training, networking, eliminating discrimination within the workforce and more to assist everyone in maximizing their chances of being hired, promoted and so forth, Greer said. These areas where assistance may be lacking are also referred to as barriers for some of the workforce.

     “Hopefully, the Fort Riley community will benefit from the committee identifying and eliminating any barriers to recruitment, retention and career enhancement which may be created by unlawful employment discrimination,” Carter said.

     By identifying and eliminating barriers and triggers, committee members believe the workforce will see an increase in productivity, job satisfaction, better decision making, new ideas and a stable, upward mobile workforce, Greer said.

     “There’s been a number of studies, both in the civilian world and the government, and when you have a diverse workforce, you get much more satisfaction among the employees and productivity actually goes up,” he said.

     Within the committee, there are a number of core organizations required to provide a representative, including Equal Employment Opportunity, OSJA, Irwin Army Community Hospital, the Labor Union and Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, among others.

     In an example of what initiatives the committee may work on, Carter said he foresees more action in assisting employees and others with disabilities to enable easier access to and around Fort Riley, as well as while performing their tasks and jobs.

     “One key area in which I anticipate the committee will focus is removing any barriers to access by employees and members of the public with disabilities,” he said. “A complex area of federal labor and employment law is ensuring that qualified individuals with a disability are reasonably accommodated, as appropriate, to ensure that they can fulfill the duties of any position for which they encumber. I believe one area the committee may focus is in seeing what, if any, barriers to employment may exist for both applicants and employees with disabilities in the workplace while ensuring the accommodation process in place is adequately addressing those individuals.”

     While the name “Special Emphasis Program” may imply a narrow focus, Greer said it’s all of Fort Riley’s workforce that matters to them.

     “We’re responsible for all of the groups,” he said. “It’s called Special Emphasis, but we’re trying to work with the entire workforce. We’re trying to improve the quality for all of the workforce.”