Government policies and proposals

Legislative Update for the Week of October 28, 2013

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Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Antitrust Whistleblower Bill
On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2013 (S. 42), a bill that would extend whistleblower protections to employees who report potential violations of antitrust and related criminal conduct. Notably, the measure does not provide an economic incentive akin to the Dodd-Frank bounty program for blowing the whistle on potential criminal law violations. The sum and substance of the bill would prevent retaliation against employees who do come forward, and provide them with judicial redress and possible compensatory damages in the event they are unfairly discriminated against. Read the full post here. (November 1, 2013)

House Committee Seeks Answers on Affordable Care Act's Funding of Worker Centers
On November 1, key House lawmakers sent a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requesting information on Affordable Care Act funding of so-called "worker centers." Worker centers, also known as Union Front Organizations (UFOs), are typically non-profit organizations that offer a variety of services to their members, including education, training, employment services and legal advice. However, as discussed during a House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions hearing in September, these organizations have also been directly engaging employers or groups of employers to effectuate change in the wages, hours and terms and conditions of workers they claim to represent. Read the full post here. (November 1, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of October 21, 2013

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Financial Regulators Propose Workplace Diversity Standards
This week, six federal financial regulatory agencies revealed their proposed standards for assessing the diversity policies and practices of the institutions they regulate. The goal is to promote transparency and awareness of diversity practices, in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Read the full post here. (October 25, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of October 14, 2013

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Senate Set to Consider NLRB General Counsel Nomination
While attention was diverted to the eleventh-hour efforts to craft and pass a deal avoiding a fiscal crisis and reopening the federal government, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Wednesday filed a motion to proceed with consideration of Richard Griffin, Jr., to be the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. Griffin was one of the three controversial recess appointees to the Board. In July, Griffin's nomination to the Board was withdrawn - along with fellow recess appointee Sharon Block - as part of the Senate deal to confirm a full slate of Board candidates. Read the full post here. (October 17, 2013)

What Would a Government Default Mean for Employers?
What was once considered unthinkable is now becoming more of a possibility. Although the Senate is reportedly working on a last-minute compromise, the federal government is coming dangerously close to defaulting on its loan obligations, or hitting the "debt ceiling." As Politico reports, members of the House were close to a deal that would have reopened the federal government - which has been closed since October 1 - until December 15, 2013, and raised the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014. These measures would have bought Congress more time in which to iron out a more comprehensive budget plan. A provision that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act's controversial excise tax on medical devices was apparently dropped in an effort to garner support. However, it appears as if House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has not been able to muster the votes to advance this proposal, leaving both chambers without an approved deal, and with the government closer to default. Read the full post here. (October 15, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of September 30, 2013

Agencies Make Additional Adjustments in Light of Continuing Government Shutdown

Various federal government agencies announced information about their limited operations during the government shutdown.  This post discusses the contingency plans released by some of these agencies, including the Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and National Labor Relations Board.  Read the full post here. (October 2, 2013)

Supreme Court to Consider Tax Treatment of Severance Payments

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether severance payments made to employees who are terminated are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes ("FICA" taxes).  In United States v. Quality Stores, Inc., No. 10-1563 (6th Cir. Sept. 7, 2012), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that severance payments were not wages subject to FICA taxes.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requested review. Read the full post here. (October 1, 2013)

Agencies Issue Contingency Plans on Eve of Possible Government Shutdown

With the prospect of a federal government shutdown becoming closer to a reality, several agencies have issued their contingency plans, explaining which operations would continue, and which functions would come to a halt during the shutdown period.  According to these plans, most non-essential tasks carried out by the Department of Labor (DOL), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will cease. This post outlines how a government shutdown will affect these agencies and their operations here. (September 30, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of October 7, 2013

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House Subcommittee Hearing Examines ACA Definition of Full-Time Employees
While the federal government remained on shutdown mode, the House Small Business Committee, Subcommittee on Health and Technology held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss how the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) definition of "full-time employee" will impact small businesses. Under the healthcare law's employer responsibility requirements - commonly known as the "pay-or-play" provisions - an employer with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees will be required to provide health insurance that meets certain ACA standards to at least 95% of their full-time employees starting in 2015, or pay a penalty. The ACA considers a worker "full time" if he or she works 30 hours or more per week, as opposed to the customary 40 hours used in other employment statutes and regulations. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Employment Benefits Counsel here. (October 10, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of September 23, 2013

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Federal Agencies Issue Interim Rules Related to NDAA Whistleblower Provisions
The Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have issued a series of interim rules amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to implement portions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 that boosts whistleblower protections for certain federal contractors and subcontractors, and establishes a four-year pilot program enhancing whistleblower protections applicable to all civilian federal agency contractors. Read the full post here. (September 27, 2013)

AFL-CIO Creates Partnership with Student Organization
As part of its new initiative to court younger affiliates and expand its membership, the AFL-CIO has entered into a National Partnership Agreement with the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), touted as "the nation's largest youth-­led campaign organization dedicated to building a student-labor movement, with affiliated locals on over 150 campuses that run locally and nationally-coordinated campaigns for corporate accountability and economic justice in partnership with organizations of workers." Read the full post here. (September 26, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of September 16, 2013

SEC Proposes Pay Ratio Disclosure Rule

As part of the ongoing rulemaking efforts to implement portions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday narrowly voted in favor of a proposal that would require public companies to disclose the ratio of their CEO's compensation to the median compensation of their employees. The proposal does not provide a specific formula for arriving at this pay ratio. Read the full post here. (September 19, 2013)

 

Littler Shareholder Stefan Marculewicz Discusses Rise of "Worker Centers" During Congressional Hearing

During a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, Littler Shareholder Stefan Marculewicz explained the role that worker centers, also referred to as union front organizations (UFOs), play in modern labor organizing.  Such worker centers, Marculewicz testified, are typically non-profit organizations that "offer a variety of services to their members, including education, training, employment services and legal advice."  The problem with these rapidly growing organizations are detailed in the original post which you can read here. (September 19, 2013)

 

Nomination of Richard Griffin for NLRB General Counsel Moves Forward

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) voted 13-9 to advance the nomination of Richard F. Griffin, Jr., to serve as General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.  Griffin was one of the three controversial recess appointees to the Board.  Earlier this summer, Griffin's nomination to the Board was withdrawn - along with fellow recess appointee Sharon Block -as part of the Senate deal to confirm a full slate of Board candidates. Read the full post here. (September 18, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of September 9, 2013

California Legislature Approves Minimum Wage Increase

The bill to increase California's minimum wage (AB 10) in two steps to $10 an hour by January 1, 2016 was passed overwhelmingly yesterday afternoon on straight party-line votes by the California state senate and assembly. Read the full post here. (September 13)

 

Report on AFL-CIO Convention - Day 4

The AFL-CIO convention ended yesterday, but not before some fireworks over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Certain aspects of the healthcare law - particularly ACA's impact on multi-employer healthcare plans - have caused a great deal of consternation for unions. The concern over the law's effect on unionized employees appears to have come to a head during the final day of the convention, where after three days of closed-door meetings, delegates adopted a resolution outlining their apprehension about the healthcare law and making suggestions for change. Resolution 54 was submitted by the Building and Construction Trades Department, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the American Federation of Teachers.  The Resolution states that "federal agencies administering the ACA have interpreted the Act in ways that are threatening the ability of workers to keep health care coverage through some collectively bargained, non-profit health care funds." Read the full report here. (September 12)

 

David Weil Nominated to Head DOL's Wage and Hour Division

President Obama has announced his choice to serve as Administrator of the DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD).  The position has remained vacant for a number of years. The WHD is the DOL sub-agency that will implement many key regulatory and policy proposals in the coming year, including the imminent final companionship exemption rule that will apply the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to domestic service workers, and various worker misclassification initiatives. Read the full post here. (September 12)


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Legislative Update for the Week of August 19, 2013

New OSHA Safety Standards to Apply to Airline Cabin Crew Members
Pursuant to a directive included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FAA Act), the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a final policy allowing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to apply and enforce certain safety standards for aircraft cabin crewmembers. Under the final policy, OSHA standards on hazardous chemicals, exposure to blood-borne pathogens, and hearing conservation programs, as well as rules on record-keeping, access to employee exposure and medical records, and the agency's Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) anti-discrimination provision, will now apply to aircraft cabin members. Read the full post here. (August 23)

Michael Hayes New OLMS Director
Former professor and union-side lawyer Michael Hayes is the new director of the Department of Labor's Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS). Hayes comes to the OLMS from the University of Baltimore, where he has served as a professor since 1998. According to the biographical information posted on his faculty webpage, Hayes has taught courses on labor law, collective bargaining, employment law, employment discrimination, torts, negotiation and other lawyering skills. Before teaching, Hayes practiced labor and employment law with a private union-side law firm in Washington, D.C. Earlier in his career, Hayes worked for one year as a staff counsel to the National Labor Relations Board. Read the full post here. (August 23)

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Nueva Ley Contra la Corrupción de Brasil: Todo lo que un Empleador Multinacional Debe Saber

El 01 de agosto de 2013, Brasil promulgó la Ley 12.846, una nueva ley contra la corrupción que establece un sistema integral de responsabilidad corporativa e individual por actos de corrupción contra funcionarios públicos brasileños y extranjeros u organismos gubernamentales. La nueva ley contra la corrupción entra en vigencia el 28 de enero de 2014. Las empresas que realizan actividades directas o indirectas en Brasil - ya sea a través de un empleado o contratista independiente, una filial, o como parte de una cadena de suministro - deben prestar especial atención a los contornos de esta ley, las severas sanciones por violaciones y los pasos que recomendamos para asegurar su pleno cumplimiento. Para más información sobre las disposiciones claves de esta nueva ley, continúe leyendo la nota de Actualidad Laboral de Littler, Nueva Ley Contra la Corrupción de Brasil: Todo lo que un Empleador Multinacional Debe Saber, escrito por Juan Carlos Varela, Geida D. Sanlate y Daniela Sedes.