Puerto Rico Enacts New Incentive Plan for Employers to Pay Outstanding Workers' Compensation Debt

By Anabel Rodríguez-Alonso

  iStock_000002651868XSmall_noBG_hand_holding_money copy.jpgOn October 16, 2014, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed Law No. 174, a new incentive plan for employers to become current and eliminate any arrears of any outstanding debt owed to the Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund Corporation ("SIFC") that oversees workers' compensation funds.  Law No. 174 grants a 20% discount of the SIFC debt as long as the employer pays the debt within 180 days from the date of the publication of the guidelines.

With its enactment, Law No. 174 amends Article 2 of Law No. 15 of January 3 of 2014.  Law No. 15 provides incentives, such as the elimination of interests, surcharges and administrative expenses of past due amounts owed to SIFC, the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Chauffeurs Insurance Fund and the Non-Occupational Disability Insurance, as well as the creation of interest-free payment plans, among others. 

Law 174 further instructs the SIFC to adopt and publish the necessary regulations and guidance for implementing the incentive plan within 30 days of the law's enactment.  From the date the guidelines are published by the SIFC, employers will be required to pay their debt before the end of the 180-day window. 

Employers that need to ascertain the full amount of their debt with the various governmental agencies or establish a payment strategy should seek legal counsel. 

Puerto Rico Treasury Issues Further Guidance Clarifying the Prepayment Window Rules: Employers May Need to Take Immediate Action to Comply with the Rules

By Carlos J. Villafañe-Real and Ana María Bigas-Kennerley

On September 29, 2014, the Puerto Rico Treasury issued Tax Policy Circular Letter No. 14-02 ("CL 14-02") to provide answers to the most frequent questions made by plan sponsors and plan administrators of retirement plans in connection with the pre-payment rules and procedures originally established through Administrative Determination No. 14-16 of August 6, 2014 ("AD 14-16").  This new guidance overrides and clarifies prior understandings under AD 14-16 with respect to the discretion of the plan administrator or sponsor to recognize pre-payments under the plan.  As such, employers may be required to take new measures in order to comply with the new pre-payment rules. Continue reading this article here.

China: Supreme People's Court Issued New Rules On Work-Related Injury Insurance

By: Huan Xiong

worker falling2.JPGThe Rules on Certain Issues Concerning Administrative Cases Involving Work-related Injury Insurance ("Rules") issued by the Supreme People's Court of China came into effect on September 1, 2014.  The Rules are of guiding significance for resolving disputes on work-related injuries as they have clarified the standards and factors used to identify a work-related injury as set forth in the Regulation on Work-Related Injury Insurance (the "Regulation") enacted by the State Council of China in 2011. 

Pursuant to the Regulation, the three factors used to identify a work-related injury include whether the injury (1) occurs during working hours, (2) occurs at the workplace, and (3) has any relation to work.  Specifically, Article 14 of the Regulation provides that an employee's injury would be deemed as work-related if the employee is:

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EEOC and Mexican Consulates Team Up to Provide Guidance, Training, and Even Checks

By: Mel M.C. Cole

iStock_000016205425Small_monterrey_mexico.jpgWhat started as a local effort has now become a national endeavor, as the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially agree to join forces to create programs that will benefit both Mexican nationals working in the United States as well as their employers.

On August 29, Jacqueline Berrien, the Chair of the EEOC, and Eduardo Mora, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, signed a national Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), committed to strengthening outreach on workplace rights, as well as reducing violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; and the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008.  In particular, the MOU focuses on the harms addressed by the laws and regulations that are administered and enforced by the EEOC.

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U.S. Legislative Updates

Agencies Finalize Rule Governing Allowability of Contractor Whistleblower Costs

Capitol for Global.jpgThe Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have issued a final rule adopting, with some changes, an interim rule that establishes when a federal defense contractor or subcontractor can recover the amount of legal costs incurred in successfully defending against an employee's whistleblower action. Specifically, the rule amends the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to implement the section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 that addresses the allowability of such legal expenses.  The interim rule was published on September 30, 2013. Read the full post here.

Senate Committee Approves Bill Making ERISA Clarifications

On July 23, 2014, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions unanimously approved S. 2511, a measure that aims to clarify the definition of "substantial cessation of operations" under Section 4062(e) of ERISA.  According to a statement issued by the committee, "this legislation will bring clarity to the pension downsizing liability rules and will ensure that there is a workable mechanism to protect pension benefits when employers show symptoms of financial distress." Read the full post here.

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U.S. Immigration Update

Amendment to California Law Prohibiting Retaliation against Whistleblowers Who Lack Work Authorization

Immigration.jpgCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill No. 2751  (AB 2751) to amend a recently-enacted law that prohibits employers from retaliating against undocumented workers who engage in protected activity.  AB 2751 amends the recently-enacted Assembly Bill No. 263 (AB 263), which, among other things, restricted employers' ability to take disciplinary action against employees who had misrepresented their personal information, including their criminal history and immigration status. Read the full post here.

Brazil: New Law Expands the Maximum Term for Engaging Temporary Workers

By Renata Neeser

shutterstock_41123350_now_hiring_ad.jpgThe Ministry of Labor and Employment issued a new regulation ("Portaria 789") to Federal Law 6.019/74, which regulates the engagement of temporary workers, allowing employers to retain temporary workers for a longer period of time under prescribed circumstances.  This new regulation became effective July 1, 2014.

Consolidated guidance of the Brazil Superior Labor Court of 1993 generally prohibits outsourcing, except under limited circumstances.  Law 6.019/74 provides that companies may engage temporary workers through a temporary staffing agency only in one of two scenarios: (1) to temporarily substitute a regular worker on leave; or (2) to provide services during an extraordinary increase in workload.

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U.S. Legislative Update for the Week of June 30, 2014

Capitol for Global.jpgSupreme Court Agrees to Hear Appeal in Young v. UPS
On July 1, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review Young v. UPS, a decision that will determine whether and to what extent an employer must provide pregnant employees with work accommodations, such as light duty, under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Read the full post here. (July 3, 2014)

Supreme Court Agrees to Consider Controversial Conciliation Case
In December 2013, in EEOC v. Mach Mining, LLC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit became the first federal circuit to foreclose an employer's ability to use the implied affirmative defense that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed to conciliate prior to bringing suit. The Seventh Circuit held that, based on the conciliation language in Title VII and Seventh Circuit precedent, the EEOC's approach to conciliation during the administrative charge process is not judicially reviewable and not an affirmative defense to be used against the agency.  The Seventh Circuit's holding is contrary to every other circuit that has evaluated this issue. Read the full post here. (June 30, 2014)

Supreme Court Rules Against Public Sector Union in Limited Decision
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday delivered a limited blow to public sector unions.  In Harris v. Quinn, the Court held that compulsory union agency fees imposed on Illinois home care workers violate the First Amendment.  However, the Court held back from issuing a more expansive ruling that could have sounded the death knell for public sector unionism as a whole.  Specifically, the Court did not overrule its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., in which it held that an agency-shop clause was valid for public sector employees so long as the fees are used for collective-bargaining, contract-administration, grievance-adjustment purposes, and other activities "germane to its duties as collective-bargaining representative." Instead, the Court in Harris distinguished the home care workers from "full-fledged public employees" and declined to apply Abood. As a result, the personal care providers in this case cannot be compelled to accept and financially support the union as their exclusive representative. Read the full post here. (June 30, 2014)

Mexico Amends Federal Constitution to Increase Minimum Age for Employment

By Mónica Schiaffino, Rodrigo Espíritu Santo and Carlos Ferrán Martínez Carrillo

shutterstock_41970523_legal_definition_gavel.jpgOn June 17, 2014, Mexico amended Article 123 of its Federal Constitution, to increase the minimum age for employment from 14 to 15 years old.  The amendment, which became effective on June 18, 2014, seeks to protect the human rights of children, a principle in line with the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Minimum Age Convention (No. 138).  Convention No. 138, adopted by the ILO in 1973, recommends that countries place severe restrictions on the employment and work of children, to allow them to finish compulsory schooling, which generally occurs at the age of 15, and protect them from hazardous work. 

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U.S. Legislative Update for the Week of June 23, 2014

Capitol for Global.jpgNew State Minimum Wage Increase Fails Committee Passage, But Paid Sick Leave, Liens on Employers, Still in Play in California Legislature
The California Legislature is nearing its summer recess, which starts Thursday, July 3. June 27 was the deadline for policy committees to meet and decide whether to advance bills under consideration.  The following is a snapshot of the major private sector employment law legislative activity before the recess. Read the full post here. (June 28, 2014)

Supreme Court Strikes Down Validity of NLRB Recess Appointments
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Noel Canning v. NLRB this morning, upholding the D.C. Circuit's finding that the President's three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was still holding pro forma sessions were invalid. The decision, however, is a relatively narrow one, upholding the President's ability under the Constitution's Recess Appointments Clause to "fill any existing vacancy during any recess--intra-session or intersession--of sufficient length." Read the full post here. (June 26, 2014)

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