Government policies and proposals

Legislative Update for the Week of November 18, 2013

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgHouse Subcommittee Examines Implications of DOL's Home Healthcare Rule
During a House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing - Redefining Companion Care: Jeopardizing Access to Affordable Care for Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities - panelists and lawmakers highlighted problems that await home care providers, workers, and care recipients when the Department of Labor's new home care rule takes effect in January 2015.  Issued in September, the final rule eliminates the Fair Labor Standard Act's (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime exemption for home care workers employed by home care agencies and other companies.  This rule also significantly narrows the exemption for home care workers employed directly by the individuals or families receiving home care services. Read the full post here. (November 20, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of November 11, 2013

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgWorkplace Injuries and Illnesses Continue to Decline; OSHA Schedules Hearing on Electronic Reporting Proposal
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) annual Workplace Injury and Illness Summary, private sector employers reported approximately 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2012, or about 3.4 instances per 100 full-time equivalent workers, down from 3.5 instances per 100 workers reported in 2011.  This data is in keeping with the steady decline of reported injury and illness rates over the past five years. Read the full post here. (November 14, 2013)

Senators Introduce Bill Targeting Independent Contractor Misclassification; DOL Forges Ahead with Classification Survey
During Tuesday's Senate Subcommittee hearing - Payroll Fraud: Targeting Bad Actors Hurting Workers and Businesses - Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) announced that he, along with Senators Tom Harkin (IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), had that day introduced the Payroll Fraud Protection Act of 2013 (S. 1687), a bill that would "hold employers accountable" for independent contractor misclassification.  This hearing occurred just days after the Department of Labor (DOL) sent its proposed Worker Classification Survey to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval. The proposed survey will likely provide the groundwork for the future "right-to-know" rule that would amend an employer's recordkeeping requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide employees with greater information about their employment status. Read the full post here. (November 13, 2013)

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Legislative Update for the Week of November 4, 2013

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgAgencies Issue Final Rules Governing Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
The Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services have released final rules implementing the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), which requires parity between mental health or substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits with respect to financial requirements and treatment limitations under group health plans and group and individual health insurance coverage. Read the full post here. (November 8, 2013).

EEOC to Hold Public Meeting on National Origin Discrimination
On Wednesday, November 13 at 9:30 a.m. ET, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will hold a public meeting on national origin discrimination in today's workplace. Topics of discussion include various recruitment and hiring issues; discriminatory treatment in assignments; pay discrimination; language and accent issues; effective communication and access issues; harassment; and retaliation. Read the full post here. (November 7, 2013)

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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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