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News | May 7, 2021

May honors AAPI, Jewish Americans

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

May celebrates two stalwarts of the American experience.

Defense Contract Management Agency commemorates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month in May.

In May and throughout 2021, the Department of Defense is highlighting the contributions and dedicated service of past and present Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in defense of the nation.

The website offers images from across the DoD, stories of current and former service members, and resources to discover more about this diverse group of American heroes.

“A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island),” according to the AAPI’s heritage website.

The site offers a digital portal into the rich history of these Americans. Some of which, President Joe Biden mentioned in his 2021 celebratory proclamation.

"Asian Americans, and Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders make our nation more vibrant through diversity of cultures, languages, and religions" wrote Biden. "There is no single story of the AANHPI experience, but rather a diversity of contributions that enrich America's culture and society and strengthen the United States; role as a global leader. The American story as we know it would be impossible without the strength, contributions and legacies of AANHPIs who have helped build and unite this country in each successive generation. From laying railroad tracks, tilling fields and starting businesses, to caring for our loved ones and honorably serving our Nation in uniform, AANHPI communities are deeply rooted in the history of the United States.”

AANHPI, or, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, represents a parallel acronym to the Defense Department’s standard AAPI designation.

“We also celebrate and honor the invaluable contributions the AANHPI communities have made to our Nation’s culture and the arts, law, science and technology, sports, and public service,” Biden continued, “including the courageous AANHPIs who have served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as health care providers, first responders, teachers and other essential workers.”

The Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center is set to screen “We Are American and We Stand Together: Asian American Resilience, Belonging & Justice” for digital attendees at 4 p.m. EDT May 15.

“This 90-minute digital program will bring the stories and insights of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars and activists together with treasures from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to engage a broad audience in a deeper exploration of the past, present and future of Asians in America,” according to the event website.

Jewish-American Heritage Month
Like many heritage months, the Jewish-American celebration spent years as a single week.

In 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed the first monthlong event.

“As a nation of immigrants, the United States is better and stronger because Jewish people from all over the world have chosen to become American citizens,” Bush wrote. “Since arriving in 1654, Jewish Americans have achieved great success, strengthened our country and helped shape our way of life. Through their deep commitment to faith, family and community, Jewish Americans remind us of a basic belief that guided the founding of this nation: that there is an Almighty who watches over the affairs of men and values every life. The Jewish people have enriched our culture and contributed to a more compassionate and hopeful America.”

According to the heritage site, it offers a sampling of digital and physical items related to Jewish-American heritage available from the Library of Congress and other participating agencies.

“Generations of Jewish people have come to this nation fleeing oppression, discrimination and persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their children,” wrote Biden, in his 2021 Proclamation on Jewish American Heritage Month. “These Jewish Americans have created lives for themselves and their families and played indispensable roles in our nation’s civic and community life, making invaluable contributions to our nation through their leadership and achievements.”

Florence Kahn can lay claim to a few of those achievements.

Kahn, an early 20th century U.S. House of Representatives member, succeeded her late husband in his San Francisco-based house seat in 1925. It was typical for the time, but what she did next marked her a trailblazer.

“Most early congressional widows served as temporary placeholders until party leaders chose long-term male successors. But Kahn was no ordinary political widow. With an insider’s knowledge of House operations and a gift for turning a phrase, she set herself to ‘attending to business’ — expanding the Bay Area’s infrastructure and military installations during her 12-year career, while blazing a trail for women seeking political office.”

The U.S. House of Representatives History, Art and Archives website features a 12-minute biography on Kahn.

For an inside look into hundreds of public television and radio programs that focus on social, cultural and religious aspects of Jewish life in America, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting provides a unique look into its Jewish American Heritage Collection.

The collection features “diverse Jewish communities in a variety of locales and address subjects relevant to many American Jews, such as anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, Israel, intermarriage, the political impact of Jewish voters, the campaign to free Soviet Jews, and relations between American Jews and African Americans.”

Workforce Recruitment Program
The Workforce Recruitment Program is a recruitment and referral program that connects college students, graduate students and recent college graduates with disabilities with the federal government and select private-sector employers to discover employment opportunities through paid summer or permanent jobs, according to the WRP website.

The Office of Personnel Management labeled the program a model strategy in its guidance to federal agencies regarding the recruiting and hiring of people with disabilities. Since the program's 1995 expansion thousands of students and recent graduates have received temporary and permanent employment opportunities through the WRP.

All WRP candidates fall under the Federal Government’s Schedule A Hiring Authority for Persons with Disabilities, which allows agencies to hire without posting a job announcement or going through the certification process. Details on Schedule A hiring actions can be found under the Resources tab on the WRP website.

Interested students or recent graduates should contact their school’s program coordinator who can approve their application. WRP School Coordinators are typically found in the career or disability services office. If your school does not participate, contact WRP to review available options.

Any questions pertaining to DCMA’s WRP should be directed to Beatrice Bernfeld, the agency’s Disability Program manager, by phone (571) 919-5244 or by email.

Get the Facts: Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution provides agencies and complainants an option to resolve disputes in a way to avoid cost, delay and unpredictability of more traditional processes, such as litigation, hearings and appeals. It is used early in the official EEO complaint process.

At DCMA, the most common type of ADR is mediation, which is highly encouraged, but not mandatory, by DCMA leadership. In a policy letter from August 2020, Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, DCMA director, recommended its use as the program follows the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s core principles of voluntariness, neutrality, confidentiality and enforceability.

“I encourage employees and management officials to participate in the EEO ADR process in order to resolve workplace disputes at the lowest possible level, eliminate complaints of discrimination and improve productivity throughout DCMA,” Bassett wrote.

The EEOC website lauds mediation for its many advantages: no cost to employees, fair and neutral as the parties decide the settlement terms, saves time and money as the process happens early in the complaint process, is confidential, avoids litigation, and fosters cooperation. It can help resolve additional issues if they are included in the settlement agreement.

For those who choose ADR, the time for a complaint to be processed is extended, typically by 60 days, to give adequate time to pursue mediation between the two parties. If it is unsuccessful, the charge will be investigated like any other charge, according to the EEOC website.

Any questions should be directed to Debra Simmon, the ADR manager, by phone at (804) 609-4078 or by email.

Expand your Knowledge: Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable accommodations in the federal workplace are vital to ensure those with disabilities receive support and can accomplish their mission.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, these include, but are not limited to: making employee facilities readily accessible and usable by those with disabilities; job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to vacant positions; or acquiring or modifying equipment and devices, adjustments or modifying examinations, training materials and policies, and providing qualified readers or interpreters.

From the first interview, persons with disability can request accommodations from DCMA, such as a sign language interpreter for a deaf applicant. Other accommodations may include allowing a diabetic person to take regular breaks during the day to eat properly and monitor blood sugar and insulin levels, or letting an employee with cancer take leave for chemotherapy or radiation treatments. There are exceptions to reasonable accommodations if it imposes an undue hardship, usually regarding significant difficulty or cost to provide the accommodation.

A need for a reasonable accommodation is not a valid reason for denying employment to Persons with Disabilities or disabled veterans, per federal law. In a recent memorandum to DCMA employees and applicants, Bassett wrote the agency is committed to equal employment opportunities for those with disabilities.

“At DCMA, our focus is to provide reasonable accommodations and ensure equal employment opportunity in the hiring, advancement, training and treatment of PWD and disabled veterans,” he wrote. “No qualified individual will be denied the opportunity for advancement solely because of his or her disability.

“As DCMA leaders, we will strive to maintain a civilian workforce, in which PWD and disabled veterans, including those with targeted disabilities, are represented in every DCMA organization,” Bassett continued later in the letter. “Discrimination against qualified PWDs and disabled veterans will not be tolerated.”

Additional information on the procedures for requesting a reasonable accommodation can be obtained by contacting the DCMA EEO Office at (804) 919-5244 or by emailing the office.