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<a href=http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/no-title-vii-claim-for-son-sex-reassignment-treatment-coverage-denial-but-aca-claim-revived/ target=_blank >No Title VII claim for son’s sex reassignment treatment coverage denial, but ACA claim revived</a>

By Marjorie Johnson, J.D.

An employee whose son was denied employer-sponsored insurance coverage for gender reassignment treatment failed to convince the Eighth Circuit to revive her claims against her employer for sex discrimination under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), since she didn’t suffer discrimination based on her own gender, and thus lacked statutory standing. However, a divided appeals court panel reversed the dismissal of her Affordable Care Act (ACA) claim against the plan’s third-party administrator based on its conclusions that the district court erred in finding she lacked Article III standing, and remanded for the district court to consider alternative grounds for tossing her claims. Believing the appeals court should have considered those alternative grounds and affirmed dismissal, Judge Benton dissented in part (Tovar v. Essentia Health, May 24, 2017, Murphy D.).

The employee worked for Essentia Health and received health insurance through its self-funded medical plan, which was administered by a third-party administrator (TPA). In 2014, her teenage son became a beneficiary of the plan, and later that year was diagnosed with gender dysphoria—a condition in which an individual’s gender identity differs from the gender assigned at birth. She sought coverage for his medications and gender reassignment surgery, but her requests were denied based on the plan’s categorical exclusion for “services and/or surgery for gender reassignment.”

She filed this lawsuit against Essentia and the TPA alleging claims of gender discrimination under Title VII, the MHRA, and the ACA. The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that her claims against Essentia failed for lack of statutory standing and that her claim against the TPA failed for lack of Article III standing.

Discrimination was against son. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court’s conclusion that she had no statutory standing to bring her Title VII and MHRA claims against her employer. Assuming for purposes of this appeal that the statutory prohibitions on sex-based discrimination included protection for transgender individuals, she did not fall within a class of protected plaintiffs since she did not allege discrimination on the basis of her own sex. Rather, she alleged discrimination against her on the basis of her son’s sex, based on the refusal to cover his medical treatment. Title VII did not extend to this discrimination as it prohibits employment discrimination “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

This conclusion was supported by “decades” of case law, and the employee’s reliance on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. v. EEOC was misplaced. That case involved an employer’s health plan that provided different pregnancy related benefits for female employees and the female spouses of male employees. The Supreme Court concluded that the discrimination at issue was against the male employees because of their own sex, since the health plan gave married male employees a “benefit package” for their dependents that was “less inclusive than the dependency coverage provided to married female employees.”

Claim against TPA. However, the district court erred in dismissing her ACA claim against the TPA for lack of Article III standing. First, its primary conclusion that she lacked standing because she named the wrong defendant was erroneous since the plan document did not definitively establish that the TPA she identified was wholly uninvolved in the administration of the plan. The Eighth Circuit also disagreed with the lower court’s alternative conclusion that the employee’s injuries were not fairly traceable or addressable by the TPA since the plan was self-funded by the employer, which also had the “all powers and discretion necessary to administer the Plan” (including the power to change its terms).

Significantly, the employee alleged that the health plan and its discriminatory terms originated with the TPA, and not with Essentia. Thus, if the TPA had provided Essentia with a discriminatory plan document, the employee’s alleged injuries could well be traceable to and redressable through damages by those defendants. This was so even if Essentia subsequently adopted the plan and maintained control over its terms.

Injury in fact. Rejecting the TPA’s assertion that the employee did not suffer any injury since she was not personally denied coverage under the plan, the Eighth Circuit distinguished the question of whether she suffered an injury sufficient to confer Article III standing from the question of whether she was a proper plaintiff under the text of the ACA. She alleged an injury cognizable under Article III because she contended that the defendants’ discriminatory conduct denied her the benefits of her insurance policy and forced her to pay out of pocket for some of her son’s prescribed medication. This was sufficient to establish an injury in fact for purposes of Article III standing.

Remand. The panel majority declined to address the TPA’s assertion that her ACA was due to be dismissed on the alternative ground that she did not fall within the class of plaintiffs whom Congress had authorized to sue under the ACA, and that the TPA could not be liable for administering a plan whose allegedly discriminatory terms were under the sole control of another organization. Since these issues were not previously addressed by the district court, it felt it was best to remand for its consideration and ruling.

Partial dissent: No ACA standing. Dissenting in part, Judge Benton found no need for a remand on whether the employee stated an ACA claim against the TPA since this “pure question of law” could be resolved by looking to applicable Office for Civil Rights’ regulations. After undergoing a thorough analysis of the OCR’s commentary and applying it to the employee’s ACA claims, Judge Benton concluded that she failed to state a cognizable claim against the TPA since she didn’t allege that it discriminated in its administration of the plan, that it shared common ownership or control with Essentia, or that it served as a “subterfuge for discrimination” intended to allow Essentia to continue to administer discriminatory health-related insurance.

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<a href=http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/on-remand-from-scotus-9th-cir-still-says-lower-court-should-have-enforced-eeoc-subpoena/ target=_blank >On remand from SCOTUS, 9th Cir still says lower court should have enforced EEOC subpoena</a>

By Lisa Milam-Perez, J.D.

In a case on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit concluded for a second time that a district court erred in refusing to enforce an EEOC administrative subpoena seeking “pedigree information” (name, social security number, and contact information) on employees and prospective employees who had taken an employer’s mandated physical strength test. The agency requested the information pursuant to its investigation of sex discrimination allegations that the employer unlawfully fired an employee who failed the test. This time around, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the lower court’s order for abuse of discretion—having been instructed by the High Court that de novo review was improper. Again, though, the appeals court vacated the order refusing to enforce the subpoena, concluding that the information was directly relevant to the EEOC investigation (EEOC v. McLane Co., May 24, 2017, Watford, P.).

Case history. In a 2012 ruling, the district court held that the pedigree information sought by the EEOC was not relevant “at this stage” of the agency’s investigation because the evidence already produced by the employer would allow it to determine whether the use of the challenged strength test “systematically discriminates on the basis of gender.” The lower court reasoned that if, after reviewing the evidence already in its hands, the EEOC has reason to suspect systemic discrimination, only then would the pedigree information be relevant, and production to the EEOC might then be “necessary.”

Previously, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred by concluding the pedigree information was not relevant and denying enforcement of the administrative subpoena. It reviewed the lower court’s order de novo, in accordance with controlling circuit precedent at the time. However, last month, the Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit judgment after holding that a district court’s decision whether to enforce an EEOC subpoena should be reviewed for abuse of discretion. The High Court remanded the case for the appeals court to evaluate the district court’s ruling under the proper standard of review. Now applying the abuse of discretion standard, but adopting much of its earlier analysis, the Ninth Circuit concluded the lower court erroneously denied enforcement of the subpoena.

EEOC investigation. The court below misunderstood the legal standard governing relevance at the investigative stage. The EEOC has the right to obtain evidence if it relates to employment practices made unlawful under Title VII and the evidence “is relevant to the charge under investigation,” the appeals court explained. It’s not whether the evidence sought by the agency would tend to prove a charge of unlawful discrimination; at this stage, the agency is simply trying to ascertain whether there is “reasonable cause” to find the charge might be true. Consequently, “the relevance standard in this context sweeps more broadly than it would at trial.” It can apply to any evidence that serves to shed light on the allegations at hand.

Relevant. Under this standard, the pedigree information was relevant. The EEOC wanted to contact other employees and job applicants who took the challenged strength test in order to speak with them about their experiences with the test, in hopes of shedding light (positively or negatively) on the allegations. “To pursue that path, however, the EEOC must first learn the test takers’ identities and contact information, which is enough to render the pedigree information relevant to the EEOC’s investigation.”

The employer argued that the EEOC had not shown that production of the pedigree information was “necessary” to complete its investigation in light of all of the other information that the employer already had produced. “But the governing standard is not ‘necessity,” the appeals court reminded; “it is relevance.” It didn’t matter whether the employer, or the court, believed that the EEOC could complete the investigation without the desired evidence. “Congress has not left it to employers accused of discrimination to decide what evidence may be necessary for the EEOC to complete its investigation,” the appeals court explained.

The district court also erroneously held the pedigree information was not relevant at this particular stage of the investigation. It reasoned that the EEOC had enough evidence to determine whether the strength test was discriminatory, so it didn’t really need the pedigree information to determine whether use of the strength test resulted in systemic discrimination. If the EEOC’s analysis of that evidence indicated that systemic discrimination was afoot, only then would the pedigree information become relevant, and thus “necessary,” the lower court concluded. Again, though: whether the EEOC needs the evidence has no bearing on whether the evidence is relevant.

Neutrally applied? The employer’s contention that the pedigree information was not yet relevant also misconstrued the nature of the underlying charge. It argued that the complainant had alleged the strength test was “neutrally applied” and thus, by definition, could not give rise to a disparate treatment claim. But this wasn’t the case; she had never alleged the test was neutrally applied; in fact, she asserted just the opposite: that the test had been discriminatorily applied to her. At any rate, a neutral test requirement could still be applied in a discriminatory fashion. “The very purpose of the EEOC’s investigation is to determine whether the test is being neutrally applied,” the appeals court noted; and the EEOC was not obligated to take the company’s word for it on that point.

Remand. Because the court’s refusal to enforce the EEOC subpoena was premised on an incorrect view of the legal standard governing relevance, the court necessarily abused its discretion when it held that the pedigree information was not relevant to the EEOC’s investigation. As such, the appeals court vacated the order and remanded, noting that the employer was free to renew its assertion that the request for pedigree information was unduly burdensome. Also, the lower court was instructed to address the unresolved issue whether it would be unduly burdensome for the employer to produce information as to why the test takers had been discharged.

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<a href=http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/because-both-sides-have-rights-to-petition-framework-to-defeat-anti-slapp-motions-expanded/ target=_blank >Because both sides have rights to petition, framework to defeat anti-SLAPP motions expanded</a>

By Joy P. Waltemath, J.D.

Construing the state anti-SLAPP statute and recognizing that in litigation under that statute, both parties enjoy the right to petition—including the right to seek redress in the courts—the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court “augmented the framework” for considering anti-SLAPP special motions to now allow nonmoving parties to establish that their claim was not “brought primarily to chill” the special movant’s legitimate exercise of its right to petition. In other words, the nonmovant can attempt to show its claim is not a SLAPP suit and without merit. In so holding, the high court also concluded that in a special motion to dismiss defamation claims by fired psychiatric unit nurses based on the hospital president’s statements in an internal hospital-wide email and to the press, the statements to the press were protected petitioning activity, but his email to the hospital was not. The case had to be remanded to give the nurses the opportunity to show that their defamation claim, even though based in part on protected petitioning activity, when viewed as a whole was nonetheless not a “SLAPP” suit (Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc., May 23, 2017, Lenk, B.).

Alleged defamation. The allegedly defamatory statements in question were made by the hospital president following four reported incidents of abuse at the adolescent psychiatric unit, which the hospital immediately reported to the state Department of Mental Health (DMH). DMH investigated and considered revoking the hospital’s license to operate the unit, which served mentally and physically challenged teenagers in “acute states,” who were admitted from other facilities as a “last resort.” The hospital hired senior counsel at Proskauer Rose to investigate, who eventually recommended that “it would be prudent to replace the current personnel” in light of what he termed “a code of silence” among the staff.

The hospital fired all the unit’s nurses, after which the president sent an email to all hospital employees stating that the terminated employees had “not demonstrated this steadfast commitment to patient care,” and “not been acting in the best interest of their patients, the hospital, or the community.” Two days later, an article in the Boston Globe quoted the hospital president alluding to the investigation’s conclusion that necessitated he “start over on the unit.” In a follow-up article a month later, the hospital president indicated that counsel’s investigative report said “it wasn’t a safe situation” and “underscored his decision to fire the entire staff of the unit.”

Hospital’s motion to dismiss under anti-SLAPP statute. When the nurses sued for defamation, both the hospital defendants and the Proskauer defendants moved to dismiss under the anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. G. L. c. 231, § 59H.10. Only the hospital’s motion to dismiss is involved in this appeal.

SLAPP and anti-SLAPP. SLAPP suits are “lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.” Because their objective is to use litigation to intimidate opponents’ exercise of rights of petitioning and speech, the anti-SLAPP statute allows “for early dismissal via a special motion to dismiss claims that are based solely on a party’s exercise of its right to petition.” This requires the party seeking to dismiss to show that the claims against it are “based on” the petitioning activities alone and have no substantial basis otherwise. Here, under existing law, if the hospital could show that the nurses’ claim was based solely on the hospital’s “petitioning activities,” the burden would shift to the nurses to establish “by a preponderance of the evidence that the [hospital] lacked any reasonable factual support or any arguable basis in law for its petitioning activity,” and that the hospital’s sham petitioning activity caused the plaintiff nurses “actual injury.”

Were statements “petitioning activity?” Proceeding under the traditional statutory approach, the supreme court first addressed whether the hospital president’s communications to the Boston Globe and to the hospital employees were each made “in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other governmental proceeding”—DMH’s investigation of the incidents and its decision regarding the hospital’s license to operate the unit. If so, they would be petitioning activity under the anti-SLAPP statute.

Statements to press. The court found it reasonable to infer that statements made to the Boston Globe were intended to demonstrate to DMH the hospital’s public commitment to address the underlying problems at the unit, since DMH was considering whether to revoke the hospital’s license to operate the unit at the time. By making clear that the hospital was following the investigator’s recommendations, the public statements were neither “tangential” nor “unrelated to governmental involvement,” but rather went to the heart of the government agency’s decision whether to terminate the hospital’s license to operate the unit. The fact that the hospital was also trying to protect its public reputation did not refute this, said the court, because ulterior motives would not change the petitioning nature of the press statements.

Internal email message. Not so with the internal email message, however. Neither the content of the email message, nor any evidence offered by the hospital, suggested any audience for the message other than hospital employees, especially where there did not appear to be any mechanism by which the statement could come to DMH’s attention. Thus, the email did not qualify as petitioning activity.

“Based on.” The state supreme court had not before considered whether the anti-SLAPP moving party (the hospital here) could meet its threshold burden by showing that only part of the nonmoving party’s (the nurses here) claim was based on petitioning activity. That was enough, said the court, because to hold otherwise would allow nonmoving parties to undercut the anti-SLAPP statute by combining into a single count claims that are based on both petitioning and nonpetitioning activities (because anti-SLAPP motions typically involve the assessment of individual claims). And that meant the case had to be remanded for the nurses to be allowed to try to defeat the motion.

Not a “SLAPP.” Current case law would require the nurses to show that the hospital’s petitioning activity (on which only a part of the nurses’ defamation claim was based) was a “sham”—without a reasonable basis in fact or law. Here, however, it was clear to the court that the nurses’ claim might not have been brought primarily to chill the hospital’s legitimate right to petition, and this exposed a problem with the anti-SLAPP statute: “[B]oth parties enjoy the right to petition, including the right to seek redress in the courts.” Only meritless SLAPP suits should be subject to expedited dismissal, stressed the court, yet as construed, the statute still raised constitutional concerns. Accordingly, the high court broadened the construction of the statutory term “based on.” So, while the nurses could still defeat the hospital’s special motion to dismiss by demonstrating that the hospital’s petitioning activity was a sham, the nurses could also defeat the motion by establishing that their defamation claim was not “brought primarily to chill” the hospital’s legitimate exercise of its right to petition. Thus, on remand, the nurses could attempt to make such a showing, concluded the court.

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<a href=http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/no-1st-amendment-claims-for-police-officers-told-to-stop-wife-swapping/ target=_blank >No 1st Amendment claims for police officers told to stop ‘wife swapping’ under code of conduct</a>

By Marjorie Johnson, J.D.

Two sheriff’s deputies who were removed from their offices after refusing to obey a directive to stop cohabitating with each other’s wives and to cease all contact with the other’s spouse until they obtained divorces were not deprived of their First Amendment and Free Exercise Clause, the Fifth Circuit ruled in affirming dismissal of their claims on summary judgment. Sexual decisions between consenting adults “take on a different color when the adults are law enforcement officers” and the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges regarding the right to same-sex marriage did not create “rights” based on relationships that “mock marriage” (Coker v. Whittington, May 23, 2017, Jones, E.).

Switching wives violated code of conduct. After the chief deputy sheriff learned that the two officers had each moved into the other’s house and exchanged spouses without first obtaining divorces, they were placed on administrative leave for violating the sheriff’s code of conduct. Amongst other things, the code prohibited officers from engaging in “any illegal, immoral, or indecent conduct” or “any legitimate act which, when performed in view of the public, would reflect unfavorabl[y]” upon the sheriff’s office. They also violated a provision that required them to inform their direct supervisors within 24 hours of a change of address, which was designed to ensure their availability at all times in case of an emergency.

They were then ordered to cease living with their non-spouses and advised that if they refused to do so by a certain date, they would be considered to have voluntarily resigned. They refused to obey the directive and were removed from their offices. They brought the instant action against the sheriff and deputy sheriff in their personal and official capacities, as well as the sheriff’s office, claiming violations of their First Amendment and Free Exercise Clause rights.

District court tosses claims. The district court dismissed their claims on summary judgment, ruling that the code of conduct policies invoked against them were supported by “the rational grounds of preserving a cohesive police force and upholding the public trust and reputation of the Sheriff’s Department.” Several cases, including decisions of this circuit, uniformly approved terminations of law enforcement officers for sexually inappropriate conduct. Moreover, no decisions to the contrary suggested that the deputies, as public employees of law enforcement agencies, had constitutional rights to “associate” with each other’s spouses before formal divorce.

Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court’s expansion of substantive constitutional rights relating to personal sexual choices in Lawrence v. Texas did not mandate a change in policies relevant to public employment. Rather, the Supreme Court, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, more recently reaffirmed that public employees necessarily shed some of their constitutional rights as a legitimate exchange for the privilege of their positions. The district court also concluded that the code of conduct was not unconstitutionally vague as written or enforced, and did not offend the fair notice requirements of due process, especially with regard to discipline that was not unconstitutional.

Different sexual standards for law enforcement. Affirming, the Fifth Circuit found that sexual decisions between consenting adults “take on a different color when the adults are law enforcement officers.” The court reasoned that, for instance, officers’ enforcement duties include crimes of human trafficking and spousal abuse that place them in “sensitive positions with members of the public.” Their involvement in relations that openly and “notoriously” violate the “legally sanctioned relationships” of marriage and family was likely to “besmirch the reputation of the Sheriff’s Department and hinder its ability to maintain public credibility.”

Moreover, these officers’ extramarital relationships, even if initially consensual and loving, had “great potential to create internal dissension within the force.” It was also not hard to envision how the existence of the officers’ cohabitation with each other’s wives prior to divorce and remarriage might be adversely used in litigation concerning their official conduct.

Finally, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges did not alter applicable law. “Whatever ramifications Obergefell may have for sexual relations beyond the approval of same-sex marriage are unstated at best, but Obergefell is expressly premised on the unique and special bond created by the formal marital relationship and children of that relationship.” The Obergefell decision did not create “rights” based on relationships that “mock marriage.”

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<a href=http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/EMPLLXw0JrY/us-opec-oil-shale-analysis-idUSKBN18M1Q4 target=_blank >OPEC ponders how to co-exist with U.S. shale oil</a>

VIENNA (Reuters) – First, they ignored each other. Then, they went into a bruising fight. Finally, they are talking, albeit with opposing agendas.

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<a href=http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/JLFWz8zpTUc/us-usa-property-poll-idUSKBN18M1L3 target=_blank >U.S. home prices to rise at a strong pace on tight supply: Reuters poll</a>

(Reuters) – U.S. home prices look poised to rise at a robust pace over the next few years, mainly because of a chronic shortage of houses and steady demand, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

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<a href=http://www2.staffingindustry.com/row/Editorial/Daily-News/New-Zealand-AWF-Madison-full-revenue-up-19-42205 target=_blank >New Zealand – AWF Madison full revenue up 19%</a>

AWF Madison Group Ltd (AWF:NZC), the New Zealand-based temporary staffing provider, reported revenue today of NZD 256.4 million (USD 180.5 million) for the full year ending in 31 March 2017, an increase of 19.4% compared to the same period last year.

(NZD millions)
FY 2017
FY 2016
Change
FY 2017 (USD millions)
Revenue
256.4
214.6
19.4%
180.5
Net Profit
5.9
3.5
13.4%
4.1

The Board of AWF Madison Group Limited stated that it is pleased to advise a lift in net profit of 13% following completion of a year of consolidation of new leadership; continued investment in new technology; and dealing with residual legacy matters referred to in last year’s reports.

“The residual full write off of AWF legacy technology being replaced, has been taken in the current year,” the board said in a statement. “Phase 1 of the transition to an integrated CRM and payroll function has been completed, a project that drew heavily on operational resource. AWF now has a strong platform giving greater functionality for sourcing, recruitment and compliance. The opportunity now is to remove duplication and gain efficiency.”

Last year, the group acquired Absolute IT for NZD 15.3 million (USD 11.0 million). “Absolute IT has been successfully integrated and was earnings accretive notwithstanding transaction costs,” the board stated. “It is performing very well and is expected to provide a good lift in earnings.”

Group CEO Simon Bennett said that he was satisfied with the company’s positioning and its plan for growth in the year ahead to capitalise on significant opportunities from specific client demand across key markets.

In February, AWF Madison announced that its CFO Nick Williams would resign, effective 16 June 2017. Jannine Mountford was then appointed as CFO-designate, pending Nick Williams’ departure from the business, however AWF today announced that Mountford has resigned and will not be commencing the CFO role. Williams has agreed to delay the date of his departure, in order to facilitate the transition to a replacement CFO in due course.

In trading today, AWF Madison Group closed at NZD 2.92 (USD 2.06), down 0.34% on the day and 4.26% below its 52-week high of NZD 3.05 (USD 2.15), set on 24 April 2017. Based on its current share price, the company has a market value of NZD 95.25 million (USD 67.0 million).

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<a href=http://www2.staffingindustry.com/row/Editorial/Daily-News/China-Average-salary-set-to-rise-by-8-in-2017-42203 target=_blank >China – Average salary set to rise by 8% in 2017</a>

The average salary in China is expected to increase by 8% this year, according to data from ZW HR Consulting, a Chinese recruitment firm. The 8% increase excludes promotions and varies by industry.

Meanwhile, employees with specific in-demand skill sets and experience could see up to a 25% increase in salary. Candidates who have English and Mandarin language skills are in higher demand and can expect salary hikes of up to 15% – 25%.

“There is a positive outlook on hiring by Chinese companies in 2017,” Frank Yu, Chairman of ZW HR Consulting, said. “We expect many companies will offer wage increases to retain and attract employees as the employee turnover rate remains high”.

Meanwhile, employees who switch positions are set to see a salary increase of between 8% to 15%.

Among the professions, salaries for accounting and finance recruitment professionals will remain steady across all sectors thus, hiring for accounting, finance and banking professionals will remain comparatively stable. Meanwhile, IT, Sales & Marketing professionals could see a 10-12% increase in their salaries. Demand will be particularly high for specialists, mobile engineers and software developers.

Engineering candidates in Research & Development positions and bilinguals who have proficiency in English communications, and business and project management skills, work experience and education in overseas should expect 20% to 30% increases in salary.

“I often hear candidates saying that salary is no longer the most important factor that would convince them to join any organization,” Joyce Jing, General Manager for ZW HR Consulting said. “Employees in China are looking forward to new and innovative benefits, career development, training instead of merely salary hikes. Candidates with international exposure, good language skills, market knowledge and who are well-disciplined will continue to receive multiple offers, as well as counter offers from their current employer”.

ZW HR states that China will also focus on the improvement of economic benefits. On this basis, ZW HR anticipates that the employment market in 2017 will continue to maintain steady development.

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<a href=http://www2.staffingindustry.com/row/Editorial/Daily-News/China-College-graduates-face-challenging-labour-market-and-declining-salaries-42202 target=_blank >China – College graduates face challenging labour market and declining salaries</a>

Zhaopin Limited, a Chinese career platform, released a report on its 2017 career survey of college graduates in China. The report found that college graduates are facing a more challenging labour market, and declining average monthly salaries.

According to the report, China will have a record of 7.95 million graduating students joining the labour force this year.

The China Institute for Employment Research (CIER) index compiled by Zhaopin and Renmin University, which tracks the ratio of job vacancies to job seekers in a variety of industries and cities across the country, rose to 1.91 in the first quarter of 2017, from 1.71 during the same period of 2016. The rising index is an indication the labour market had improved with the economy as was reported in April. However, Zhaopin states that not all parts of the labour market are strengthening and the record size of this year’s graduating class is posing unique challenges for graduates.

Zhaopin’s survey showed that 40.8% of graduates believed the labour market was very challenging this year, up from 36.5% last year. Meanwhile, 26.7% of college graduates had signed employment contracts this year, down from 35.4% last year.

The average monthly salary for college graduates declined by 16% this year to RMB 4,014 (USD 585.3). The IT/telecom/electronics/internet sector offered the highest monthly salary which was followed by the financial sector the traffic/transportation/logistics/warehousing sector.

Meanwhile, Zhaopin’s report also showed that it was more difficult to get interview opportunities this year. 31.9% of college graduates got 1 to 3 interviews, and 27.1% had 4 to 5 interviews. About 8.3% of graduates did not get any interviews this year, up from 3% last year.

By the end of April this year, 27.7% of college graduates still had not received any job offers, higher than the 24.8% seen last year. Meanwhile, 50.2% of graduates got 1 to 3 job offers, lower than the 55.4% last year. For graduates who had job offers but declined to sign contracts, the top reason was “salary/welfare did not meet expectation.”

Zhaopin conducted its 2017 survey of college graduates to analyse their employability, based on their perceptions of the labour market, job-hunting efforts and results. More than 93,000 college graduates participated in the survey this year.

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<a href=http://www2.staffingindustry.com/row/Editorial/Daily-News/Singapore-Businesses-adopting-blind-recruitment-to-eliminate-unconscious-bias-and-improve-diversity-42200 target=_blank >Singapore – Businesses adopting blind recruitment to eliminate unconscious bias and improve diversity</a>

Many organisations in Singapore are adopting blind recruitment techniques in an effort to help eliminate unconscious bias, according to international recruitment firm Hays.

Blind recruitment involves omitting personally identifiable information, such as name, gender, age and education, from applicant CVs. The aim is to overcome unconscious bias during the recruitment process, which can be counterproductive to a strategy to improve workplace diversity.

“Everyone has unconscious bias,” Yvonne Smyth, Head of Diversity at Hays, said. “When it comes to any kind of selection at key points in careers, which could be recruitment, promotion, being put forward for a new project, even giving feedback, this can influence the shape of someone’s career and the opportunities they have.

“The Blind recruitment technique can help organisations ensure a diverse flow of talent into their selection process,” Lynne Roeder, Managing Director of Hays in Singapore, said. “It can also boost your employment brand since jobseekers say they have the opportunity to better position their strengths in an interview.”

Lynne stated that if organisations are to maximise the benefits of a blind recruitment strategy, managers need to be aware of their own unconscious biases and, through training, learn to recognise and better manage them at key points of judgement and selection.

“Generally speaking, making CVs more blind than they currently are is a good thing because it does help mitigate bias” Smyth said. “However, blind recruitment is not a silver bullet, neither absolutely right nor absolutely wrong. It is a tool that you can use to create a level playing field, so use it, but use it with caution.”

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