Government sues Honeywell over wellness program

Posted by Matt on October 31, 2014
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The Minneapolis Star Tribune

October 29, 2014

Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune

Federal officials are challenging new benefit rules at Honeywell Inc. that create monetary penalties unless employees and spouses take medical tests.

A lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in response to complaints from two Minnesota employees sets up a potential court case over how far employers can go to shift health costs and influence worker behavior. Honeywell is a major employer in the Kansas City area.

The agency said in the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, that new health screening and penalties at Honeywell violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

“Employees will be penalized if they or their spouses do not take the biometric tests,” the complaint said.

In response to the suit, Honeywell said its screening program is designed to encourage employees to live more healthfully and thereby create lower health care costs for themselves and the company. The company said the program complies with health care-related laws, including the Affordable Care Act.

The EEOC has requested a temporary injunction to stop the employee testing, which was scheduled to begin last week at various sites across the country.

Like other companies, New Jersey-based Honeywell embraced the so-called wellness movement to prod employees into better shape and to lower health care-related costs.

The EEOC said that Honeywell’s new program creates up to $4,000 in penalties for employees unless they and their spouses take blood and medical tests that can identify smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other health problems. They include the loss of $1,500 in company contributions to health savings accounts, a $500 medical plan surcharge, a $1,000 tobacco surcharge and a $1,000 spousal tobacco surcharge.

The suit is the third one in three months that the EEOC has filed accusing companies of setting up “involuntary” employee medical or wellness programs, said Laurie Vasichek, an attorney for the agency. Honeywell’s tests and threatened penalties go too far because they are not job-related and are not consistent with any business necessity, she said.

“The thing that is important about these cases is not that they are wellness or health programs, but that the company is requiring testing and asking disability questions when it’s not job-related,” Vasichek said. “They can only do that in situations where it’s voluntary for the employee to answer.”

According to the lawsuit, Honeywell announced the new biometric testing program in August and September. The agency received complaints and subsequently asked the company to drop penalties for employees who don’t submit to the tests. Honeywell didn’t agree to that, according to the suit.

In a statement, Honeywell denied any wrongdoing and said the screening and wellness program “are in strict compliance with both HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines.”

The company also said, “The Chicago EEOC office is unfamiliar with the details of our wellness programs and woefully out of step with the health care marketplace and with the core intent of the ACA to provide expanded access and improved health care to all Americans. The incentives in our wellness programs are pro consumer and have delivered demonstrably better health care outcomes for employees and their families.”


Op-Ed: “Communication technology opens ‘doors’ for everyone, not only people with disabilities”

Posted by Matt on October 20, 2014
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The Hill
October 13, 2014

Communication technology opens ‘doors’ for everyone, not only people with disabilities

By John D. Kemp and Brandon M. Macsata

Today, most Americans overlook improvements made since the dawn of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in 1990. Sidewalk ramps…automatic door openers…adjustable vanity mirrors…and automatic lighting and fixture controls were all designed to help make the “physical” world more accessible for and useable by all people, including individuals with disabilities. Now, isn’t it time we opened doors to the “virtual” world, and information and communication technology (“ICT”)?

Since 1998, federal agencies have been required by law to make their electronic ICT accessible to people with disabilities. Better known as “Section 508” (of the Rehabilitation Act), it mandates “individuals with disabilities who are Federal employees to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities.” [1]

Accessible ICT is an evolving process, evidenced by the United States Access Board, which monitors Section 508 compliance, updating its standards, as well as other telecommunications accessibility guidelines. The House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman, Darrell Issa, has introduced legislation calling for the designation of the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in all federal Departments, including significant changes to the management of information technology. This legislation passed the House of Representatives by voice vote, with similar legislation pending in the Senate.

Congress is currently faced with countless legislative proposals focusing on IT, ranging from healthcare, Veterans benefits, telecommunications and education, to name a few. But more needs to be done in both the public and private sectors. Wall Street and Main Street are both being re-defined by technology. The potential for our emerging “digital economy” is endless, if that technology is made more accessible. Consider this: CTIA recently reported that the mobile data traffic more than doubled last year! [2] We know that people with disabilities are yearning to leverage accessible technologies in their everyday lives. Whereas there have been many improvement in accessibility features on smart phones and mobiles devices, there is a still a long way to go. A recent report, authored by Nirmita Narasimhan, Program Manager at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), and Axel Leblois, founder and Executive Director of G3ict, summarized the challenge:

“Senior citizens and people with physical or mental disabilities are often unable to access mobile phones because the equipment lacks the necessary accessibility features or because the price of the adapted phones and services remain unaffordable. Considering that 15 per cent of the world’s population, or over one billion people, have a disability that affects their access to modern communications, the commercial opportunities for mobile service providers, manufacturers and smart phone application developers are consequently substantial.” With so much of our daily lives dependent on mobile devices and the Internet, it is time that we ushered in an “accessible technology renaissance.”[3]

Aside from being the “socially responsible” thing to do, it also makes good business sense! In the first quarter of 2013, e-commerce expenditures reached 50.18 billion U.S. dollars.[4] Worldwide, it is estimated that the total value of e-commerce revenue topped $1.2 trillion in U.S. dollars.[5]

Maybe the more pertinent question to ask is, “How can we NOT afford to make ICT more accessible for people with disabilities?”

Ironically, despite its increasing relevance in our everyday lives, the World Wide Web is largely inaccessible for people with disabilities. Many websites are lacking “ALT Tags,” which are designed to help screen readers used by people who are blind or visually impaired identify and explain images, graphs and charts. Yet, missing ALT Tags are only the tip of the iceberg.

Last year, Walmart had over 59 million unique monthly visitors to its websites. As large as that number may seem, it pales in comparison to Amazon and Ebay, with 149 million and 91 million monthly unique visitors, respectively.[6] These companies, and many more – such as Deque, IBM and Microsoft – are investing in accessible ICT because they understand its inherent business and social value.

Ironically, just as people without disabilities benefit from physical accessibility improvements, they are already benefitting from accessible ICT. According to the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom), 80 percent of people using closed captions are not deaf or hard of hearing.[7]

What is accessible technology renaissance? It is one whereby we envision every single individual, regardless of disability, can fully access the modern marvels of technology. Technology is what drives our economy. Technology is what links our communities. Technology is what keeps us connected to the world around us. That is why it should be accessible to everyone.

[1] Section 508 Of The Rehabilitation Act. Section508.gov

[2] Mobile Data Traffic More Than Doubled Last Year, According to CTIA. Roll Call TechnoCRAT. June 17, 2014.

[3] Making mobile phones and services accessible for persons with disabilities. A joint report of ITU – The International Telecommunication Union and G3ict – The global initiative for inclusive ICTs. August 2012.

[4] Statistics 2013. E-Commerce Revenues. September 20, 2013.

[5] Statistics 2013. E-Commerce Revenues. September 20, 2013.

[6] Statistics 2013, E-Commerce Revenues, September 20, 2013.

[7] Did You Know? 80 Percent of People Who Use Closed Captions Are Not Hard of Hearing. CaptionsforYouTube. June 6, 2014.

Kemp is president and CEO of The Viscardi Center, and Macsata is general consultant of the National Business and Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center.


MSCOD monthly update on the 25th ADA Anniversary Celebration.

Posted by Matt on October 13, 2014
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Here is your October 2014 edition of the MSCOD monthly update on the 25th ADA Anniversary Celebration.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turns 25 years old on July 26, 2015. The Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) is planning a number of activities leading up to and marking this historic day.

The MSCOD ADA 25 year Anniversary Legacy Project seeks to preserve and raise awareness of Minnesota’s role in the development of the ADA as well as celebrate Minnesota’s disability cultures in tandem with the 25 year anniversary of the passage of the ADA.

For more information about the Legacy Fund visit

MSCOD’s Legacy Funds are administered by the Minnesota Humanities Center. Learn more about the Minnesota Humanities Center at


Were you or your organization instrumental in the passing of the ADA? How has the ADA positively impacted your life? We want to hear your stories!

To tell us your story, or to let us know how you plan to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, contact David Shaw at We hope to hear from you!


In honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, MSCOD is sponsoring a poster contest and a video contest to capture what the ADA means to people around the state of Minnesota.

Posters and videos submitted should creatively address the following question: “How has the ADA impacted society in general or your life in particular?”

Categories for Participation:

·        Students in grades K-4

·        Students in grades 5-8

·        Students in grades 9-12

·        Students in post-secondary education

·        Adults – Professional

·        Adults – Other

Learn more about the 25th Anniversary ADA Poster and Video Contests!


The ADA Legacy Tour kicked off in July, traveling across the country raising awareness for next year’s 25th Anniversary of the ADA!

The tour stopped at St. Paul on August 6-7, and was hosted by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. For a full list of tour dates and more details on the tour, visit the ADA Legacy Tour page.


·        Seeking national speakers for an ADA Policy Conference on July 9th, 2015

·        Finalizing details for the July 26th, 2015 ADA 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Minnesota History Center

·        Conducting the ADA survey

·        Creating an historical documentary with TPT about Minnesota’s implementation of the ADA

·        Poster and video contests



Please support our exciting projects as they develop. Volunteer with one of our committees and help plan our celebrations and other activities. Committees meet monthly. Please contact Andrew Mosca at 651-361-7803 or for more information about how to become involved.

Enjoy your weekend, Minnesota!

Minnesota State Council on Disability

121 E. 7th Place, Suite 107

St. Paul MN 55101

651.361.7800 (V/TTY)

800.945.8913 (V/TTY)

651.296.5935 (Fax)

Your Policy, Training and Technical Resource

MSCOD’s 25th ADA Celebration Facebook Page

MSCOD’s 25th ADA Celebration Twitter Feed

MSCOD’s 25th ADA Celebration Page

DOJ issues New ADA Technical Assistance Publication About Polling Place Access for Voters with Disabilities

Posted by Matt on October 13, 2014
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The following information is forwarded to you by the Great Lakes ADA Center ( for your information:

The Justice Department published a new technical assistance publication about polling place access for voters with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The publication, “Solutions for Five Common ADA Access Problems at Polling Places,” is intended to provide election officials with solutions for addressing common barriers for physical access to polling places for voters with disabilities.  The publication is available in HTML and PDF versions on

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) Free DIVERSITY Trainings

Posted by Matt on September 18, 2014
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Follow the link to download a calendar of the DHHS free diversity trainings. Continue reading…

Time Is Running Out for the CRPD – The Senate Needs to Hear from You Now!

Posted by Matt on September 09, 2014
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Source: US International Council on Disabilities (USICD)

Thank you for all you did during August recess. Today, the Senate returns for a two week work session and they need to continue to hear from you!

Let your Senator know the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) needs to be ratified now – before the end of September!

The opposition is generating calls. Your Senators need to hear from you directly to understand that our community supports this issue.

The Message

We will not wait any longer: the time is now!

Call now. Call often. Spread the word using USICD’s social media guide below, or visit to take action!

Social Media Guide

  • Make a sign – it can be a simple piece of paper. Write down that you support CRPD and (if applicable) why. If you have a personal story, use it! Example: I support CRPD because I want my sister with a disability to be able to travel abroad!
  • Take a picture of yourself holding up the sign.
  • Tweet or Facebook the picture (along with one of the sample tweets below) using the hashtag #CRPD. You can also tweet at your Senator! Find Senator Twitter IDs (PDF).
  • Get your friends to do the same!

Action Alert! Access to the State Fair

Posted by Matt on August 20, 2014
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Access to the State Fair

Bus Changes – You Need to Know!

If you are meeting a friend, family member or personal care attendant at the Minnesota State Fair and you plan to use State Fair busing, please be aware of the following.

All State Fair Express Service ($5 round-trip), charter and Metro Transit Regular Route #960 buses, as well as mostPark & Ride (free round-trip) buses will utilize the new Transit Hub located by the new West End Market.

The Oscar Johnson Arena Park & Ride lot offering free round-trip rides exclusively for fair guests with disabilities and their companions is located off Energy Park Drive, east of Snelling Avenue on DeCourcy Circle. Accessible buses servicing the Oscar Johnson Arena Park & Ride lot will still drop-off and pick-up at the Como Avenue Loop Gate #9 (same location as in past years).

The Metro Mobility pick-up and drop-off will remain at the Como Avenue Loop Gate #9, as well.  An additional Metro Mobility drop-off and pick-up site is now located on the north end of the fairgrounds off of Hoyt Avenue.

The link to all transportation information on the fair’s website:

There will be wheelchair & scooter rentals at the new Transit Hub, Como Avenue – Metro Mobility location and the Hoyt Avenue – Metro Mobility location.

For additional State Fair information please follow the attached link:

Executive Order Providing for Increased State Employment of Individuals with Disabilities

Posted by Matt on August 08, 2014
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Executive Order 14-14

Providing for Increased State Employment of Individuals with Disabilities

I, Mark Dayton, Governor of the State of Minnesota, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the
Constitution and the applicable statutes, do hereby issue this Executive Order:

Whereas, the State of Minnesota, the state’s largest employer, can serve as a model for the employment of
individuals with disabilities through improved recruitment, hiring, and retention;

Whereas, the Governor’s Workforce Development Council identified individuals with disabilities as an
underutilized source of talent necessary to meet workforce needs;

Whereas, the percentage of state employees self-identified as having a disability declined from
approximately 10% in 1999 to less than 4% in 2013;

Whereas, the State of Minnesota has the responsibility to ensure that its workforce reflects the diversity of
the state’s population and is able to meet projected workforce shortages by ensuring all qualified individuals
are recruited and retained;

Whereas, to be competitive in the global economy, the State of Minnesota must use the talents and
important contributions of all workers, including individuals with disabilities; and

Whereas, Executive Order 13-01 appointed and charged an Olmstead Sub-Cabinet to swiftly implement
standards set forth in the Olmstead decision and the mandates of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) through coordinated efforts of designated State agencies. These efforts must ensure that all
Minnesotans have the opportunity, both now and in the future, to live close to their families and friends, to
live more independently, to engage in productive employment, and to participate in community life.

Now, Therefore, I hereby order that:
1) In accordance with Minnesota Statutes, section 43A.19, all Executive Branch Agencies use
their best efforts to comply with the Affirmative Action Goals set by Minnesota
Management and Budget (MMB) stating that state agencies are to increase employment for
people with disabilities to at least seven percent by August, 2018.

2) Within 120 days of this order, the Commissioner of MMB, Assistant Commissioner of
Enterprise and Human Resources, and the State Director for Equal Opportunity, Diversity
and Inclusion will design a model for recruitment and hiring strategies to increase
employment of people with disabilities. These strategies will include required training
programs for hiring managers and human resources personnel, and are to include clear
benchmarks to ensure implementation of this order.

3) Each Executive Branch Agency develops an agency plan for promoting employment
opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The plans are to include specific recruitment
and training programs for employment. Plans should be developed in consultation with the
Commissioner of MMB, and are to include clear performance targets and goals.

4) In implementing their plans, Executive Branch Agencies, to the extent possible and
permitted by law, should use an on-the-job demonstration process pursuant to Minnesota
Statutes, section 43A.15, subdivision 14. Additionally, MMB will work with Executive
Branch Agencies to increase awareness of supported work and the 700-hour program which
provides trial work experience, internship, and student worker opportunities for persons with
significant disabilities.

5) Through the implementation of revised hiring processes, MMB should collaborate with
Minnesota IT Services to update hiring tools and ensure accessibility and usability for all
people with disabilities applying for state jobs.

6) Within 120 days, the Commissioner of MMB shall implement a system for reporting
quarterly to the Governor on the progress of individual Executive Branch Agencies in
implementing their plans. MMB, to the extent permitted by law, shall compile and post on
its website government-wide statistics on the progress made toward achieving the goals set
forth in this order.

7) In keeping with the direction of the Olmstead Sub-Cabinet, every Executive Branch Agency
will continue to report on competitive employment hiring financed by federal and state
funding. This information should be compiled and shared publically on each agency’s

8) Members of the State Disability Agency Forum are to serve as advisors to the Commissioner
of MMB, monitor the progress of the order, and make recommendations that help the state
achieve its recruitment, retention, and hiring goals.

9) MMB should develop a procedure for Executive Branch Agencies to consult with MMB for
final resolution prior to denying any applicant or employee reasonable accommodation due
to lack of funding. MMB will work with agencies to improve the agencies’ understanding
of their responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Minnesota Statutes,
section 43A.191, subdivision 2(b)(3). The cost of reasonable accommodations and
accessibility should not be a deterrent to hiring qualified individuals.

10) General Provisions
a. This order should be implemented consistent with Minnesota Statutes, section
43A.19. It should not be constructed to require any state employee to disclose
disability status involuntarily.

b. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive
or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the state of
Minnesota, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or
agents, or any other person.

Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 4.035, subdivision 2, this Order shall be effective fifteen (15) days
after publication in the State Register and filing with the Secretary of State, and shall remain in effect until
rescinded by proper authority or it expires in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, section 4.035, subdivision 3.

In Testimony Whereof, I have set my hand on this 4th day of August, 2014.

Filed According to Law:
Mark Ritchie
Secretary of State

EEOC Issues Updated Enforcement Guidance On Pregnancy Discrimination And Related Issues

Posted by Matt on July 29, 2014
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Fact Sheet for Small Businesses and Question and Answer Document Also Released

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, along with a question and answer document about the guidance and a Fact Sheet for Small Businesses.  The Enforcement GuidanceQ&A document, and Fact Sheet will be available on the EEOC’s website.

This is the first comprehensive update of the Commission’s guidance on the subject of discrimination against pregnant workers since the 1983 publication of a Compliance Manual chapter on the subject.  This guidance supersedes that document and incorporates significant developments in the law during the past 30 years.

In addition to addressing the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the guidance discusses the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008, to individuals who have pregnancy-related disabilities.

“Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform, and it cannot be a basis for denying employment or treating women less favorably than co-workers similar in their ability or inability to work,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.  “Despite much progress, we continue to see a significant number of charges alleging pregnancy discrimination, and our investigations have revealed the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices.  This guidance will aid employers, job seekers, and workers in complying with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus advance EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan priority of addressing the emerging issue of the interaction between these two anti-discrimination statutes.”

Much of the analysis in the enforcement guidance is an update of longstanding EEOC policy.  The guidance sets out the fundamental PDA requirements that an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons similar in their ability or inability to work.  The guidance also explains how the ADA’s definition of “disability” might apply to workers with impairments related to pregnancy.

Among other issues, the guidance discusses:

  • The fact that the PDA covers not only current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman’s potential to become pregnant;
  • Lactation as a covered pregnancy-related medical condition;
  • The circumstances under which employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers;
  • Issues related to leave for pregnancy and for medical conditions related to pregnancy;
  • The PDA’s prohibition against requiring pregnant workers who are able to do their jobs to take leave;
  • The requirement that parental leave (which is distinct from medical leave associated with childbearing or recovering from childbirth) be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms;
  • When employers may have to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments under the ADA and the types of accommodations that may be necessary; and
  • Best practices for employers to avoid unlawful discrimination against pregnant workers.

In February, 2012, the Commission held a public meeting to hear from stakeholders about issues related to pregnancy discrimination and discrimination against individuals with caregiving responsibilities.  The Commission Meeting record was held open for 15 days following the meeting, to facilitate public comment.  The materials from that meeting, including testimony and transcripts, are available at

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


New Jersey School District to Adopt Service Animal Policies and Pay Fine to Resolve Justice Department Investigation

Posted by Matt on July 07, 2014
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New Jersey School District to Adopt Service Animal Policies and Pay Fine to Resolve Justice Department Investigation  (Full settlement agreement is available on-line at:

The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with the Delran Township School District in New Jersey under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The agreement resolves allegations that the school district violated the ADA by refusing to allow a student with autism and encephalopathy to have his service dog in school or at school-related activities.  The service dog alerts to the student’s seizures, provides mobility and body support and mitigates the symptoms of his autism.

The department found that the student’s mother spent six months responding to burdensome requests for information and documentation, and still the school district refused to allow the student to be accompanied by his service dog.  Despite her efforts, the student was even prevented from bringing his service dog with him on the bus for his school’s end of the year field trip.  Instead, his mother followed the school bus with the service dog in her car.

Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public schools.  Under the ADA, public schools must generally modify policies, practices or procedures to permit the use of a service dog by a student with a disability at school and school-related activities.  Because service dogs must be under the control of a handler, students often act as the handler of their own service dog; when that is not possible, the family may provide an independent handler, as the family offered to do here.

The school district worked cooperatively with the department throughout the investigation.  Under the agreement, the school district will pay $10,000 to the family to compensate them for the harm they endured as a result of the school district’s actions.  In addition, the school district will adopt an ADA-compliant service animal policy and provide training to designated staff on the school district’s obligations under Title II of the ADA, including requirements related to service dogs.

“ The old view of service animals working only as guide dogs for individuals who are blind has given way to a new generation of service animals trained to perform tasks that further autonomy and independence for individuals with a myriad of disabilities , ” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the ADA to ensure that students who use service animals have a full and equal opportunity to participate in all school activities with their peers.”

Enforcing the ADA is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division.  Those interested in finding out more about this settlement or the obligations of public entities schools under the ADA may call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website .  ADA complaints may be filed by email to .

The Civil Rights Division would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for their assistance in this matter.