The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has directed its Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO) to take additional steps during inspections to determine whether employers are adequately protecting temporary workers. Pursuant to a memo issued to OSHA regional administrators, CSHOs are directed to use a new code to document when temporary workers are exposed to health and safety hazards. For this information collection, OSHA will consider “temporary workers” to include those who “work under a host employer/staffing agency employment structure.”Continue Reading...
President Obama’s much-anticipated Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal would fund several federal agency employment initiatives and enforcement efforts. Among other programs that would affect employers, the FY 2014 budget would provide a 10% income tax credit for small businesses that hire new employees or increase wages. Links to various portions of the budget can be found on the Office of Management and Budget’s webpage. The President’s budget proposal is subject to Congressional approval, where it will likely face opposition. The budget is, nonetheless, an important signal of the Administration’s priorities, and the proposal indicates that employers should prepare for greater enforcement and regulatory activity. A summary of key agency budget levels and the programs to be funded are as follows:Continue Reading...
OSHA Interpretation Letter Clarifies Some Safety Responsibilities of Temporary Staffing Agencies and Primary Employers
A recently released Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Interpretation Letter outlines the division of responsibility between a temporary staffing agency and the client employer to provide worker safety training, perform hazard communication, and maintain OSHA-related records. Although agency Interpretation letters are limited to the circumstances presented by the person or organization requesting guidance, they shed light on how OSHA would apply its laws and regulations in similar scenarios. The instant Interpretation letter is helpful for any employer that provides temporary personnel to other businesses, as well as one that uses the services of a temporary staffing agency.Continue Reading...
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that it is seeking public input on the development of a Quality Control Plan (QCP) that will revise the standards used to assess the quality of the agency’s investigations and conciliations of discrimination complaints. In February 2012 the EEOC approved a more comprehensive Strategic Plan, which outlines the agency’s goals and achievement benchmarks for enforcing the various anti-discrimination laws under its jurisdiction, as well as its mission to carry out education and outreach efforts. Pursuant to this Strategic Plan, the EEOC is to develop and approve a QCP that will measure the agency’s performance in handling discrimination claims.
To this end, the EEOC is soliciting suggestions from “individuals, employers, advocacy groups, agency stakeholders and other interested parties.” The agency is particularly interested in suggestions “for quality indicia of investigations or conciliations or general recommendations for improving the quality of our intake process, investigations and conciliations.”
Public comments must be received by Friday, March 1, 2013. Comments may be sent electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, written recommendations can be mailed to: Executive Officer, Office of the Executive Secretariat, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street, NE, Washington, DC 20507. Commenters are asked to include a contact e-mail and/or mailing address. These suggestions might be discussed at a future public meeting on the QCP.
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In fiscal year 2012 a total of 2,787 whistleblower complaints – the largest number to date – were filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to newly released data published on the agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program webpage. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions in 22 statutes, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Affordable Care Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has issued an Administrator’s Interpretation (AI) clarifying the definition of “son or daughter” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when leave is sought to care for an adult child incapacitated by a mental or physical disability. The guidance explains that the FMLA entitlement applies regardless of when the mental or physical disability in the child began; discusses how the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) – which expanded the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – affects the employee’s ability to take leave to care for an adult child; and examines the availability of FMLA leave to care for an adult child who becomes disabled due to military service.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is seeking public comments on the agency’s proposal to collect information “about employment experiences and workers’ knowledge of basic employment laws and rules so as to better understand employees’ experience with worker misclassification.” According to a notice published in the January 11, 2013 edition of the Federal Register, the proposed Worker Classification Survey is intended to “provide critical information to Department policymakers on whether workers have knowledge of their employment classification and whether they understand the implications of their classification status.” A copy of the proposal can be obtained by contacting Karen Livingston, the WHD’s director of the Division of Strategic Planning and Performance, at (202) 693-0023.Continue Reading...
On Thursday Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the first appointees to the newly established Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC), a 15-member panel charged with determining and recommending ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's whistleblower protection program. Included among the inaugural committee members is Gregory Keating, Littler shareholder and co-chair of the firm’s Whistleblowing and Retaliation Practice Group. Keating was nominated for the position by Senator Mike Enzi, Ranking Member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Johnny Isakson, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued its Semiannual Report to Congress, (pdf) outlining its significant accomplishments during the six-month period ending September 30, 2012 and making a number of legislative recommendations. The OIG conducts audits and evaluations to review the effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and integrity of all DOL programs and operations, including those performed by its contractors and grantees. The office is also responsible for conducting criminal, civil, and administrative investigations regarding violations of labor and employment-related federal laws, rules and regulations, including investigations of labor union racketeering and organized crime involving union affairs, employee benefit plans, and labor-management relations. Overall, the OIG issued 357 indictments, secured 230 convictions, and obtained $141.5 million in monetary recovery during this period.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Department of Defense’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity have established a 2013 Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) database containing more than 3,000 profiles of postsecondary students and recent graduates with disabilities, including veterans, that can be accessed by private sector employers. According to a news release announcing the database’s launch, the job candidates have been interviewed and pre-screened by federal recruiters. Private sector employers can access the WRP through ODEP's national Employer Assistance and Resource Network by visiting the website or by calling the organization’s toll-free phone number: 855-275-3276.
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EEOC Actions Resulted in Record Amount of Monetary Benefits Awarded to Private Sector Claimants, According to FY 2012 Performance and Accountability Report
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) newly released Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) (pdf) for fiscal year 2012 states that the agency recovered more than $365.4 million in monetary benefits through its private sector administrative activities, and $44.2 million through litigation. The PAR details the agency’s assessment of its program and financial performance for FY 2012, including number of private sector charges received, federal lawsuits filed, and monetary awards recovered. A more detailed breakdown of the EEOC’s charge statistics will be released later this year.
The PAR notes that the EEOC is in the early stages of implementing its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012–2016, the four-year plan that outlines the agency’s goals and achievement benchmarks for enforcing the various anti-discrimination laws under its jurisdiction, as well as its mission to carry out education and outreach efforts. The FY 2012 PAR discusses the various benchmarks established by the Strategic Plan, and how well the agency met those goals this year. Highlights of the PAR include the following:Continue Reading...
More Than 3,000 Whistleblower Claims Were Filed Under Dodd-Frank in 2012, While Only 1 Award Granted, According to SEC Report
In its first full year of implementation, the whistleblower incentive program established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) resulted in 3,001 whistleblower tips filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but only one award so far. Under the whistleblower incentive program, individuals who report original information that leads the SEC to recover monetary sanctions of $1 million or more are eligible to receive awards of 10 to 30% of that financial recovery. The SEC’s 2012 Annual Report (pdf) on this whistleblower program summarizes the agency’s experience with the program during the 2012 fiscal year, the types of tips received, and the SEC’s enforcement efforts. Key findings of the report include the following:Continue Reading...
The Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have issued new guidance to help individuals and employers that conduct business internationally understand and comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Enacted in 1977, the FCPA aims to combat the bribery of foreign officials, and ensure accounting transparency. The new document – A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (pdf) – is nonbinding, informal guidance for entities of any size that conduct business abroad and/or have foreign subsidiaries.
The 130-page guide discusses such topics as who and what is covered by the FCPA’s anti-bribery and accounting provisions; the definition of a “foreign official”; how successor liability applies in the mergers and acquisitions context; what constitutes proper and improper gifts, travel and entertainment expenses; the nature of facilitating payments; what constitutes an effective corporate compliance program; what whistleblower provisions and protections are available under the Act; and what are the civil and criminal penalties, sanctions, and remedies under the FCPA.
For a more detailed discussion of this new guidance, see Littler’s ASAP: U.S. Department of Justice and SEC Release Long-Awaited Guidance on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by Katherine Franklin, Earl "Chip" Jones, and Bradley Siciliano.
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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL) have announced new deadline filing extensions and tax relief measures to individuals and businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy. According to an IRS notice issued on November 2, qualified disaster relief payments made to individuals by their employer can be excluded from those individuals’ taxable income. Payments deemed “qualified disaster relief” include amounts to cover necessary personal, family, living or funeral expenses that were not covered by insurance, as well as expenses to repair or rehabilitate homes or to repair/replace the homes’ contents to the extent they are not covered by insurance.Continue Reading...
The NLRB General Counsel’s Division of Advice has issued opinions in two cases (available here and here), finding the employers’ handbook provisions concerning “at-will employment” to be lawful. The Advice Memoranda, both dated October 31, 2012, provide much needed guidance for employers whose handbooks and policies advise employees that their employment is “at will” and may be terminated at any time. As the General Counsel observes in both memoranda, it has become commonplace for employers to rely on such policy provisions as a defense against employees asserting that the employee handbook creates an enforceable employment contract. Whether such provisions would pass scrutiny by the NLRB, however, has been an open question. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
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Federal agencies are granting businesses some leeway in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), for example, has released an emergency declaration temporarily exempting truckers providing direct assistance to the hurricane relief effort from several FMCSA regulations (parts 390 through 399), including safety and hours of service (HOS) requirements. According to the FMCSA declaration:
The emergency exemption is issued as a result of extreme weather conditions, shortages, and interruptions in the availability and/or delivery and repair of services and property throughout the States affected in the Eastern Region to include the following: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. It is effective beginning October 29, 2012.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced that it will begin offering early resolution and mediation instead of investigations in two OSHA regions to address complaints filed with the agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program. OSHA is charged with enforcing the whistleblower provisions in 22 separate statutes, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Affordable Care Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. OSHA reports that it receives approximately 2,500 whistleblower complaints each year.
The voluntary alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pilot program will be tested for one year in regions five and nine, covering whistleblower complaints filed in OSHA offices located in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, as well as various Pacific Islands including the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa.
The agency is permitting each region to conduct up to 15 mediation sessions each with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), and will allow the regions to offer unlimited early resolution, defined as “a voluntary process in which the parties to a dispute (whistleblower complaint) attempt to resolve the dispute (whistleblower complaint) prior to OSHA launching an investigation.”
In the news release announcing the new program, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said: “OSHA is committed to fair, effective and timely enforcement of the whistleblower laws delegated to us by Congress. . . . Alternative dispute resolution can provide immediate relief and finality to both parties.”
More information about the ADR pilot program and how it will operate can be found in OSHA Directive 12-01 (CPL 02). (pdf)
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OSHA Sets Forth Steps Employers Must Take to be Removed From the Severe Violator Enforcement Program
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a memorandum to its regional administrators informing them of the criteria employers must meet to be removed from the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). The SVEP – which took effect in June 2010 – is a program that subjects employers to more significant enforcement measures and penalties for willful, repeat, and failure-to-abate violations of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a report (pdf) that evaluates its Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) and makes 34 recommendations for changes and improvement. The report was issued by a VPP Review Team, comprised of OSHA regional and national office members. This team was created in April 2011, and tasked with conducting a review of the VPP and issuing recommendations, largely in response to a critical 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that called for improved VPP oversight and controls.
The VPP is a cooperative program whereby employers with established and effective safety and health systems and comparatively low injury and illness rates are eligible to participate following an extensive OSHA evaluation. In return, participating employers are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections. OSHA re-evaluates VPP participants every three to five years.Continue Reading...
The National Labor Relations Board has created a new webpage that explains an employee’s section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and allows the user to click on various Board cases that address protected concerted activity. The focus of these examples is to apprise workers of their rights under the Act, without the involvement of a labor union. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
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The National Mediation Board (NMB) has announced that it will hold at least one day of public hearings to discuss the agency’s proposed rule that would implement the changes to existing representation dispute and election procedures in the railway and airline industries made by the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FAA Act). Issued on May 15, 2012, the proposed rule would amend NMB regulations regarding run-off elections, showing of interest for representation elections, and the NMB’s rulemaking proceedings to reflect the changes the FAA Act made to the Railway Labor Act (RLA).Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced plans to establish a committee charged with advising and making recommendations to Department of Labor and OSHA officials regarding ways to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA’s whistleblower protection program (WPP). The WPP enforces the whistleblower provisions of twenty-one separate whistleblower statutes, including those set forth in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank).Continue Reading...
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has created an online database that allows users to access private sector workplace discrimination charge statistics for each U.S. state and territory for fiscal years (FY) 2009-2011. The charge receipt data is broken down by type of discrimination alleged, as well as by the percent of total state and national charges. The EEOC intends to update this database each fiscal year.
In November 2011, the agency released its FY 2011 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR), which included details about the charge statistics filed during that period.
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In light of yesterday’s federal court decision finding that the NLRB lacked a quorum necessary to issue the controversial new representation election rule, the Board has decided to suspend the rule’s implementation. The Board’s Acting General Counsel has similarly withdrawn guidance released last month governing the representation case procedure changes, which had taken effect on April 30, 2012.
According to the NLRB’s announcement, an estimated 150 election petitions have already been filed under the new procedures. The announcement states that “Many of those petitions resulted in election agreements, while several have gone to hearing. All parties involved in the 150 cases will be contacted and given the opportunity to continue processing the case from its current posture rather than re-initiating the case under the prior procedure.”
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The Department of Labor has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a proposed information collection request (ICR) that would determine the degree of employee knowledge concerning their rights governed by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As stated in the notice published in the May 8, 2012 edition of the Federal Register, the purpose of the ICR – the 2012 Wage and Hour Division and Occupational Safety and Health Administration Surveys Workers' Voice in the Workplace – would be to “gauge the current level of workers' voice in the workplace and factors affecting workers' voice as it relates to WHD and OSHA administered laws.” The Federal Register notice explains further that:Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) recently released a wave of “heads up” letters that are designed to place government contractors on notice that certain facilities will be selected for an actual OFCCP compliance review during the next several months.
Unlike the old “CSAL” or Corporate Scheduling Announcement Letter mailings, which traditionally were sent to the company’s CEO with a listing of all facilities that could be audited – thereby providing government contractors with an efficient way of tallying the number of anticipated audits and marshaling internal resources accordingly – some of these new letters (pdf) have gone only to individual facilities, and they contain no attached listing of other company sites to be audited.
It is unclear whether “traditional” CSAL letters have gone out, too. If those have not gone out, and corporate CEOs will not be receiving the traditional listing of all sites to be audited, it will place an increased burden on consolidated compliance functions to track down internally the total tally of anticipated audits and allocate resources.
Facilities that received these “heads up” letters do not have to do anything in response to them, yet. The OFCCP’s district and regional offices will send an actual 30-day scheduling letter at some point in the near future, which will trigger the obligation to submit the requested affirmative action plans and support data within 30 days of the company’s receipt of the letter by certified mail. Those facilities that received “heads up” letters should alert their mail rooms to look for the DOL’s official certified letter any time in the next few months.
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EEOC to Hold Meeting and Provide Guidance on the Use of Arrest and Conviction Records as well as Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the ADA
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) intends to hold a public meeting on April 25, 2012 to discuss enforcement guidance on the legality of considering arrest and conviction records in making hiring decisions, and guidance on reasonable accommodation and undue hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The April 25 meeting will not be the first time the EEOC has considered these issues. In July 2011, the EEOC held a public meeting to discuss the use an applicant’s criminal record. Three months later the EEOC’s Office of Legal Counsel released an advisory opinion on employer use of arrest and conviction records during the hiring process. This non-binding document suggested that the Commission (1) will continue to differentiate between arrest and conviction records; (2) may not be prepared to adopt a presumption of disparate impact in this context; and (3) will in the event of a finding of disparate impact, closely scrutinize the employer's policy with regard to both how long convictions are disqualifying and whether the underlying criminal conduct is related to the job duties for the position in question. It is expected that the EEOC will offer additional guidance on this topic during the April 25 meeting.
Similarly, in June 2011 the EEOC held a separate meeting to discuss reasonable accommodations and leaves of absence under the ADA. During that meeting the agency indicated that it would release further enforcement guidance on these ADA matters. It is anticipated that the EEOC will provide such guidance during next week’s meeting or shortly thereafter.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 ET in the Commission Meeting Room on the First Floor of the EEOC Office Building, 131 “M” Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20507. Those interested in attending are asked to arrive 30 minutes ahead of time due to limited seating.
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Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published Revised Audit Guidelines for use by IRS auditors in examining group health plans for COBRA compliance. The revised Guidelines incorporate changes to account for laws that have affected COBRA since the previous guidelines were developed, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Guidelines appear to herald a new COBRA compliance audit effort by the IRS. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Employee Benefits Counsel.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) (pdf) that sets forth the policies and procedures for targeting and addressing occupational illnesses and injuries most commonly experienced in nursing and residential care facilities. As described in the NEP, these hazards include ergonomic stressors relating to resident handling; exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials; exposure to tuberculosis; workplace violence; and slips, trips, and falls. The NEP discusses each of these areas and provides guidance to OSHA compliance staff on how best to conduct investigations to assess potential hazards. OSHA’s NEPs are designed to focus on specific hazards in a particular industry for a three-year period.Continue Reading...
In a new memo sent to Occupational Safety and Health Administration regional administrators and whistleblower program managers, OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard E. Fairfax directs field compliance officers and whistleblower investigators to keep an eye out for workplace policies and practices – including employer safety initiatives – that could discourage employees from reporting injuries. According to the memo, many types of employer policies, particularly those that link management or supervisory bonuses to lower reported injury rates, could potentially lead to unlawful discrimination under section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, as well as violate OSHA's recordkeeping regulations.Continue Reading...
According to a recently-released Field Assistance Bulletin, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has advised its staff to uniformly enforce a rule that became effective on May 5, 2011 governing ownership of employee tips under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In many states employers are permitted to take a “tip credit,” or pay employees less than the minimum wage so long as the employees receive sufficient tip income to make up the difference. The new WHD tip rule stipulates, among other things, that tips are the property of the employee regardless of whether the employer has taken a tip credit under section 3(m) of the FLSA, (pdf) and that an employer is prohibited from using an employee’s tips for any reason other than as a tip credit or in furtherance of a legitimate tip pool. The bulletin sent to WHD regional administrators and district directors emphasizes that this rule will be enforced in all states, even the nine states under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit.Continue Reading...
On February 22, 2012 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted 4-1 in favor of its 4-year strategic plan, which outlines the agency’s goals and achievement benchmarks for enforcing the various anti-discrimination laws under its jurisdiction, as well as its mission to carry out education and outreach efforts. As with the draft version of the plan released last month for public comment, the final document places a great deal of emphasis on enforcement and the targeting of systemic discrimination.
One way the new strategic plan differs from the EEOC’s prior plan, according to the agency, is how it measures its performance in reaching the following three strategic objectives: combating employment discrimination through strategic law enforcement; preventing employment discrimination through education and outreach; and delivering excellent and consistent service through a skilled and diverse workforce and effective systems. According to EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum during the Feb. 22 meeting, the plan “focuses less on measuring numbers for numbers’ sake, and more on measuring what we need to do in order to achieve our long-term goals.” As stated in the Message from the Commission, the diminished reliance on specific number goals:Continue Reading...
On February 16, 2012, Republican members of both the House and Senate introduced resolutions (H.J. Res. 103; S.J. Res. 36) formally disapproving of the National Labor Relations Board’s recent final rule that dramatically changes representation election procedures. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) introduced the resolution in the House with 64 co-sponsors. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Help, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced a companion resolution with identical language in the Senate with 43 co-sponsors. The text of both measures is as follows:Continue Reading...
Three separate panels of witnesses testified at the February 15 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) meeting to discuss the laws that govern pregnancy- and caregiver-based employment discrimination, current charge statistics on these types of claims, and how to help employers comply with the many laws involved. Several panelists urged the Commission to update and clarify current guidance to better assist employers.
EEOC legal counsel Peggy Mastroianni discussed the general requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as well as the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that may apply to pregnant workers. Mastroianni stated that the EEOC has long worked to eliminate discrimination based on sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, relying on a combination of enforcement, policy, and outreach efforts. She noted that, more recently, the Commission has “expanded our focus to address newer forms of discrimination, including unlawful discrimination against individuals with caregiving responsibilities.” According to Mastroianni, over the past decade the EEOC and state and local Fair Employment Practices agencies (FEPAs) “have received 53,865 charges alleging pregnancy discrimination, resolved 52,396 charges, and obtained $150.5 million in monetary benefits for Charging Parties.”Continue Reading...
On Wednesday, February 15, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) plans to hold a public meeting to discuss discrimination against pregnant workers and workers with caregiving responsibilities. According to the meeting agenda, three separate panels will address the following topics: understanding pregnancy and caregiver discrimination in today’s workplace; statutory framework and enforcement efforts; and the way forward: implications for the future.
In April 2009, the EEOC released a technical assistance document outlining employer best practices for avoiding discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities. More recently, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that implements the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) amendments made by the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 (FY 2010 NDAA), a law that, among other provisions, extends current military caregiver leave entitlements. At this point, it is unclear whether the agency plans to update its guidance regarding either pregnancy- or caregiver-related employment discrimination.
Those wishing to attend the meeting, to be held at 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Meeting Room on the First Floor of the EEOC Office Building, 131 “M” Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20507, are encouraged to arrive at least 30 minutes in advance due to limited seating.
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In its most recent effort to draw lines on the self-described “hot topic” of the “lawfulness of employers’ social media policies and rules,” the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Office of General Counsel has taken the position that many policy provisions commonly seen in employers’ social media policies violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This most recent shot across the bow came on January 24, 2012, in the form of a report, (pdf) issued to senior regional staff, on 14 cases which, according to the General Counsel, “present emerging issues in the context of social media.” This report follows a previous General Counsel report, dated August 18, 2011, which discussed 14 prior NLRB cases involving social media issues. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Workplace Privacy Counsel.
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According to the newly-released enforcement and litigation statistics, private sector employees filed a record number of charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011. A total of 99,947 charges of employment discrimination were filed with the EEOC in the 12-month period ending on September 30, 2011. During this period, the EEOC filed 261 merit-based lawsuits across the U.S., an increase of 11 lawsuits over the prior year. In addition, claimants received $455.6 million in relief through agency enforcement, mediation and litigation efforts. These findings were first brought to light in the EEOC’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) released in November 2011. The charge statistics flesh out the types of claims that were filed during the year, giving employers some indication as to which charges of discrimination are the most frequent and/or most costly to resolve. Highlights of the 2011 data include the following:Continue Reading...
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a draft copy of its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2012-2012, and is soliciting public comment before the five-year plan is finalized. The Congressionally-required strategic plan outlines the agency’s goals for enforcing the various anti-discrimination laws under its jurisdiction, as well as its mission to carry out education and outreach efforts. The document discusses 13 performance benchmarks that it will use to measure how well the agency achieves its three main performance goals of (1) combating employment discrimination through strategic law enforcement; (2) preventing employment discrimination through education and outreach; and (3) delivering excellent service through effective systems, updated technology, and a skilled and diverse workforce. According to the EEOC, the revised plan “requires significant changes in the agency’s approach to fulfilling its mission. As a result, during the first 1-2 years of the plan, the agency will establish new baselines so that it can finalize the milestones and targets for its measures.”Continue Reading...
On January 4, 2012, President Obama announced his intention to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. According to the White House press release, the President will seat Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D), and Terence Flynn (R) to the Board via recess appointment. Anticipating that in 2012 the five-member Board would be left with just two sitting members – Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce (D) and Brian Hayes (R) – Obama nominated Block and Griffin to serve on the Board last month. The third recess appointee, Terence Flynn, was named as an NLRB candidate last year, but the Senate did not act on any of these nominations in 2011. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has issued three new fact sheets on unlawful retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
Fact Sheet number 77A: Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), briefly discusses the prohibitions, coverage and enforcement issues related to section 15(a)(3) of the FLSA, which makes it a violation for any person to “discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this Act, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.” The fact sheet explains that covered complaints may be made orally or in writing, and that most courts have concluded that the FLSA’s retaliation protections extend to internal complaints as well.Continue Reading...
Days after a U.S. District Court judge for the D.C. Circuit suggested that the National Labor Relations Board postpone the effective date of its notice posting rule, the agency has agreed to do so. As announced in a press release, the Board:
has agreed to postpone the effective date of its employee rights notice-posting rule at the request of the federal court in Washington, DC hearing a legal challenge regarding the rule. The Board’s ruling states that it has determined that postponing the effective date of the rule would facilitate the resolution of the legal challenges that have been filed with respect to the rule. The new implementation date is April 30, 2012.
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NLRB Issues New Order Anticipating the Loss of One or More Members as Concern Mounts over Potential Hayes Resignation
The National Labor Relations Board has issued a new order temporarily delegating administrative authority over certain agency matters to the General Counsel (GC) and Board Chairman in the event the Board is left with fewer than three sitting members. In last year’s New Process Steel opinion, the Supreme Court held that the National Labor Relations Act requires that the Board operate with at least three members in order to exercise its full authority. When Member Craig Becker’s term expires at the end of the year, the Board will be left with Chairman Pearce (D) and Member Brian Hayes (R), assuming the Senate does not confirm additional members and the President is unable to make any recess appointments by that time. There also has been speculation that Member Hayes might resign to prevent the remaining members from finalizing contentious Board rules. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
EEOC Receives a Record Number of Private Sector Discrimination Charges and Secures Highest Amount in Damages in FY 2011
On November 15, 2011, the EEOC announced the publication of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). (pdf) The PAR measures the EEOC’s performance and financial accountability based on its Strategic Plan for FY 2007 through FY 2012. During FY 2011 the EEOC received a total of 99,947 charges -- the highest number of charges in its 46 year history. Since FY 2006, there has been a dramatic increase in the level of charge activity, except for a minor dip in FY 2009, as shown by the following:
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) have updated the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (pdf) between the two agencies “to promote greater efficiency and coordination, and to eliminate conflict and duplication of effort.” The substantive revisions to the MOU – last edited in 1999 – clarify how discrimination complaints or charges filed with one agency are to be processed if they involve issues subject to the jurisdiction of the other.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has launched a Consumer Assistance Web Page to answer questions for retirement and health benefit plan participants and beneficiaries, and enable them to submit electronically any complaints regarding their plans. The site includes a link whereby a viewer can request assistance from a benefits advisor. This feature will automatically direct such requests to the appropriate EBSA regional office based on the user’s ZIP code. While aimed primarily at benefit plan consumers, the site does link to various resources and tools such as fact sheets, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and other materials that may be helpful for employers and plan sponsors.
In a press release, EBSA Assistant Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi said: “Helping retirement and health plan participants find answers to questions about their benefits and providing assistance when they believe their benefits have been improperly denied is one of our most important responsibilities,” adding: “The new consumer assistance Web page and electronic inquiry/complaint process will provide quick answers to the most frequently asked questions and connect workers to experienced benefits advisers if assistance is needed.”
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Office of Legal Counsel released an advisory opinion on employer use of arrest and conviction records during the hiring process. The non-binding letter provides some insight into the Commission's current enforcement position and suggests the Commission: (1) will continue to differentiate between arrest and conviction records; (2) may not be prepared to adopt a presumption of disparate impact in this context; and (3) will in the event of a finding of disparate impact, closely scrutinize the employer's policy with regard to both how long convictions are disqualifying and whether the underlying criminal conduct is related to the job duties for the position in question. To learn more about the EEOC's advisory opinion and its potential impact on employers, please continue reading Littler's Insight,EEOC Advisory Guidance Offers Insight on the Use of Arrest and Conviction Records, by Rod Fliegel and Jennifer Mora.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (“USCCR” or “Commission”) has issued a briefing report – English Only Policies in the Workplace (pdf) – recommending that an employer’s English-only policy be deemed unlawful only if such policies are enacted to harass, embarrass, or exclude employees and/or applicants based on their national origin. The report also suggests that Congress amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to clarify the meaning of discrimination on the basis of national origin. This recommendation runs contrary to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) stated guidelines on this issue, which, in fact, the briefing report advises should be withdrawn.Continue Reading...
According to information released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of reported cases of private sector nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2010 declined once again from the prior year, continuing an 8-year trend. The BLS reports that in 2010, 3.5 injury and illness cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers were reported, down from 3.6 per 100 in 2009. The incident rate of injuries incurred only in the private sector remained unchanged between 2009 and 2010, with 3.4 reported cases per 100 full-time employees. Illness-only cases remained relatively unchanged as well. The only private industry sector that experienced an increase in its injury and illness incidence rate was manufacturing, which the BLS attributes to a larger decline in hours worked rather than the corresponding decline in reported injury and illness cases in that sector.Continue Reading...
The Internal Revenue Service has released a detailed list of pension plan and other retirement-related contribution limitations for the Tax Year 2012 that were triggered by an increase in the cost-of-living index. According to the IRS announcement of the 2012 pension plan limitations, the main changes for 2012 include the following:
- The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $16,500 to $17,000.
- The catch-up contribution limit for those aged 50 and over remains unchanged at $5,500.
- The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $58,000 and $68,000, up from $56,000 and $66,000 in 2011. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $92,000 to $112,000, up from $90,000 to $110,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $173,000 and $183,000, up from $169,000 and $179,000.
- The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $173,000 to $183,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $169,000 to $179,000 in 2011. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $110,000 to $125,000, up from $107,000 to $122,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-out range remains $0 to $10,000.
- The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contributions credit) for low-and moderate-income workers is $57,500 for married couples filing jointly, up from $56,500 in 2011; $43,125 for heads of household, up from $42,375; and $28,750 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $28,250.
Full descriptions of the changed and unchanged adjusted limitations are set forth in the IRS announcement. See also Littler's ASAP: IRS Announces Pension Plan Limitations for Tax Year 2012.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced (pdf) that it intends to hold a public meeting to solicit input on preventing occupational hearing loss. Last October, OSHA issued a proposed reinterpretation of the phrase “feasible administrative or engineering controls” as it is used in the agency’s General Industry and Construction Occupational Noise Exposure standards. The standards require employers to use administrative or engineering controls instead of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce noise exposure that is above the acceptable level when such controls are feasible. The proposed interpretation would have clarified that feasibility in this instance means “capable of being done” or “achievable.” Amid an outcry from many in the business community, the agency withdrew this proposed change in January 2011.Continue Reading...
Employers will now have until January 31, 2012 to comply with the National Labor Relations Board’s notice posting rule: Notification of Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act. This rule, which was slated to take effect as of November 14, 2011, mandates that all private sector employers subject to the NLRA post a notice informing employees of their rights under the NLRA in a “conspicuous place” readily seen by employees and penalizes employers for non-compliance. Last month, the NLRB made available a copy of the required poster as well as a list of frequently asked questions about the rule. Continue reading this entry at Littler’s Labor Relations Counsel.
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Federal contractors will have an additional month to submit their VETS-100/VETS-100A reporting forms required under the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment and Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), as amended. The Department of Labor’s Veterans' Employment & Training Service (VETS) has announced that due to continuing technical problems with the agency’s electronic filing system, contractors required to file Forms 100 and 100A will have until December 30, 2011 to report the number of their current employees and new hires who are qualified covered veterans. The normal annual reporting cycle begins August 1 and ends September 30. The agency had already extended the filing deadline by one month, but the technical problems have not been resolved as anticipated. The DOL now expects the electronic system to be operational as of November 1, 2011.
According to the announcement on the VETS website, because of these technical difficulties, “the Department will not initiate enforcement actions against contractors who submit the VETS-100/VETS-100A from November 1, 2011 through December 30, 2011. Unless a further update is given or other recognized exceptions apply, the Department may initiate enforcement actions against contractors who do not submit VETS-100/VETS-100A forms by December 30, 2011.”
IRS Offers Limited Amnesty Program for Employee Misclassifications; Agency Agreements and President's Deficit Reduction Plan also Focus on Issue
Employers that voluntarily reclassify their independent contractors as employees for federal tax purposes and pay a fee covering a portion of their past payroll obligations can escape certain tax liability for improper misclassification under the IRS’s new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP). In a statement announcing the program, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said: “This settlement program provides certainty and relief to employers in an important area,” adding: “This is part of a wider effort to help taxpayers and businesses to help give them a fresh start with their tax obligations.”Continue Reading...
During a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to address perceived union favoritism by the National Labor Relations Board, a number of witnesses and members of Congress primarily criticized the Board’s recent decisions and regulatory activity. Lawmakers focused their inquiries on the Board’s decision in Specialty Healthcare, in which the Board adopted a new standard for determining appropriate bargaining units, the agency’s proposed expedited election rule, and its final Notification of Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act posting rule. According to Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the current labor Board “is especially active,” and it is incumbent upon Congress to provide the Board with continued checks and legislative oversight.Continue Reading...
Continuing its efforts to strengthen the enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Whistleblower Protection Program, OSHA has released an updated Whistleblower Investigations Manual (pdf) containing revised case handling procedures and information on new laws enacted since the last manual was issued. The agency is responsible for enforcing the whistleblower provisions contained in 21 separate statutes, including Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). In August, OSHA announced its plans to improve its efforts to investigate and enforce whistleblower complaints under these statutes in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment of the agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program, which the GAO found lacking.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has decided to re-propose a rule that would more broadly define who constitutes a “fiduciary” for the purposes of rendering investment advice under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The initial proposed rule released in October 2010 has generated a substantial amount of controversy regarding its potential impact on the relationship between retirement savers and plan sponsors. In an attempt to explain the proposal, the EBSA conducted a series of public meetings and issued fact sheets on the proposed changes. After these actions failed to stem criticism of the proposal, lawmakers held a hearing in July 2011 to discuss its implications. During that hearing, witnesses criticized the agency for failing to properly consider the possible costs and fees associated with the rule and its potential impact on the IRA market, while others claimed that the rule would increase risks associated with providing advice. Still others raised the possibility that long-standing business practices in the financial services industry would suddenly be considered prohibited transactions under the rule, and that the DOL’s exemptions approach to address this problem is insufficient. A number of hearing panelists urged the EBSA to re-propose the rule.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued an interim policy (Technical Release 2011-03) (pdf) setting forth the conditions that a plan administrator must meet in order to provide electronic disclosures of information required under the EBSA’s final participant-level fee disclosure rule. Generally, this rule requires retirement plan sponsors and fiduciaries to disclose certain plan and investment-related information, including that related to fees and expenses, to participants and beneficiaries in participant-directed individual account plans, such as 401(k)s. The rule allows for the electronic disclosures – including the use of continuous access websites – under certain circumstances. According to the Technical Release, plan administrators will not be subject to an enforcement action based on their electronic disclosures if they comply with the conditions established by the interim policy.Continue Reading...
On September 14, 2011, the IRS issued updated guidance (pdf) on the tax treatment of employer-provided cell phones, effectively treating both business and personal use of such phones as exempt from an employee’s wages.
The Small Business Jobs Act removed cell phones from the definition of “listed property” beginning January 1, 2010, meaning they no longer required heightened levels of substantiation to qualify as a business expense. However, Congress had not altered the use of an employer-provided cell phone as a fringe benefit. As a result, the value of employer-provided cell phones was still subject to inclusion in an employee’s wages unless a specific exclusion applied.Continue Reading...
The National Labor Relations Board has made available for download a copy of the Employee Rights poster required under the Board’s new rule: Notification of Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act. This final rule, issued on August 25, 2011 and effective November 14, 2011, mandates that private sector employers subject to the NLRA post a notice informing employees of their rights under the NLRA in a “conspicuous place” readily seen by employees and penalizes employers for non-compliance. This new obligation applies to virtually all private sector employers, regardless of whether or not their workforces are unionized and regardless of whether they are federal contractors. The agency has also posted to its website a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the notification requirement. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
High-hazard, non-construction employers with 20 or more employees will be subject to inspections under the Occupational Safety and Health’s 2011 Site-Specific Targeting (SST) programmed inspection plan. (pdf) Last year’s SST applied to employers with at least 40 employees. The purpose of the SST is to enable OSHA to focus its inspection resources on workplaces that experience the highest injury and illness rates, as identified by data compiled in the 2010 OSHA Data Initiative (ODI) survey of approximately 80,000 establishments in selected high-hazard industries. According to OSHA, the worksites are randomly selected for inspection from a primary list of 3,700 manufacturing, non-manufacturing, and nursing and personal care facilities. Another change from last year’s program is the incorporation of a study to measure the program's impact on injury and illness rates and future compliance with OSHA standards.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a new a compliance directive: Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violence. The purpose of the directive is to establish uniform procedures for OSHA field officers when responding to incidents and complaints of workplace violence. The directive also provides guidelines for conducting inspections in industries the agency deems particularly vulnerable to workplace violence, including healthcare, social service settings and late-night retail establishments. Specifically, the directive “highlights the steps that should be taken in reviewing incidents of workplace violence when considering whether to initiate an inspection in industries that OSHA has identified as susceptible to this hazard.” In conjunction with the directive, OSHA has launched a web page to assist employers in preventing incidents of workplace violence.Continue Reading...
On September 7, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) unanimously agreed by voice vote that Constance S. Barker should serve a second five-year term as a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Her nomination for a second term now moves to the full Senate for approval.
Barker, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush in 2008, is one of two Republican members serving on the five-member Commission. Since graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1977, Barker has worked in both the public and private sectors. Her positions have included Alabama state prosecutor, part-time municipal judge, general counsel for a school system, and law firm shareholder.
President Obama re-nominated Barker in May of 2011, as her term officially expired on July 1, 2011. EEOC members, however, are permitted to continue serving on the Commission until a replacement is seated or the congressional session ends. Other members of the Commission include fellow Republican Victoria Lipnic, as well as Chair Jacqueline Berrien (D), Stuart Ishimaru (D) and Chai Feldblum (D). If confirmed, Barker’s term will expire on July 1, 2016.
Photo credit: EEOC
While Hurricane Irene churned up the East Coast this weekend, quieter, albeit significant changes were taking place at the National Labor Relations Board. Long-time Board member and Chairman Wilma Liebman’s term expired on Saturday, August 27. Fellow Democratic member Mark Gaston Pearce has been designated as the new Board Chairman. The remaining members include Brian Hayes, a Republican, and Craig Becker, a Democrat, whose recess appointment expires at the end of this year and will not likely be confirmed for a full term. The vacancy left when Republican member Peter Schaumber left the Board after his second term expired in August 2010 has yet to be filled. In January 2011, President Obama nominated Terence F. Flynn – who currently works as Hayes’ Chief Counsel – to fill that vacancy. Senate action on Flynn’s nomination, however, is still pending. The probable result of these changes will be that the Board will be left with only two acting members come January 2012. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has announced that it will conduct a webcast next Wednesday on its Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program to advise plan sponsors and service providers about the agency’s enforcement program and how to prepare for a possible investigation. The program is designed to enable plan sponsors to identify and correct certain transactions such as prohibited purchases, sales and exchanges, improper loans, delinquent participant contributions, improper plan expenses, and other possible violations of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). As discussed in a fact sheet, the program includes 19 specific transactions and their acceptable means of correction, eligibility requirements, and application procedures. Successful correction of applicable transactions through the program will result in a “no action” letter from the EBSA.
The text only webcast will be held on Wednesday August 24, 2011 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT. Those interested in registering can click here.
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The National Labor Relations Board’s Office of the General Counsel has released a report (pdf) that summarizes the outcomes and reasoning behind the 14 cases decided within the past year involving employees’ use of social media and the legality of employers’ social media policies. The cases involved such social media platforms as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but the report also notes that social media includes text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications that “enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources.” Of the cases detailed in the report, the NLRB’s Division of Advice (Division) found that four involved Facebook or Twitter posts that constituted “protected concerted activity;” five involved social media use that did not warrant NLRA protection; five dealt with employer social media policies that were found to be overbroad; one concerned an employer’s policy that was held to be valid; and one involved a union’s use of YouTube that was determined to be unlawful coercive activity. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
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The Department of Labor’s Veterans' Employment & Training Service (VETS) has announced that federal contractors have until November 30, 2011 to submit their VETS-100/VETS-100A reporting forms. The Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment and Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), as amended, requires that certain contractors and subcontractors report annually the number of their current employees and new hires who are qualified covered veterans. More information on VEVRAA’s federal contracting requirements can be found here.
According to the notice on the VETS’s website, technical problems have delayed the electronic submission of these forms, which was slated to begin August 1, 2011. The agency believes the problems will be fixed within the next two months, enabling the online filing system to begin accepting the forms by October 1, 2011. Because of these technical problems, the agency states that it “will not initiate enforcement actions against contractors who submit the VETS-100/VETS-100A from October 1, 2011 through November 30, 2011.” Unless otherwise notified, contractors can expect the VETS to resume enforcement actions against those who fail to submit the VETS-100/VETS-100A forms by November 30, 2011.
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In an informal discussion letter, (pdf) the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Office of Legal Counsel reiterates the position that an employer-provided wellness program that offers financial inducements to provide genetic information as part of a wellness program runs afoul of Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Among other restrictions, GINA limits the ability of health insurers and employers to collect genetic information, which includes family medical history. Whether and to what extent employer-provided wellness programs and health surveys that solicit information about family medical history violate GINA and other statutes and regulations is a rising concern for employers.Continue Reading...
EEOC Holds Meeting to Discuss Impact of Criminal History on Employment: Littler Shareholder Barry Hartstein Testifies
On Tuesday the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting to discuss how an individual’s arrest and conviction records impede employment, but failed to reveal whether it would alter its enforcement guidance on this topic. Currently, under the Commission’s Policy Statement on the Issue of Conviction Records under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if an employer’s conviction-based screening policy causes a disparate impact, the employer must show that it considered the “nature and gravity of the offense,” the “time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of sentence,” and the “nature of the job held or sought.” These guidelines have been in place since 1987. However, in a recent Third Circuit case, the court held an employer to a higher burden if its conviction screening policy disparately impacted protected classes. Specifically, in El v. South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the Third Circuit ruled that if an employer’s conviction-based screening policy results in such a disparate impact, the employer must produce “empirical evidence” justifying its screening policy in order to establish a “business necessity” affirmative defense under Title VII. Notably, the EEOC is currently prosecuting a disparate impact lawsuit against at least one employer based on its conviction-based screening policy, has initiated “systemic discrimination” investigations against other employers, and has been holding meetings on this topic.Continue Reading...
As one of the final speakers concluding two days of public meetings to discuss the NLRB’s proposed changes to its election procedures, Littler attorney David Kadela stated that the proposed changes “would unduly and severely cut into the time that employers have to communicate with employees during election campaigns, and establish unnecessary procedural requirements that would stack the deck against and increase the burdens upon employers.” Kadela joined more than 60 other participants in the two-day event, many of whom articulated the same profound faults with the proposed expedited election procedures. Although a number of union supporters were on hand to speak in favor of the proposed rule, members of the business community and their representatives urged the Board to reconsider its proposal, which was even the subject of a recent Congressional hearing. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
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OSHA Web Chat Generates a Number of Questions on Potential Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard, Among Others
Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Jordan Barab was on hand Monday to answer questions online regarding the agency’s regulatory agenda. The Department of Labor recently released its semiannual regulatory agenda, which included a number of significant workplace safety and health initiatives. OSHA’s agenda is an ambitious one, with eight proposals in the preliminary stages, five at the proposed rule level, and 14 regulations at the final stage of development. The agency is in the initial process of developing standards to address such hazards as infectious diseases, combustible dust, bloodborne pathogens, occupational exposure to beryllium, and occupational exposure to food favoring containing diacetyl and diacetyl substitutes. OSHA is also proposing rules that would reinstate the musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) column to the injury and illness reporting log, revise the agency’s injury and illness reporting system, and protect against occupational exposure to crystalline silica, among other measures. Regulations at the final rule stage include those designed to address hazard communication, and procedures to handle whistleblowing and retaliation complaints under various statutes governed by OSHA.Continue Reading...
During a web chat run by the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) to discuss the agency’s regulatory agenda, OLMS Director John Lund fielded several questions – but provided few concrete answers – regarding the OLMS’s proposal to narrow the scope of the “advice” exemption under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). This proposal would also expand what constitutes reportable “persuader activities” under the LMRDA, and subject employers and their advisors – including their attorneys – to new reporting requirements. Currently, employers are required to report information regarding persuader agreements with consultants on the Form LM-10, while consultants are required to report related information on the Form LM-20. Narrowing the “advice” exemption and expanding the definition of “persuader activities” would necessarily expand the reporting required on these forms. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
To help the public understand the specifics of Department of Labor’s semiannual regulatory agenda and solicit input on its contents, the agency plans to hold a series of free web chats next week. The following is a schedule of web chats to be conducted by the various DOL subagencies:
Monday, July 11
- Office of Labor-Management Standards: 1 to 2 p.m. EDT
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EDT
OSHA to Hold Stakeholder Meetings in Advance of Possible Rulemaking to Limit Occupational Exposure to Infectious Diseases
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will hold a series of stakeholder meetings on July 29, 2011 to gather information on how best to limit occupational exposure to infectious diseases. According to a notice (pdf) to be published in the Federal Register, the agency is considering the development of a program standard to limit exposure to infectious agents for workers who provide direct patient care or perform tasks other than direct patient care, but are nonetheless exposed to infectious diseases. As discussed in the notice, the latter category might include such tasks as providing patient support services such as housekeeping, food delivery, or facility maintenance; handling, transporting, receiving or processing infectious items or waste; maintaining, servicing or repairing medical equipment that is contaminated with infectious agents; conducting autopsies; performing mortuary services; and performing tasks in laboratories that could result in occupational exposure to diseases.Continue Reading...
Many in the employment law community expressed surprise at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s topic for the June 22, 2011 meeting: Disparate Treatment in Hiring. Long gone are the days of overt gender and race discrimination in hiring. Well, aren’t they?
According to the Commission, sort of. American business has come a long way, but the EEOC claimed that there is more work to do. “Forty-five years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, [the EEOC] still receives meritorious charges on hiring discrimination,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien. She continued, “The EEOC will continue to address this problem through enhanced education and outreach and through vigorous enforcement of the law.” Commissioner Constance Barker echoed the Chair’s sentiments, stating “discrimination is evolving” and asked the panelists to weigh in on how the Commission can combat modern hiring discrimination.Continue Reading...
The National Labor Relations Board has announced (pdf) that it will hold one or more public meetings to discuss the controversial proposed changes to the Board’s representation election process. According to the notice to be published in the June 27 edition of the Federal Register, the topics of discussion are limited to issues raised by the proposed rule and suggestions for improving the election process. These meetings are in addition to the solicitation of formal written comments as outlined in the Federal Register. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that it will hold a public meeting to discuss “disparate treatment in 21st Century hiring decisions.” The meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. ET, and will be held in the Commission Meeting Room on the First Floor of the EEOC Office Building, 131 “M” Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20507. Since seating is limited, observers are advised to arrive a half hour beforehand. At this time, a meeting agenda and list of panelists are not yet available, although copies of the speakers’ testimony are usually posted on the EEOC’s website following agency meetings.
In a move consistent with organized labor’s push for an accelerated collective bargaining process for airlines and railroads, the National Mediation Board (NMB) announced the implementation of its expedited mediation project. (pdf) The new program is designed ostensibly to move the mediation process – whose purpose is to resolve collective bargaining disputes in the airline and railroad industries – along. In a press release, Larry Gibbons, NMB Director for Mediation, said the program was in response to a report (pdf) issued in 2010 by the Dunlop II Committee, a joint labor-management committee formed to examine the internal functions, policies and procedures of the NMB and make recommendations for procedural or policy changes. Gibbons explained that the report “...recommended, among other things, that case management strategies be developed to help address [mediation] disputes in a timely and methodical manner.” From this general recommendation in Dunlop II, the NMB developed protocols for expedited mediation. The initiative stops far short of recommendations principally from unions for explicit time limits on mediation. Yet, the initiative works to dispel the perception held by some that mediation is an endless process. Continue reading this entry at Littler’s Labor Relations Counsel.
EEOC Meeting and Forthcoming Written Guidance Address Leave Policies and Reasonable Accommodations Under the ADA
How do you know the appropriate amount of leave to provide an employee as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) expects to issue guidance in late summer or early autumn on the topic of reasonable accommodations and leaves of absence under the ADA. On June 8, the EEOC held a public meeting on the subject, with additional written comments welcomed over the next 15 days. In the aftermath of two highly publicized EEOC consent decrees and an expanded number of individuals protected under the law as a result of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) and its implementing regulations, employers can expect to encounter far more situations involving leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed on online tool to help employers assess their obligations under the agency’s injury and illness recordkeeping regulations. The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor is presented in question and answer format and directs users to the next appropriate inquiry and/or course of action based on their responses. The stated purpose of the online tool is to help employers determine:
- Whether an injury or illness (or related event) is work-related
- Whether an event or exposure at home or on travel is work-related
- Whether an exception applies to the injury or illness
- Whether a work-related injury or illness needs to be recorded
- Which provisions of the regulations apply when recording a work-related case
The agency emphasizes that the tool is designed to help employers better understand their recordkeeping requirements, but should not be used as a substitute for OSHA’s more detailed regulations, handbooks, or letters of interpretation.
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will hold a meeting open to the public to discuss, among other topics, the use of leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the meeting agenda, which is subject to change, invited panelists will discuss the EEOC’s current position and policy statements on the topic and provide advice on how to comply with the law and appropriately grant leave to employees. Question-and-answer sessions will follow each discussion. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 9:30 A.M. EST in the Commission Meeting Room located on the first floor of the EEOC Office Building, 131 “M” Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20507. Since seating is limited, observers are encouraged to arrive 30 minutes in advance of the meeting.
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The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued its Semiannual Report to Congress, (pdf) outlining its significant accomplishments made during the six-month period ending March 31, 2011, and making a number of legislative recommendations. The OIG conducts audits and evaluations to review the effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and integrity of all DOL programs and operations, including those performed by its contractors and grantees. The office is also responsible for conducting criminal investigations regarding labor union racketeering and organized crime. According to the report, the OIG’s investigative work resulted in 207 indictments, 133 convictions, and $155 million in investigative recoveries, cost-efficiencies, restitutions, fines and penalties, forfeitures, and civil monetary action.Continue Reading...
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has announced that it will hold an online information session to discuss its new Active Case Enforcement (ACE) protocol, the process by which the agency conducts supply and service (S&S) compliance evaluations. In December 2010, the OFCCP issued a directive discontinuing the former Active Case Management (ACM) process that had been in place since 2003. Two months later, the agency issued a second directive outlining the new ACE procedures for conducting S&S compliance evaluations, which includes full desk audits, increased onsite evaluations, focused evaluations, and full reviews.
According to the webinar invitation, OFCCP representatives will explain what contractors can expect when scheduled for a S&S compliance evaluation using ACE procedures, including a discussion of key terms and how ACE procedures differ from the discontinued ACM process.
Attorneys in Littler’s OFCCP Practice Group have observed that under the new ACE procedures, contractors are receiving lengthy information requests much earlier in the audit process, in some cases even before the initial desk audit submission has been received. These requests seek documentation and evidence of the contractors’ compliance with all of the regulations that OFCCP enforces, including in particular the regulations dealing with outreach to individuals with disabilities and veterans, and a few questions pertaining to compliance with OFCCP’s regulations addressing sex discrimination (Part 60-20), and religion/national origin discrimination (Part 60-50).
The webinar will be conducted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 from 2:00 - 3:30 PM EDT. Registration for this information session is required, and can be made here.
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On May 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the launch of its first smartphone application, an electronic timesheet employees can use to track their hours of work, including breaks. According to a DOL press release, the information tracked through this application “could prove invaluable during a Wage and Hour Division investigation when an employer has failed to maintain accurate employment records.” The app, currently available in English and Spanish and only for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, allows users to input their hourly rate of pay and calculates the amount of wages due to the worker. Additionally, through the app, users can add comments related to their work hours; view a summary of work hours in a daily, weekly and monthly format; and email the summary of work hours and gross pay as an attachment. A glossary, limited information regarding wage and hour laws, and contact information for the DOL are accessible through the app. The agency stated it will pursue the development of updates that allow employees to track their tips, commissions, bonuses, deductions, holiday pay, pay for weekends, shift differentials and pay for regular days of rest, among other pay information. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Wage & Hour Counsel.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that on May 13, 2011, it will hold an expert forum to identify the agency’s regulatory options for protecting workers from combustible dust hazards. According to a press release, matters to be discussed include “identifying regulatory options that can minimize the costs to small- and medium-sized businesses of reducing or preventing combustible dust hazards, while protecting workers from these hazards.” Members of the forum will include representatives from various industries, academia, research groups, insurance-underwriter organizations, labor, and the government.Continue Reading...
The NLRB’s Office of the General Counsel has issued a new memorandum (pdf) outlining the categories of cases that must be submitted to the agency’s Division of Advice.
Acting General Counsel (GC) Lafe Solomon has indicated that the current list, which was last updated in 2007, needs to be revised on account of the new agency and court decisions, as well as policy issues that have emerged in recent years.
The revised list provides some insight into the nature of cases the GC considers to be of particular importance from a policy standpoint. It also reflects current areas of the law where the GC may be seeking to overturn existing precedent or decisions issued by the Board during the previous presidential administration. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that after a four year halt, it will resume sending Social Security “no-match” letters to employers. (SSA has continued to send letters to employees’ home addresses if the name and/or social security number on an employer’s W-2 form does not match the information on SSA’s database.)
This new round of no-match letters, formally referred to as “Decentralized Correspondence” (DECOR), informs employers that the information on an employee’s 2010 W-2 wage and tax statement does not match the name and/or Social Security number on file with the SSA, or lacks a SSN entirely. According to the SSA, the purpose of these letters is to obtain corrected information to help the SSA identify the worker to whom the earnings belong and to post the corrected amounts to the employee’s earnings record. SSA will not be sending out no-match letters to employers for the 2007 through 2009 tax years.Continue Reading...
Except for intake of discrimination charges and appeals, evaluation of any charges that might necessitate a temporary retraining order or other immediate relief, and work on on-going litigation for which an extension has not been granted, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would essentially cease operations during the looming government shutdown. As discussed in the agency’s contingency plan in the event of lapsed appropriations, should a federal government shutdown occur:
- Staff will not be available to answer questions from the public, or to respond to correspondence from the public.
- While the EEOC will accept charges that must be filed in order to preserve the rights of a claimant during a shutdown, these charges will not be investigated.
- Insofar as the courts grant EEOC’s requests for extensions of time, EEOC will not litigate in the federal courts.
- Mediations will be cancelled.
- Federal sector hearings will be cancelled, and federal employees’ appeals of discrimination complaints will not be decided.
- Outreach and education events will be cancelled.
- No FOIA requests will be processed.
The agency estimates that out of approximately 2,600 EEOC employees, about 131 staff and contract personnel, many part-time or on call, will perform the agency’s limited functions.
The Department of Labor plans to continue scaled-back operations should the federal government shut down due to lack of appropriations. According to a memorandum (pdf) issued by DOL Solicitor M. Patricia Smith, in the event of a shutdown, the agency will retain approximately 1,650 out of 16,099 employees to carry out necessary functions and to “protect life and property.” The memorandum outlines the DOL’s shutdown plans that the Office of the Solicitor (SOL) has approved; includes documentation from the heads of the various DOL sub-agencies acknowledging that their agencies will generally cease operations, with some limited exceptions; and provides the SOL’s plan “for continuing a minimal level of activities sufficient to support the excepted activities of the Department under applicable legal standards.”Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is considering whether and how to modify its current standards governing the electronic distribution of employee benefit plan disclosures, such as quarterly account statements, to plan participants and beneficiaries as required under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Current standards mandate that plan administrators use delivery methods that are reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt of such information. Under certain circumstances, the electronic transmission of plan documents is permissible. According to the EBSA, research suggests that public access and use of electronic media has increased substantially since the 2002 regulations allowing electronic distribution of plan disclosures were implemented. Therefore, the agency is issuing a request for information (RFI) (pdf) “to solicit views, suggestions and comments from plan participants and beneficiaries, employers and other plan sponsors, plan administrators, plan service providers, health insurance issuers, and members of the financial community, as well as the general public on whether, and possibly how, to expand or modify” the EBSA’s current electronic disclosure practices.Continue Reading...
The EBSA has posted on its website a fact sheet on the definition of “fiduciary” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The agency defines a plan fiduciary “to include anyone who gives investment advice for a fee or other compensation with respect to any moneys or other property of a plan, or has any authority or responsibility to do so.” ERISA imposes certain disclosure requirements and standards of conduct on those considered retirement plan fiduciaries. The fact sheet includes background on the term, developments to retirement plans that have caused the agency to reevaluate its definition of fiduciary, and an overview of its proposed rule to revise this definition. Specifically, the EBSA is in the process of drafting a final rule on proposed changes to the definition of fiduciary that would result in a broader range of individuals who provide investment advice to be deemed a fiduciary under ERISA.
Additionally, the EBSA has released complete transcripts from the public hearings the agency held to address when a person is deemed a fiduciary by reason of giving investment advice for a fee under ERISA. Comments on the March 1, 2011 (pdf) and March 2, 2011 hearings (pdf) can be submitted electronically to e-ORI@dol.gov with subject line: Public Hearing on Definition of Fiduciary, or in written form to: EBSA's Office of Regulations and Interpretations, Attn: Public Hearing on Definition of Fiduciary, Room N-5655, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20210. All comments on the information presented at the hearings must be submitted on or before April 12, 2011.
In order to gather information from small businesses on the possible effects of the agency’s proposal to restore a column to the OSHA Form 300 Injury and Illness Log that would require employers to record work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced that it will hold a series of teleconferences to discuss the issue. The proposal, which OSHA temporarily withdrew in January, would revise Form 300 to include a column for employers to check if a case they already are required to record involves a MSD. In addition, the proposal would require employers to record these MSD totals on the OSHA Form 300A Annual Summary. The stated purpose of the three teleconferences is to allow small businesses to provide information about their experiences in recording work-related MSDs and how they believe the proposed rule would impact them.
The teleconferences will be held on Monday, April 11, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. EST, and on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. EST. Each teleconference is expected to last about 2 to 3 hours. Those interested in participating must contact Regina Powers at email@example.com by April 4, and indicate the teleconference in which they wish to participate. The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and OSHA will chose the participants from the pool of applicants, although members of the public may listen in on the meetings in person at OSHA's Washington, D.C. office at 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington D.C. 20210, Room N-3437 C & D.
The selected participants will be given background information and a list of issues for discussion in advance of the teleconference. More information on the teleconferences can be found here.
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The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has announced that it will conduct a two-part webcast for employers on their fiduciary responsibilities when operating a retirement plan. The program – Getting It Right - Know Your Fiduciary Responsibilities – will be held on March 23 and 24, 2011, and will cover topics such as understanding retirement plans and the employer’s responsibilities in administering them; carefully selecting and monitoring service providers; making contributions on time; avoiding prohibited transactions; and making appropriate disclosures to plan participants and timely filing annual reports to the government. The March 23 session will focus on basic fiduciary responsibilities and prohibited transactions and exemptions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The following day, the EBSA will present information on ERISA’s reporting and disclosure provisions and the DOL’s voluntary correction program.
The EBSA is in the process of drafting a final rule on proposed changes to the definition of “fiduciary” that would result in a broader range of individuals who provide investment advice to be deemed a fiduciary under ERISA.
Registration for the webinars is required, and can be made here.
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The Department of Labor has launched an online tool to enable the public to provide input on ways to improve the DOL’s regulatory review process in general and existing regulations in particular. This web initiative is part of the DOL’s efforts to comply with President Obama’s recent Executive Order directing federal agencies to develop plans to review existing significant regulations to determine whether they could be made more effective and/or less burdensome on employers.
Commenters are asked to identify the particular regulation or reporting requirement at issue and provide legal citation(s) where available. The DOL also asks that commenters provide, “in as much detail as possible, an explanation of why a regulation or reporting requirement should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed, as well as specific suggestions of ways the Department can better achieve its regulatory objectives.” All comments must be received by the end of the month. More information on this process can be found here.
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In anticipation of developing regulations to implement the new automatic enrollment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established by the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) plans to hold a public forum to solicit views and share information on the new requirement. The new provision included in the health care reform law adds Section 18A to the FLSA, which requires employers with more than 200 full-time employees to automatically enroll new hires – subject to any applicable waiting periods – in one of the employer’s health benefit plans, and to continue the enrollment of current employees in the plan. The new section also requires employers to provide adequate notice and opportunity for an employee to opt out of such coverage. Affected employers are not required to abide by the new enrollment mandate until final rules on this obligation are issued and effective. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Healthcare Employment Counsel.
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EEOC to Hold Public Meeting on Increasing Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Mental Disabilities
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that it plans to hold a public meeting to discuss the employment of people with mental disabilities. The session will be held next Tuesday, March 15, 2011, at the Commission Meeting Room on the First Floor of the EEOC Office Building, 131 “M” Street, NE., Washington, DC 20507.
This meeting follows a recent Senate committee hearing held to address how to improve employment opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities. In his opening statement to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) said:
The important work we have done since the landmark passage 35 years ago of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and 20 years ago of the Americans with Disabilities Act, dramatically improved the lives of persons with disabilities. We have addressed education and we have addressed access. Now we must address employment and economic well being.
During the hearing, Sharon Lewis, Commissioner, Administration on Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, referenced the January 2011 Current Population Survey (CPS) which found that the proportion of the population of people with disabilities who are employed is estimated to be 17%, compared to 63% for people without disabilities. A complete list of the panelists participating in the hearing and links to their testimony can be found here.
The DOL’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) has announced the initiation of its Persuader Reporting Orientation Program (PROP). According to the agency, this program is “designed to provide compliance assistance to employers and labor relations consultants that are likely to enter into reportable agreements or arrangements pursuant to LMRDA section 203.” Specifically, under this initiative, the OLMS compiles contact information of employers and their attorneys based on representation petitions filed with the NLRB. The OLMS will then use this information to send an orientation letter to the employers and to their representatives in the NLRB proceeding “informing them of their potential reporting obligations under the LMRDA, where to locate the reporting forms and instructions, and how to contact OLMS to ask questions or receive additional information.” Continue reading this entry at Littler’s Labor Relations Counsel.
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The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has issued a directive outlining Active Case Enforcement (ACE) procedures for conducting Supply & Service (S&S) compliance evaluations. In December 2010, the agency issued a directive to discontinue the former ACE process that had been in place since 2003. According to the agency, the former system was “primarily an abbreviated desk audit process” to expedite the closing of S&S contract compliance evaluations where there existed no evidence of systemic discrimination. The agency claimed that the former process “eroded” its enforcement authority and was of “limited utility.” According to the new directive, the updated ACE process “will more effectively utilize [the OFCCP’s] resources and strengthen its enforcement efforts.”Continue Reading...
E-Verify Self Check Program to Launch on March 18, Allowing Individuals to Independently Verify Their Work Authorization Status
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that, on March 18, 2011, it will launch the E-Verify Self Check Program, a secure web portal that allows an individual to verify his or her work authorization status. Previously, only employers could conduct E-Verify checks, and, in the event of a possible mismatch, the prospective employee needed to resolve the matter, thereby delaying his or her possible hire and/or start date. The Self Check Program will allow individuals to correct any identity information errors that the E-Verify system might contain, thereby “provid[ing] a vehicle for an individual to proactively check work authorization status prior to the employer conducting the E-Verify inquiry.” Continue reading this entry at Littler's Global Immigration Counsel.
On Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting to address the alleged “emerging practice” of excluding currently unemployed job-seekers from applicant pools. In a letter (pdf) urging EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien to address this issue, several members of Congress requested that Berrien “issue a statement detailing how employers discriminating against the unemployed can open themselves up to disparate impact claims because a larger percentage of the unemployed population consists of minorities.” To that end, the EEOC’s meeting was broken into three panels to discuss the Department of Labor’s latest unemployment data, the use of unemployment status screening, and the impact of this alleged screening practice on the unemployed.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a directive – Enforcement Guidance for Personal Protective Equipment in General Industry (pdf) – that provides enforcement personnel with instructions for determining whether employers have complied with the agency’s personal protective equipment (PPE) standards. This directive, effective as of February 10, 2011, takes into consideration recently revised PPE rules, and therefore supersedes the PPE Inspection Guidelines issued in June 1995. On November 15, 2007, the agency revised its standards on PPE regarding employer payment for required PPE. Generally, the rule requires employers to pay for the PPE used to comply with OSHA standards, with specific exceptions. On September 9, 2009, OSHA revised its standards regarding eye, face, head and foot protection. As discussed in the document’s executive summary, the new directive differs significantly from the former version in that it:Continue Reading...
USCIS Introduces Web-Based Tool to Validate Information About Companies Petitioning to Hire Foreign Workers
USCIS has announced that it is beta testing a web-based tool – Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) – designed to enhance the agency’s adjudications of certain employment-based immigration petitions by using commercially available data to validate basic information about companies or organizations petitioning to employ a foreign worker. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Global Immigration Counsel.
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced that it will hold a public listening session to solicit comments and information on its recently-proposed rule to amend the hours of service requirements for drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The session will be held on February 17, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. EST at the Crowne Plaza Washington National Airport, 1480 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202. The session will end sooner if all participants who intend to provide input have done so. In conjunction with this listening session, the FMCSA will hold an online comment and question forum. The agency will post information on how to participate online and via telephone here.
According to the summary to be published in Monday’s edition of the Federal Register, the FMCSA seeks information as to what factors, issues, and data it should consider as it analyzes responses to its proposed rule. A list of specific questions the agency seeks responses to can be found in the Federal Register notice.
OFCCP Web Chat Discusses Upcoming Regulatory Activity, Including Possible Changes to Compensation Analysis
During Friday’s online chat to discuss the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) regulatory agenda, Director Patricia Shiu spent a significant amount of time fielding questions about possible changes to the agency’s compensation data analysis methods. Recently, the agency issued a proposed rescission of its interpretive standards and voluntary guidelines regarding the analysis of compensation data. Shiu acknowledged that the agency is “taking a much stronger approach to enforcement on compensation discrimination, as part of our effort to, once and for all, end the wage gap between men and women.” To that end, the agency plans to publish next month an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit public comments about developing a new compensation tool to help the OFCCP better collect data about wages. In addition, the OFCCP will hold a series of stakeholder meetings to gather information regarding ways to analyze compensation.Continue Reading...
On Friday, John Lund, Director of the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), conducted an online chat to discuss the agency’s upcoming regulatory activities. Lund noted, for example, that by July 2011, the agency plans to issue a final rule on Form LM-30, the Labor Organization Officer and Employee Report required under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), “to identify potential conflicts of interest between the labor organization officials and their labor organizations.” A proposed rule to revise this disclosure form was published in August 2010. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
Despite the flurry of questions posed to the Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) during Thursday’s live web chat on the WHD’s regulatory agenda, Nancy Leppink kept her responses vague and noted that many regulatory proposals were still under development and therefore not ripe for discussion. For example, many chat participants sought clarification and insight regarding the agency’s intent to propose regulations that would modify the “companionship services” exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), thereby subjecting many home care workers to the Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. Leppink said that the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on this topic is not scheduled to be issued until October, and therefore any in-depth response would be premature.Continue Reading...
During OSHA’s live web chat, which was held on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels reiterated that the agency intends to publish five new final rules in 2011. The new standards include those addressing: Hazard Communication and Standards Improvement; Confined Spaces in Construction; General Working Conditions for Shipyards; and Electric Power Transmission. Michaels also said the agency intends to publish final rules for several whistleblower regulations. In addition, OSHA plans to publish a proposed rule for crystalline silica this Spring.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor has scheduled a series of web chats to discuss various portions of its 2011 regulatory agenda. The agenda, which was released on Monday, indicates that the DOL plans to take action on more than 80 labor and employment-related regulations over the course of the upcoming year. The web Q&A sessions will be broken down by DOL subagency, and will take place as follows:
- Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) - Tuesday, January 4, 2 p.m. ET
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - Wednesday, January 5, 2:30 p.m. ET
- Employment and Training Administration (ETA) - Thursday, January 6, 12 p.m. ET
- Wage and Hour Division (WHD) - Thursday, January 6, 2 p.m. ET
- Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) - Friday, January 7, 12 p.m. ET
- Office of Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) - Friday, January 7, 1:30 p.m. ET
Pre-registration is not required. More information on the various regulations under consideration can be found here.
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In keeping with the National Labor Relations Board’s recent efforts to comport with the Obama Administration’s efforts to enhance regulatory enforcement, including penalties, the Board’s Acting General Counsel (GC) has announced (pdf) a new initiative targeting employers during union election campaigns. In a memorandum (pdf) sent to regional directors and officers, Acting GC Lafe Solomon urges all NLRB regions to systematically seek additional remedies against employers charged with committing “serious” unfair labor practices during the initial phase of union organizing. It should be noted that the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) also called for enhanced penalties for alleged violations of the NLRA during a union organizing campaign. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
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The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will issue a request for information (pdf) in Tuesday’s edition of the Federal Register regarding the new requirement that most employers provide a reasonable break time for lactating mothers. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require employers to provide rest breaks and suitable space for employees who are nursing to express breast milk for up to one year after the child’s birth. The notice to be issued by the WHD includes the DOL’s preliminary interpretations of the new break time amendment, and seeks information and comment on a number of issues that have arisen under the new requirement. The WHD notes, however, that at this point it does not intend to issue regulations implementing the break time provision. The request for information is solely for the purpose of drafting additional employer guidance.Continue Reading...
With its December 6 decision in Dana Corp., 356 NLRB No 49, (pdf) the Obama Board has given its approval to broader use of agreements between employers and unions designed to encourage the organization of an employer’s non-represented workforce. The decision represents a step forward in the Obama Board’s agenda for changing existing interpretations and applications of U.S. labor law in ways that labor organizations hope will ensure its continuing relevance and vitality in the twenty-first century. For some, the decision suggests that the Board may be privileging the institutional interests of labor unions over the individual or even collective interests of the employees whom federal labor law was designed to protect. Continue reading this entry at Littler’s Labor Relations Counsel.
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The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has issued a directive discontinuing the agency’s Active Case Management (ACM) procedures. Instituted in July 2003, the ACM process was “primarily an abbreviated desk audit process” to expedite the closing of supply and service (S&S) contract compliance evaluations where there existed no evidence of systemic discrimination. The agency considered cases with fewer than 10 potential victims to fall under this category. According to the directive, absent such evidence of widespread discrimination, full desk audits were to be performed only once out of every 25 such cases, and onsite evaluations only once out of every 50th review. The OFCCP claims in the directive that the ACM has caused the agency to “narrow the focus of its enforcement efforts” and has “eroded” its enforcement authority, thereby prompting its revocation.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued its Semiannual Report to Congress, (pdf) outlining its significant accomplishments made during the six-month period ending September 30, 2010 and making a number of legislative recommendations. The OIG conducts audits and evaluations to review the effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and integrity of all DOL programs and operations, including those performed by its contractors and grantees. In addition, the OIG is responsible for conducting criminal investigations regarding labor union racketeering and organized crime. According to the report, during the six-month period, the OIG’s investigations resulted in 175 indictments, 158 convictions, 190 cases referred for prosecution, 83 cases referred for administrative/civil action, and $85 million in investigative recoveries, cost-efficiencies, restitutions, fines and penalties, forfeitures, and civil monetary actions.Continue Reading...
The newly-released Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for Fiscal Year 2010 indicates that the EEOC is making a dent in the backlog of discrimination charges filed with the agency. According to EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien, the agency “is on the path toward rebuilding and on track to make further progress in the upcoming fiscal year to more efficiently and effectively enforce the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.” Key findings of the PAR include the following:
Private Sector Charges
According to the agency, the growth of private sector charge inventory slowed dramatically from 2009 to 2010. The year began with 85,768 pending charges, but ended with 86,338 – an increase of less than 1% – despite the fact that a total of 99,922 charges were filed with the EEOC in FY 2010, the highest number in the agency’s 45-year history. The charge inventory had increased by 15.9% between fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Of these private sector charges, 38.3% - slightly lower than the 39.7 % reported for 2009 – were completely resolved within 180 days.Continue Reading...
Speaking at a White House Middle Class Task Force event, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and the American Bar Association (ABA) have forged a partnership to help process certain employment-related claims filed with the Division. Starting in December, the WHD will provide workers whose minimum wage, overtime, or family medical leave claims cannot be pursued by the DOL with a toll-free number through which they will be able to obtain the contact information of an ABA-approved attorney in their area. According to the DOL, due to limited resources, the agency is unable to pursue “thousands” of wage and hour claims. The toll-free legal referral service, said Biden, will help workers pursue their cases “in a way that is affordable.” Most of these ABA-vetted lawyers will provide their services on a contingency basis. According to the ABA, this partnership between a federal agency and the private bar is the first of its kind.
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The Department of Labor has launched on online “toolkit” to facilitate an employer’s recruitment, hiring, and retention of veterans. According to the agency, the toolkit “is designed to assist and educate employers who have made the proactive decision to include transitioning Service Members, Veterans and wounded warriors in their recruitment and hiring initiatives.” The online feature is broken up into six steps to help employers: design a strategy for hiring veterans; create an educated and welcoming environment for veteran employees; actively recruit veterans, wounded warriors and military spouses; hire and learn how to accommodate qualified veterans in the workplace; and promote a work environment that retains veteran employees. The final component of the toolkit provides a quick reference list of online resources to assist with the previous five steps.
In a statement, Ray Jefferson, assistant secretary for the department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service, said: “Many employers have told us that they are interested in developing or enhancing a veterans hiring initiative for their company, but that they don't know where to begin,” adding “[t]his toolkit was created with these employers in mind. It's designed to simplify the process and put valuable, vetted resources at the employer's fingertips.”
Speculation has increased in many quarters that components of the Employee Free Choice Act may be implemented administratively given organized labor’s failure to achieve legislative progress. The most recent warning signal came during a Boston labor law conference held on October 21, when National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member Mark Gaston Pearce, a Democrat appointee, opined that the time period between the filing of an election petition and the election itself should be “as brief as possible.” Under EFCA, organized labor sought the elimination of any election period through its card check proposal in order to effectively silence employers attempting to educate employees with regard to unionization and the impact of any decision to unionize. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Labor Relations Counsel.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will continue to target high-hazard workplaces for inspections under its 2010 Site-Specific Targeting (SST) program. (pdf) As discussed in a news release, the SST program “is OSHA's main programmed inspection plan for non-construction workplaces that have 40 or more workers.” The plan is based on information gathered from OSHA’s 2009 Data Initiative (ODI) survey, which collected injury and illness data from approximately 80,000 private sector establishments in high-hazard industries during 2008. OSHA uses this information to calculate establishment-specific injury/illness rates, and in combination with other data sources, to target enforcement and compliance assistance activities. According to the agency, this year OSHA is also collecting work-related injury and illness data from approximately 20,000 establishments in the construction industry, in addition to non-construction establishments. The 2010 SST, however, does not include data on construction worksites. The ODI’s information is similar to that gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS, however, collects data from only a sample of all private-sector establishment in generating its annual injury and illness report.Continue Reading...
On Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting to gather information about the use of credit checks as an employment screening device. Nine panelists representing the views of employers, workers, and the credit reporting industry discussed the reasons for using such reports in the hiring process, employee rights and employer responsibilities under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and current scientific research on credit scores and its correlation to job performance. While a number of panelists claimed that the use of credit reports in employment leads to discriminatory hiring practices and urged the agency to issue new guidance on this topic and increase its enforcement efforts, others explained the necessity of using credit checks in the employment arena, the circumstances under which credit check are used by employers and how existing protections provide sufficient safeguards against discrimination.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that explains how the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) impacts employer-provided group health plans and insurance providers. Among other things, Title I of GINA prohibits group health plans and health insurance issuers from discriminating based on genetic information, and prohibits the collection of such information, including family medical history, prior to or in connection with plan enrollment or for insurance underwriting purposes. As explained in the FAQs, unlike the provisions of Title I of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that exempt very small health plans with less than two participants who are current employees, the nondiscrimination provisions of GINA apply to all group health plans. Continue reading this entry at Littler’s Healthcare Employment Counsel.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will conduct a public meeting to discuss the use of credit checks in the employment context. According to the notice (pdf) published in today’s edition of the Federal Register, the meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 20, 2010, at 9:30 a.m. EDT in the EEOC’s meeting room on the first floor of the EEOC office building, 131 M Street, NE., Washington, DC 20507. Due to limited seating and the security process, attendees are encouraged to arrive at least 30 minutes in advance.
The use of credit checks in employment has been receiving some attention in Congress. Last month, the House Financial Services Committee conducted a hearing to discuss the Equal Employment for All Act (H.R. 3149), a bill that would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to make it unlawful, with certain limited exceptions, to base adverse employment decisions against prospective and current employees on consumer credit reports. This legislation has not advanced in Congress.
This is the second meeting held in recent years in which the use of credit checks in the employment process has been discussed at an EEOC meeting. On May 16, 2007, a public meeting was held in which the EEOC discussed “how agency-enforced laws apply to employment testing and screening ”
Topics of discussion at the 2007 meeting included the use of credit histories in the pre-employment process. No formal action was taken by the EEOC following the 2007 meeting.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently released its Final Strategic Plan (pdf) for the next five-year period. Although this document merely outlines the agency’s general goals, it does provide some insight as to what the agency deems most important and where it will focus its resources, enforcement efforts and regulatory activity in the upcoming years. The Plan is organized around the following five strategic goals:
- Prepare workers for good jobs and ensure fair compensation
- Ensure workplaces are safe and healthy
- Assure fair and high quality work-life environments
- Secure health benefits and, for those not working provide income security
- Produce timely and accurate data on the economic conditions of workers and their families
Many have speculated that the National Labor Relations Board may seek to implement through the Board’s processes certain aspects of the Employee Free Choice Act in lieu of legislative action. To wit, in a move that partially implements EFCA’s “enhanced enforcement” provisions, the NLRB Office of the General Counsel (GC) has put into place a program designed to streamline and expedite the process of seeking preliminary injunctions from federal courts in cases involving employee discharges during union organizing campaigns. Continue reading this entry at Littler’s Labor Relations Counsel.
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OSHA's National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) will conduct a two-day meeting next week to discuss, among other initiatives, the agency’s Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. Throughout the summer, the agency conducted a series of stakeholder meetings devoted exclusively to soliciting input to help OSHA formulate an Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule. These meetings were held on June 3, 10, 29; July 20; and August 3. Next week’s meetings will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT on September 14 and 15 at the U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-3437, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. In addition to discussing OSHA’s injury and illness prevention programs, the meeting will focus on the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill response efforts.
Individuals interested in speaking at the meetings must submit a request beforehand. Information on how to make such a request can be found here. Interested parties may also submit comments to the NACOSH prior to the meeting. Comments may be delivered electronically through the federal eRulemaking portal: www.regulations.gov, or sent in triplicate to the OSHA Docket Office, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. Submissions of 10 pages or less may be faxed to the OSHA Docket Office at 202-693-1648. Submissions should include Docket No. OSHA-2010-0012.
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The National Labor Relations Board on August 27, 2010, issued its long-awaited decision in a trio of cases involving the use of stationary banners by unions to advertise secondary boycott activity to the public. In a 3-2 decision split along partisan lines, the Board majority (Chairman Liebman and Members Becker and Pearce) concluded that bannering, when conducted peaceably and independent of other, possibly coercive, conduct, does not violate Section 8(b)(4)(ii)(B) of the National Labor Relations Act ( the “Act”). The decision in United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local Union No. 1506, 355 NLRB No. 159 (2010) has the practical effect of broadening the arsenal of weapons organized labor can bring to bear to force a primary employer in a labor dispute to yield to union demands. As a result, the decision may signal an increase in the frequency of secondary boycott activity and the embroiling of neutral employers in labor disputes not of their own making.Continue Reading...
As has been anticipated in labor circles since President Obama took office, on Tuesday, the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB or “Board”) announced (pdf) that it would reconsider its decisions in Dana Corp., 351 NLRB 434 (2007) (pdf) and MV Transportation, 337 NLRB 770 (2002) (pdf), cases that address voluntary recognition agreements and successor employers, respectively. The five-member Board agreed 3-2 along party lines to consider two groups of consolidated cases that ask the agency to overturn in whole or in part its rulings in these two earlier decisions. NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman dissented in both cases when they were originally issued and the decisions are part of a larger group of controversial decisions issued by the Bush-era Board that organized labor is dedicated to revisiting.Continue Reading...
NLRB Ratifies General Counsel's Litigation and 2-Member Board's Administrative and Procedural Authority During 27-Month Period
The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) has announced (pdf) that it has ratified the General Counsel’s (GC) litigation authority and the Board’s administrative, personnel, and procurement actions taken during the 27-month period when the Board operated with only two acting members. The Board’s ratification does not extend to the unfair labor practice decisions and representation case rulings issued by members Wilma Liebman (D) and Peter Schaumber (R) during that time. It is estimated that from January 2008 through the beginning of April 2010, the two-member panel issued more than 600 Board opinions. In June, the Supreme Court held in New Process Steel that at least three members are needed to exercise the Board’s authority, thus calling into question the legitimacy of the cases decided and other actions taken during that period.Continue Reading...
In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision holding that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) requires that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) must operate with at least three members in order to exercise its full authority, the NLRB has issued a roadmap (pdf) explaining how it will handle cases sent back to the agency that were decided by only two acting members. It is estimated that nearly 600 cases were adjudicated in this fashion during the 27-month period before President Obama used his recess appointment power in March to seat members Craig Becker (D) and Mark Pearce (D). The Senate confirmed the nominations of Pearce and Brian Hayes (R) in June, restoring the NLRB to full power.
According to the NLRB, at the time the Supreme Court issued its June 17 decision, “96 of the two-member decisions were pending on appeal before the federal courts – six at the Supreme Court and 90 in various Courts of Appeals. The Board is seeking to have each of these cases remanded to the Board for further consideration.” As discussed in the NLRB press release, each of the remanded cases will be considered by a three-member panel of the Board, which will include Chairman Wilma Liebman (D) and NLRB Member Peter Schaumber (R), the two members who initially decided the remanded cases. “Consistent with Board practice, the two other Board members not on the panel will have the opportunity to participate in the case if they so desire.” With respect to two-member Board rulings not already challenged in the federal appellate courts, the press release stated that it is unclear at this time how many of such rulings can or will be contested and how many may now be moot.
The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) general counsel (GC) has issued guidance (pdf) to the agency’s regional officers and directors on how to process unfair labor practice (ULP) charges involving employee class action waivers in mandatory arbitration agreements. The GC explained that questions have arisen “regarding the validity of mandatory arbitration agreements that prohibit arbitrators from hearing class action employment claims while at the same time requiring employees to waive their right to file any claims in a court of law, including class action claims.” In essence, the GC concluded that such class action waivers do not per se violate the National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA) provisions allowing employees to engage in protected, concerted activity, but that certain principles must be followed.Continue Reading...
DOL's Clarification of "Son and Daughter" FMLA Definition Broadens Category of Employees Who May Take Leave
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has issued an administrative interpretation providing guidance on who may take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a sick, newly born or adopted child when that person has no legal or biological attachment to that child. The FMLA typically permits employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the aforementioned reasons, among others. The regulations extend these FMLA rights to those who stand in loco parentis – “in the situation of a lawful parent by assuming the obligations incident to the parental relation.” The administrator interpretation issued by Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the WHD, clarifies that an individual falling into this category is not required to establish that he or she provides both day-to-day care and financial support to the child, thus covering those who fall outside of the “traditional” parent category.Continue Reading...
On Friday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched its Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP), an initiative that “focuses enforcement efforts on employers who willfully and repeatedly endanger workers by exposing them to serious hazards.” The agency issued a directive in April that outlined the SVEP’s procedures and enforcement actions against employers that are found to have committed willful, repeat, and failure-to-abate violations of the OSH Act in one or more of the following circumstances: (1) a fatality or catastrophe situation; (2) in industry operations or processes that expose employees to the most severe occupational hazards and those identified as “high-emphasis hazards,” as defined in the SVEP; (3) exposing employees to hazards related to the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical; or (4) all egregious enforcement actions.Continue Reading...
DOL Issues Second Administrator Interpretation Over Time Spent Donning and Doffing Protective Equipment
On June 16, 2010, Nancy J. Leppink, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, issued the second in her inaugural series of Administrator's Interpretations. Unfortunately, this newest interpretation (pdf), like the first, seems to reflect a continued effort by the Wage and Hour Division to reject certain key interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) issued during the Bush Administration.
In the latest interpretation, the Administrator examines whether protective equipment worn by union employees can be considered "clothes" for purposes of section 203(o) of the FLSA and whether clothes changing covered by section 3(o) constitutes a principal work activity. Continue reading this entry at Littler's Wage & Hour Counsel blog.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has issued a directive on its verification procedures under Executive Order (E.O.) 13496, Notification of Employee Rights under Federal Labor Laws. (pdf) This E.O. mandates that all government contracting departments and agencies include a provision in government contracts covered by the order stipulating that contractors and subcontractors post a notice “in all places where notices to employees are customarily posted both physically and electronically,” informing them of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) published a final rule (pdf) implementing this E.O. last month. The OFCCP is responsible for investigating complaints, performing compliance evaluations, conciliating compliance issues, and referring violations to the OLMS for enforcement. The directive published online this week outlines the processes and procedures it will use to perform these tasks.Continue Reading...
On June 9, 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or “Board”) made a move wholly consistent with its anticipated commitment to implementing “significant change.” Specifically, the Board revealed that it is exploring the future use of electronic and internet voting in representation elections. Pursuant to longstanding secret ballot election standards, no such electronic or internet means for casting votes (remote or otherwise) in a Board-conducted election is recognized as permissible. As the controversial and newest Board Members Craig Becker and Mark Pearce start getting situated among their two sitting colleagues, the NLRB’s efforts to alter well-settled Board election standards seem to be in full swing.Continue Reading...
As a result of the NLRB’s June 3, 2010 decision (pdf) refusing to review a regional director’s ruling that the interns and residents at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York, are employees, the ballots they cast in a union election on June 18, 2009 will shortly be counted. The results of the vote will determine whether the hospital’s interns and residents will be joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The central issue presented by the election petition filed by an SEIU local in 2009 was whether the hospital’s interns and residents were “employees” with the right to organize, or students not covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Continue reading this entry at Littler's Healthcare Employment Counsel blog.
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The New York Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has dismissed a petition filed by the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC/UAW Local 2110) seeking union recognition for NYU graduate student teaching and research assistants. According to a press release, (pdf) the dismissal was based on the Board’s 2004 finding in Brown University (pdf) that graduate student assistants are not statutory employees subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The regional office’s decision now leaves the door open for the union to seek Board review of the Brown decision “on the basis that it was wrongly decided both as a matter of law and policy.” Given the new composition of the NLRB following President Obama’s recess appointments in March, a reversal of the earlier decision is entirely possible.
In addition to potential Board action, legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate this term that would reverse the Board’s decision in Brown. The Teaching and Research Assistant Collective Bargaining Rights Act (H.R. 1461, S. 813) would effectively allow private university students who serve as teaching and research assistants to form or join a union.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced plans to conduct web chats this month on issues involving workplace safety and benefit plan responsibilities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will host a web chat on workplace hazards associated with combustible dust on June 28, 2010. According to a notice (pdf) to be published in Monday’s edition of the Federal Register, the information gathered in response to the web chat will be used in the development of a proposed standard for combustible dust. The chat will focus on major issues related to a proposed rule such as scope, balance between performance and specification-based requirements, economic impacts, and definitions.Continue Reading...
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or “Board”) is inviting “all interested parties” to file amicus briefs in pending cases involving whether employers should be required to electronically post Board-ordered remedial notices, and whether the Board should routinely order compound interest on back pay and other monetary awards in unfair labor practice (ULP) cases. The NLRB considers these issues to be “significant” for employees, employers and unions.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) has launched the Union Elections Advisor, an interactive web site “intended to describe certain rights of union members and candidates in union officer elections, and the responsibilities of union officers and others involved in conducting union officer elections” under the terms of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Title IV of the LMRDA requires periodic election of union officers and prescribes minimum standards to ensure that such elections are fairly conducted.Continue Reading...
Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new regulatory and enforcement strategy that will require businesses to implement self-monitoring plans to ensure compliance with several labor laws. Under the “Plan/Prevent/Protect” initiative, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will develop regulatory actions mandating that employers establish and enforce plans for identifying and remedying labor law violations. According to a DOL statement on this new program,
[e]mployers and others must 'find and fix' violations — that is, assure compliance — before a Labor Department investigator arrives at the workplace. Employers and others in the Department's regulated communities must understand that the burden is on them to obey the law, not on the Labor Department to catch them violating the law. This is the heart of the Labor Department's new strategy.
For more information on this DOL initiative and how it will impact employers, see Littler’s ASAP: "Plan/Prevent/Protect": The DOL’s Program to Transform Employment Law Compliance for Businesses by Jay Sumner, Van A. Goodwin, Mary E. Sharp, and Antonio D. Robinson.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has launched an interactive web tool to help employers comply with various disability-related employment discrimination laws. The Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor “is designed to help employers determine which federal disability nondiscrimination laws apply to their business or organization,” and “helps recipients of federal financial assistance understand their responsibilities under these laws.” The new Advisor, which is the newest in a series of Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses, or “elaws,” asks users to answer questions to help determine which federal disability nondiscrimination laws apply to them. Based on the responses given, the website generates an applicable list of federal disability laws that apply to that particular employer, along with information about the employer’s responsibilities under those laws.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released the final version of its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), (pdf) the much-anticipated enforcement plan that will subject employers to more significant enforcement measures and penalties for willful, repeat, and failure-to-abate violations of the OSH Act. Such enforcement actions for severe violator cases include mandatory follow-up inspections, increased company/corporate awareness of OSHA enforcement, corporate-wide agreements where appropriate, enhanced settlement provisions, and federal court enforcement. The SVEP replaces the agency’s Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP).Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has issued a fact sheet to help for-profit private sector employers determine whether they need to pay their interns minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As noted in the fact sheet, internships and training programs in the private sector are often considered “employment” subject to overtime and minimum wage requirements unless the intern works for his or her own educational benefit. In order to qualify for this limited exception, the internship must meet a six-factor test:Continue Reading...
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the creation of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, a new division that will provide “leadership for implementing the provisions of the health reform bill that address private health insurance.” A notice (pdf) published in the Federal Register identifies the components of this new division and a brief description of the main responsibilities of each office within the division. Continue reading this entry on Littler's Healthcare Employment Counsel blog.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has launched a website compiling enforcement data produced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Searchable compliance data includes OFCCP compliance evaluations and complaint investigations, EBSA cases that resulted penalty assessments, OSHA inspection case details, and concluded WHD compliance actions, among other information. The DOL explains that the purpose of the enforcement website is “to make the enforcement data, collected by these agencies in the exercise of their mission, accessible and searchable, using common search criteria, by the public. It intends, also, to engage the public in new and creative ways of using this data.” The DOL further notes that the site is a work in progress, and that “new features, functionality, and search criteria will be added over time.” For example, the agency is working on making enforcement data searchable by company name and address, as well as other criteria.
OSHA's Strategic Plan Calls for Greater Enforcement of Ergonomic Issues, Shift Away from Voluntary Protection Programs
During a recent live Q&A session, several officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicated that the agency plans to increase its enforcement efforts, including using the general duty clause to address ergonomic issues in the workplace. Participants in the chat included David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab. Other OSHA officials were on hand to discuss OSHA’s Strategic Planning Overview, which covers the agency’s mission, strategic goals and objectives, and general strategies for FY 2010 through FY 2016.Continue Reading...
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made available Form W-11 (pdf), the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act Employee Affidavit employees are to use confirm that they are “qualified” employees under the HIRE Act. An employer seeking to benefit from the HIRE Act’s payroll tax holiday or retention tax credit must have employees complete form W-11 or a similar form to attest that they began employment after February 3, 2010, and before January 1, 2011; have not been employed for more than 40 hours during the 60-day period ending on the date they begin employment with the employer seeking the HIRE Act benefits; are not being employed to replace another employee unless the other employee separated from employment voluntarily or for cause (including downsizing); and are not related to the employer seeking the tax benefit.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has created a website as part of its “We Can Help” public awareness campaign that provides information to workers on how to file a complaint to recover back wages, learn more about the worksite investigation process, and obtain general information about workplace rights and the DOL’s services. According to a press release, the campaign is specifically targeting employees in such industries as construction, janitorial work, hotel/motel services, food services and home health care.Continue Reading...
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has set up a website to provide employers with guidance on the payroll tax exemption and business credit provisions of the newly-enacted Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act. This Act, among other things, relieves certain employers from their obligation to match the OASDI (Social Security) portion (typically 6.2% on the first $106,800 of wages for the calendar year) of FICA tax for certain workers hired after February 3, 2010, and before January 1, 2011, who have been substantially unemployed for at least 60 days. The IRS has created a draft model affidavit (Form W-11) (pdf) for employees to certify their un- or underemployment status, although employers may use their own form. This tax holiday covers wages paid to these employees on or after March 19, 2010 and only through 2010, and does not apply to the FICA tax portion covering the Medicare Hospital Insurance contribution nor to other state and federal employer tax obligations. The HIRE Act also creates a similar tax holiday for employers covered by the Railway Retirement Act instead of FICA. A business (tax) credit of up to $1000 is available to certain employers in 2011, with respect to employees retained for at least 52 weeks.Continue Reading...
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Office of Legal Counsel recently made available two informal discussion letters addressing how two common and seemingly innocuous hiring practices could, under certain circumstances, inadvertently subject employers to charges of disparate impact discrimination. Although these advisory letters are intended as informal discussions of the specific issues only, they should serve as warnings to employers to double-check their use of credit checks and education degrees as selection criteria.Continue Reading...
In its first Administrator Interpretation Letter, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced on Wednesday that mortgage loan officers do not qualify as bona fide administrative employees under section 13(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In reversing its prior stance on the issue, the DOL withdrew two opinion letters issued on September 8, 2006 and February 16, 2001, in which it previously had found that loan officers were exempt administrative employees. Continue reading at Littler's Wage & Hour Counsel blog.
On Monday, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) will publish in the Federal Register an announcement (pdf) that updated model COBRA notices that group health plans and other entities are required to provide to individuals eligible for the premium reductions and additional health care coverage election periods provided by the recently-enacted Temporary Extension Act (TEA) of 2010 are available at the EBSA’s COBRA website. TEA extended until March 31, 2010 the eligibility period for the 65 percent COBRA premium reduction provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA, as revised, mandates that certain health plan providers send assistance eligible individuals notices about their ability to take advantage of the continued health coverage. The EBSA provides links to a Model Updated General Notice, Model Notice of New Election Period, Model Supplemental Information Notice, Model Notice of Extended Election Period, and a Model Updated Alternative Notice, in addition to instructions on which notice to provide and to whom.
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Solis Discusses Plans for Worker Misclassification, Enforcement Initiatives During Committee Hearing
Testifying before a House subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis explained (pdf) how the agency would use the $116.5 billion in proposed funds and 17,800 full-time equivalent employees outlined in the DOL’s fiscal year 2011 budget. These plans include a broad employee misclassification initiative to deter employers from wrongly categorizing employees as independent contractors, among other enforcement efforts. The hearing was conducted by the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, which is tasked with reviewing $17.1 billion of the DOL’s proposed budget.Continue Reading...
OFCCP Releases FAQs on the Impact of the Supreme Court's Ricci Decision on Federal Contractor Obligations
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has posted on its website a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, the reverse discrimination case involving New Haven firefighters. In Ricci, the Court determined that the City of New Haven – by tossing the results of an exam that would have disqualified African American from receiving promotions – discriminated against non-African Americans whose scores would have qualified them for advancement. The Court held that “before an employer can engage in intentional discrimination for the asserted purpose of avoiding or remedying an unintentional disparate impact, the employer must have a strong basis in evidence to believe it will be subject to disparate-impact liability if it fails to take the race-conscious, discriminatory action.” This decision has left many federal contractors – who must implement affirmative action programs – wondering whether Ricci will affect the OFCCP’s compliance reviews, and whether the decision would change the contractor’s obligations regarding the use and validation of job-related tests.Continue Reading...
As part of President Obama’s Open Government initiative, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) has created a web site that provides information on the agency’s monthly case docket, chart of case activity, and briefing notices. The OSHRC is a quasi-judicial independent federal agency that presides over contests of OSHA inspection citations or penalties. The agency has also posted a link to its administrative law judge (ALJ) decisions that are pending OSHRC review.
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In tomorrow’s Federal Register, the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) (pdf) on its plans to amend regulations under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) requiring labor organizations to file the annual financial disclosure Form T-1, (pdf) Trust Annual Report, about certain trusts in which they are interested. Unions use Form T-1 to disclose financial information about these trusts, such as assets, liabilities, receipts and disbursements. According to a summary of the NPRM, the DOL seeks to amend these regulations on the grounds that the current trust reporting requirement is overly broad and not necessary to prevent the circumvention and evasion of the Title II reporting requirements, which require labor organizations “to disclose its financial condition and operations.” In addition, the DOL considers separate trust reporting requirements as unnecessary, in part because the Department also proposes to return “subsidiary organization” reporting to the Form LM-2 reporting requirements, which it believes is necessary to satisfy the purposes of the LMRDA. Finally, the DOL takes the position that in interpreting the LMRDA’s definition of “labor organization,” the statute’s coverage does not include “intermediate bodies that are wholly composed of public sector organizations.”Continue Reading...
Agencies to Issue Interim Final Rules Under Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
On Tuesday, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will publish in the Federal Register interim final rules (pdf) under the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (“the Act” or “MHPAEA”). These interim final regulations replace prior regulations, and make conforming changes to reflect modifications the MHPAEA made to the original Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) of 1996 definitions and provisions regarding parity in aggregate lifetime and annual dollar limits, and incorporate new parity standards. The interim final regulations are effective as of April 5, 2010, and generally apply to group health plans and group health insurance issuers for plan years beginning on or after July 1, 2010.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to withdraw its proposed rule (pdf) outlining revised PortaCount quantitative fit-testing protocols it intended to include in Part II of Appendix A of the agency’s Respiratory Protection Standard. OSHA claims the proposed protocols are not sufficiently accurate or reliable, noting that commenters to the proposed rule raised a number of valid concerns regarding the methodology used in testing the effectiveness of the protocols. Moreover, OSHA concluded that the study it used to test the protocols’ effectiveness was not conducted according to accepted experimental design practices and principles and did not properly or fully describe the fit-testing results, among other flaws. Therefore, the agency plans to re-evaluate the protocols, and may resubmit a proposed rule when the review is complete.
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The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has created model notices that employers can use to notify current and former health plan participants and beneficiaries of the COBRA premium reduction provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and extended by the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (2010 DOD Act). In general, the 2010 DOD Act extends the COBRA premium reduction eligibility period for two months until February 28, 2010, and increases the maximum period for receiving the subsidy for an additional six months (from nine to 15 months). The EBSA’s Fact Sheet explains who is now eligible for the premium reduction, the new period of coverage, and notice requirements plan administrators must provide in light of the extension. The agency has also issued a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the new COBRA premium reduction extension provisions that explain the revised notice obligations. The three model notices – Updated General Notice, Premium Assistance Extension Notice, and the Updated Alternative Notice – are specifically designed for different categories of qualified beneficiaries, and contain information that helps satisfy the notice requirements of both ARRA and the 2010 DOD Act.
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The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued a final rule, (pdf) to be published in tomorrow’s edition of the Federal Register, that establishes a safe harbor period during which funds received or withheld from employee paychecks as contributions to certain benefit plans will not be considered “plan assets” for ERISA or IRS purposes. An employer is required to deposit these funds into the benefit plans on the earliest date on which the contributions can reasonably be segregated from the employer’s general assets. According to the EBSA, many employers and their advisers are uncertain as to how soon they must forward employee contributions to the benefit plans in order to avoid the requirements associated with holding plan assets. To this end, the final rule creates a safe harbor to “provide a higher degree of compliance certainty with respect to when an employer has made timely deposits of participant contributions to employee benefit plans with fewer than 100 participants.” Under this rule, employers with pension or welfare benefit plans with fewer than 100 participants will be considered to have made a timely deposit to the plan if the participant contributions are deposited within 7 business days. The contributions will be considered deposited when placed in an account of the plan regardless of whether the amounts have been allocated to specific participants or participant investments.
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On Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal year 2009 ending on September 30. This data shows that 93,277 workplace discrimination charges were filed, the second-highest total for the agency, although down from last year’s all-time record of 95,402 charges. Private sector charges alleging disability, religion and/or national origin discrimination reached record highs, while the most frequent charges filed in 2009 alleged discrimination based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and sex (30%). According to an EEOC press release, the “near-historic” level of total discrimination charges could be due to a number of factors, including greater accessibility of the EEOC to the public, economic conditions, increased diversity and demographic shifts in the labor force, employees’ greater awareness of their rights under the law, and changes to the agency’s intake practices that cut down on the steps needed for an individual to file a charge.
The EEOC’s year-end data also shows that a total of 281 merit lawsuits were filed, resulting in $82.1 million in monetary relief for the plaintiffs. Total monetary relief obtained for claimants totaled $376 million, which includes benefits gained through administrative enforcement and mediation as well as through litigation.
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Employers already face concerns about how to handle employees trash-talking about them on blogs, Facebook and other social media. Now, employers must be cautious of the converse — employee endorsements of their employers’ products and services on social media websites. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued updated guidelines aimed at protecting consumers from misleading endorsements and advertising. As these guidelines make clear, employers whose employees use social media like blogs or Facebook to comment on their employer’s products or services face potential liability, even where the employer has not authorized or ratified the employee’s remarks.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has released a fact sheet explaining how the Defense Department’s 2010 appropriations bill (“2010 DOD Act”) extends the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) premium reduction provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA” or “Economic Stimulus”). In general, the 2010 DOD Act extended the COBRA premium reduction eligibility period for two months until February 28, 2010 and increased the maximum period for receiving the subsidy for an additional six months (from nine to 15 months). Among other things, the fact sheet outlines who is now eligible for the premium reduction, the new period of coverage, and notice requirements plan administrators must provide in light of the extension. The fact sheet explains that plan administrators are now required to provide notice about the changes made to the COBRA premium reduction provisions to individuals who have already been provided a COBRA election notice, unless the election notice included the updated premium reduction information. These notices must be given to assistance eligible individuals by February 17, 2010. Individuals who have been terminated on or after October 31, 2009 and will lose health coverage must be provided this notice “within the normal timeframes for providing continuation coverage notices.” Those who had reached the end of the reduced premium period before the legislation extended it to15 months must be provided this notice within 60 days of the last day they were eligible to receive COBRA premium assistance under the old rules.
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The House of Representatives has approved a massive consolidated spending bill that would provide increased funding for the Department of Labor (DOL), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), among other agencies for fiscal year 2010. The Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3288) – which combines six separate spending measures – passed by a vote of 221-202 on Thursday, with no Republican members voting in its favor. Text of the conference report for this bill and joint explanatory statements can be found here.Continue Reading...
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has identified three proposed and four final rules that will dominate the agency’s regulatory activities for the coming year, according to its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda (pdf) released online yesterday. Of the seven regulations at issue, the EEOC’s Regulatory Plan (pdf) singles out the regulation at the final rule stage to implement the equal employment provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA” or “ADA Amendments Act”), and the regulations defining Reasonable Factors Other than Age (RFOA) under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) at the proposed rule stage as the most important significant regulatory actions the agency will take.Continue Reading...
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda (pdf) for the coming year. Rules addressing the H-1B lottery process and I-9 forms are among the Agency’s regulatory priorities. According to the agency’s Fall 2009 Regulatory Plan (pdf), a subset of the Agenda which details the regulatory measures the DHS deems most important, the following actions, among others, are slated to take place within the next 12-month period:Continue Reading...
As we reported on November 3 and 4, the National Mediation Board's (NMB) notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) seeking to change the 75-year old process by which union votes are counted in union representation elections under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) is moving full-steam ahead. Members of Littler Mendelson's transportation industry practice group attended the NMB's December 7, 2009 open meeting regarding the NPRM. Chairman Elizabeth Dougherty, Members Harry Hoglander and Linda Puchala, General Counsel Mary Johnson, and Associate General Counsel Kate Dowling were present, and interested parties had the opportunity to present their views on the proposed change to NMB election procedures. The NMB officials did not ask or answer questions or otherwise comment on any of the presentations.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor (DOL) has released its semiannual regulatory agenda (pdf), which lists all of the regulations the agency expects to have under active consideration for promulgation, proposal, or review during the coming one-year period. The DOL also published its Fall 2009 Regulatory Plan (pdf), a subset of the agenda, which details the agency’s regulatory priorities and actions deemed most important and significant. In video remarks posted on the DOL’s website, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stated that the agency is proposing 90 rules to the 2010 regulatory agenda, and outlined the following highlights:Continue Reading...
The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has posted on its website new guidance regarding the COBRA health insurance premium subsidy granted by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA” or “Economic Stimulus”). Under ARRA’s COBRA provisions, the government provides certain qualifying unemployed workers with a 65 percent subsidy of their health insurance premiums for up to nine months. Those individuals who first became eligible to receive this subsidy will begin to lose their coverage starting this month.Continue Reading...
Unfair Labor Practice Charges Increased Slightly, Representation Election Petitions Decreased Significantly in 2009, According to NLRB Report
On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released its year-end report detailing its summary of operations for fiscal year 2009. A copy of this report can be downloaded from the agency’s press release (pdf) on this subject. According to this report, while the agency’s caseload remained steady, union representation election petitions dropped dramatically from the previous year, while unfair labor practices increased slightly. Specifically, the total number of unfair labor practice (ULP) charges and representation petitions filed for FY 2009 came to 25,853, compared to 25,901 in FY 2008. Of the overall case intake, unfair labor practice case intake was 22,941, a 1.96 percent increase from the previous year. However, the total intake for representation cases this year equaled 2,912, a 14.4 percent decline from the previous year’s tally of 3,400. In addition, the NLRB conducted 1,690 initial representation elections in FY 2009, 395 fewer than in 2008, amounting to a nearly 19 percent decrease. The drop in petitions is likely due, at least in part, to the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which, if enacted as currently written, would make it substantially easier for unions to be certified as the employees’ collective bargaining representative. It is possible that unions are holding out hope for EFCA’s passage before initiating any new organizing drives.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) newest Corporate Scheduling Announcement Letter (CSAL) (pdf) indicates for the first time that companies could be subject to an unlimited number of compliance audits per year. The CSAL is intended as a courtesy notice to federal contractors that have at least two facilities that the OFCCP has identified for possible compliance evaluations in the coming fiscal year. The new letter states that “there will be no limit on the number of new compliance evaluations of your company’s facilities that the OFCCP will conduct during a fiscal year.” In the past, the OFCCP limited itself to initiating a yearly maximum of 25 establishment audits per employer.
According Alissa Horvitz, Co-Chair of Littler’s OFCCP Practice Group:
OFCCP is signaling that if it discovers compliance lapses or systemic discrimination at one location, it does not want to be limited in its ability to investigate whether those same concerns exist elsewhere in the company, raising the stakes for all government contractors to be proactive in evaluating their policies, practices, and records in advance of receiving the audit scheduling letter.
This entry was written by Ilyse Schuman.
Photo credit: Jostaphot
According to the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), for the six-month period ending on September 30, 2009, the OIG’s investigative work led to 214 indictments, 221 convictions, and $123.1 million in monetary accomplishments. The OIG’s Semiannual Report to Congress (pdf) is designed to evaluate the “effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and integrity of the DOL’s programs and operations,” and make legislative recommendations to achieve the agency’s goals.
As a result of its auditing activities, the OIG found fault with the DOL’s new iCert system, which is designed to identify inaccuracies in H-1B labor condition applications (LCAs) for foreign workers. The OIG determined that because there were instances of missing electronic checks, manual reviews of the LCAs by analysts are necessary. This process, however, increases the volume of applications, which the OIG claimed may result in analysts not being able to perform a 100 percent review, thus increasing the risk of LCAs being improperly certified. In addition, the OIG identified vulnerabilities and fraud in the DOL’s foreign labor certification (FLC) program.Continue Reading...
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new guidance document, Best Practices for Protecting EMS Responders During Treatment and Transport of Victims of Hazardous Substance Releases (pdf), designed to help employers protect emergency medical service (EMS) workers in situations involving the release of hazardous substances. According to a press release, the compliance guide helps employers determine the type of training and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed in emergency situations by anticipating the EMS responder's role in a worst-case scenario, identifying hazards associated with the responder's assigned duties, and developing an emergency response plan detailing safe accomplishment of those duties.Continue Reading...
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has released an updated version of its Employment Law Guide, an online resource that outlines the major statutes and regulations administered by the DOL that affect the workplace. The Guide is a companion to FirstStep Employment Law Advisor, an interactive information tool provided by the DOL that allows employers to see which laws apply to them. The updated guide reflects changes to the federal minimum wage and addresses the enhanced military family and medical leave entitlements recently provided by the National Defense Authorization Act. In addition, the Guide includes a section on child labor regulations in the agriculture industry and one on the Defense Base Act, which provides workers' compensation benefits to civilian employees working outside the United States on U.S. military bases or under certain contracts with the U.S.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said: “Fair and safe practices in the workplace are a top priority for the Department of Labor, and we want to make it simple for both employers and workers to understand the federal policies that protect them,” adding “Our new Employment Law Guide provides updated and user-friendly information and guidance. We encourage everyone to use it.”
PBGC's Proposed Rule Would Eliminate Most Automatic Waivers and Filing Extensions for Pension Plan Reporting Events
On Monday, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) issued a proposed rule that would, among other things, conform the agency’s reportable events regulation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and other PBGC regulations to the changes made by the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA 2006). According to the PBGC’s overview of the proposed rule published in the Federal Register, the new regulations would do the following:
- amend the PBGC’s reportable events regulation to make the advance reporting threshold test consistent with the PPA 2006 funding rules and PBGC’s new variable rate premium rules;
- eliminate most automatic waivers and filing extensions currently available under the reportable events regulation;
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is seeking comment on its proposal to extend the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) approval of the information collection requirements set forth in the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standard for general industry. OSHA’s information collection requirements under the general requirements for PPE include a hazard assessment of potential workplace hazards necessitating PPE, and verification that the assessment has been conducted. In addition, this standard requires that employers provide training and certification for each worker who is required to wear PPE. OSHA seeks comments on, among other things, whether these information collection requirements are necessary for the proper performance of the Agency’s functions, including whether the information is useful; whether OSHA’s estimate of the burden of the information collection requirements are accurate; the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and ways to minimize the burden on employers who must comply with there requirements.
Comments must be submitted by January 22, 2010 and contain the identification number: OSHA-2009-0028. Comments sent via regular mail, hand delivery, express mail, messenger, or courier service must be provided in triplicate to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2009-0028, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. In the alternative, comments can be made electronically to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or via fax if no longer than 10 pages to: (202) 693-1648.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) annual report released this week, the agency received 93,277 private sector discrimination charges in 2009, the second highest number in 20 years. The Performance and Accountability Report FY 2009 (PAR) (pdf) noted that the number of private sector charges is projected to exceed 100,000 by the end of fiscal year 2010.
According to the PAR, the increase in charges is due in part to the additional statutory authority given to the agency through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. The EEOC claims that it has already felt the effects of the ADAAA, as there was a 10.6 percent rise in the number of ADA charges filed (21,451) compared to the 19,401 ADA charges filed in FY 2008. The agency anticipates a small increase in the number of charges filed with EEOC as a result of the enactment of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), the employment provisions of which take effect on November 21, 2009.Continue Reading...
Both the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have issued final rules published in today’s Federal Register that affect employer-provided pension plans. The EBSA’s final rule (pdf) delays until May 17, 2010 the effective and applicability dates of final rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and parallel provisions in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) dealing with the provision of investment advice to participants and beneficiaries in individual account plans such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The rules, which were issued during the final days of the Bush administration, would have permitted advisers affiliated with mutual funds, brokerage firms and other companies that sell investments to provide investment advice to 401(k) and IRA participants. EBSA’s Assistant Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi has already announced that the agency plans to withdraw and rework this rule, which would have gone into effect on November 18. On January 20, 2009, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel directed agency heads to consider delaying any rule that had not yet taken effect to give the new administration a chance to review the law and policy involved.Continue Reading...
DOL's Wage and Hour Division Issues Guidance on How to Comply with the FMLA and FLSA in Light of Pandemic Flu
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has posted to its website information sheets discussing the interplay between pandemic flu preparation/response and compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Both guidance documents are in question and answer form, and address common wage, hour, and leave issues employers face when employees or their family members become sick with the H1N1 influenza virus or other pandemic flu.
Both fact sheets: Pandemic Flu and the Fair Labor Standards Act: Questions and Answers (pdf) and Pandemic Flu and the Family and Medical Leave Act: Questions and Answers (pdf) can be found here.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a website that contains guidance materials for employees and employers on how to reduce exposure to the H1N1 influenza virus (“swine flu”) in the workplace. Separate fact sheets recommending additional precautions are available for employers and workers in the health care industry.Continue Reading...
On Monday, President Obama issued an executive order to promote the federal government’s hiring of veterans. The executive order, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government, creates an interagency Council on Veterans Employment – chaired by the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs – that will advise the President and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management on the veterans’ employment initiative (“Initiative”) created by the executive order, and serve as a national forum for promoting veterans’ employment opportunities in the executive branch. Under the Initiative, most federal agencies will be required to establish a Veterans Employment Program office that will be responsible for helping veterans find jobs within those agencies. In addition, these offices will be in charge of implementing veteran’s recruitment programs and training programs for veterans with disabilities, providing mandatory annual training to the agency’s human resources personnel and hiring managers, coordinating employment counseling to help match veterans’ career goals with the needs of the agency, and transitioning service members into the workforce, among other responsibilities.
According to a press release, the Initiative “underscores to federal agencies the importance of recruiting and training veterans, aims to increase the employment of veterans within the Executive Branch, and helps recently hired veterans adjust to service in a civilian capacity.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has posted on its website an updated “EEO is the Law” poster (pdf) and supplement (pdf) to reflect changes made by Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which goes into effect November 21, 2009. Title II of GINA prohibits the use of genetic information in employment, prohibits the intentional acquisition of genetic information about applicants and employees, and imposes strict confidentiality requirements. The new posters also revise information in light of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008.
Employers can either print and post the new November 2009 “EEO is the Law” poster, or post the “EEO is the Law” supplement poster alongside the EEOC’s September 2002 “EEO is the Law” or the OFCCP’s August 2008 “EEO is the Law” posters. Information on how to order new posters can be found here.
NMB Election Rule Change Process Accelerates with Announcement of December 7 Meeting and Withdrawal of IAM and AFA Applications
On the heels of its Tuesday announcement of a proposal to accommodate organized labor’s wishes by radically changing the way votes are cast and counted in airline and railroad union elections, the National Mediation Board (NMB) has now scheduled a meeting (pdf) on the subject to take place December 7, 2009. The stated purpose of the meeting is to supplement the comment procedure outlined in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by “providing another opportunity for interested persons to provide their views to the Board on this important matter.”Continue Reading...
On Tuesday, the National Mediation Board (NMB) published in the Federal Register a proposed rule (pdf) to amend its representation election procedure. Upsetting decades of settled policy, Members Harry Hoglander and Linda Puchala, former union officials, have launched a full-court press intended to make it easier for labor organizations to expand union membership in the air and rail industries.
Under the existing and well-settled approach, a majority of employees eligible to vote in representation elections determines the outcome of the election. So, in effect, employees who chose not to participate are counted as “no union” votes. The proposed rule would change this policy to base the voting outcome on the majority of those who actually vote, as is the practice in non NMB-governed industries.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued new guidance in the form of 25 frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help plan administrators and service providers of group health and other welfare benefit plans comply with the expanded requirements for reporting service provider fees and other compensation on Schedule C of the 2009 Form 5500 Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan. The EBSA implemented these requirements – which are effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2010 – as part of a final rule published on November 16, 2007.
According to an EBSA press release, issues covered by the FAQs include the reporting of gifts, entertainment and other non-monetary compensation; compensation to hedge fund investment managers; “look-through” investment funds; mutual fund redemption fees; and ERISA fee recapture accounts.
Earlier guidance on these reporting requirements was released in July 2008.
Last week the Senate confirmed the nominations of Joseph A. Main to be the assistant labor secretary for the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and William E. Spriggs to serve as the DOL’s assistant labor secretary for policy.
Main began his career as a coal miner in 1967, and soon after began working in various local union positions for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). According to a White House press release, Main started working for the UMWA’s safety division in 1976. Main was appointed Administrator of the UMWA’s Occupational Health and Safety department in 1982, and held that position for 22 years. In this capacity, Main testified in 2000 before the House of Representatives’ Sub-Committee on Workforce Protections, calling for increased MSHA inspections and scrutiny of worksites and mine operators, and improved health and safety standards to protect miners.Continue Reading...
Last Thursday President Obama announced has his intent to nominate P. David Lopez to serve as general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to a White House press release, Lopez has worked at the EEOC for 13 years both in the field and at the agency’s headquarters. Lopez presently serves as a supervisory trial attorney with the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. Prior to working for the EEOC, Lopez worked at the Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section, at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1991 to 1994, and was an associate in a private law practice from 1988-1991. Lopez earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1988, and his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Arizona State University in 1985, magna cum laude.
Seventy-seven bus and truck drivers are banned from operating commercial motor vehicles and 84 commercial carriers face enforcement charges as a result of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first national drug and alcohol strike force. During a 10-day period in September, FMCSA safety investigators examined the drug and alcohol safety records of commercial drivers employed by bus companies, including school bus drivers, interstate passenger carriers, hazardous material transporters and general freight long-haul trucking companies. This enforcement action is the first time that the FMCSA has ever proactively looked for operators and drivers that violate the agency’s drug and alcohol regulations.
In a DOT press release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said: “Violators of our drug and alcohol policies have no business driving a commercial vehicle. Programs like the drug and alcohol strike force are helping remove the most dangerous offenders from our roadways.” As a result of the strike force, the cited commercial drivers face civil penalties in addition to being prevented from operating commercial vehicles. The targeted employers are subject to charges that they unlawfully used a driver that has tested positive for illegal drugs and for not instituting a drug and alcohol program, among other violations. According to the FMCSA, among the goals of the strike force is to “identify motor carriers in violation of federal drug and alcohol testing requirements and to remove from the road commercial truck and bus drivers who jump from carrier to carrier to try and evade federal drug and alcohol testing and reporting requirements.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published in today’s Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) (pdf) calling for public comment, data, and other input to help the agency develop a standard to address the fire and explosion hazards associated with combustible dust. For the purposes of the ANPRM, “combustible dust” includes “all combustible particulate solids of any size, shape, or chemical composition that could present a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or other oxidizing medium.”Continue Reading...
EEOC Issues Updated Technical Assistance Document Related to ADA Compliance and Pandemic Preparedness
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued an updated Technical Assistance Document (TAD) – Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act – to address how employers may prepare their workplaces for pandemic influenza outbreaks and still remain in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The TAD was amended in response to employers’ frequently asked questions about workplace preparation for, and reaction to, outbreaks of the H1N1 virus, which has become more widespread in recent months.Continue Reading...
Patricia Shiu took the helm of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) this week. The OFCCP is the DOL sub-agency charged with administering and enforcing three laws that prohibit discrimination and require federal contractors and subcontractors to implement affirmative action plans. Shiu was named as the new OFCCP director in August. Her current position within the DOL does not require a Senate confirmation. However, when the DOL’s Employment Standards Administration (ESA) – the umbrella agency within the DOL that encompasses the OFCCP along with three other sub agencies – is abolished, Shiu will report directly to the Secretary of Labor. Had Shiu taken her job after the dissolution of the ESA, she would likely have had to face a formal Senate confirmation process. At this point, it is unclear what title Shiu will hold after the ESA’s dissolution.
Prior to taking the job at the OFCCP, Shiu served as the Vice President for Programs at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) in San Francisco. Shiu has also worked as the director of the Society’s Work and Family Project, and lobbied for the passage of California’s Family Rights Act and its regulations. In 1993, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley appointed Shiu to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Reviewing Authority. In addition, Shiu is a former member of NELA’s Executive Board, and served as one of its vice presidents.
Shiu’s advocacy of family leave and employment anti-discrimination issues makes it likely that she will champion the pending Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12, S. 182), which, among other things, would reinstate the OFCCP’s discarded Equal Opportunity survey. The EO survey allowed the agency to gather certain employment information from federal contractors and subcontractors related to their Affirmative Action Programs, personnel activity and compensation. The legislation also provides the OFCCP with additional investigative methodologies to use in performing compensation analysis. As head of the OFCCP, Shiu will also be responsible for hiring and training a projected 200 new compliance officers.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has awarded $723,000 in grants to various groups nationwide to help combat immigration-related employment discrimination. These grants, administered by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), will range from $48,000 to $87,000 for each of the 12 named recipients. According to a press release, these funds will be used to assist discrimination victims; conduct seminars for workers, employers and immigration service providers; distribute educational materials in various languages; and place advertisements in local communities through both mainstream and ethnic media to educate workers and employers about their rights.
In a statement, Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said: “[a]warding grants to professional and community-based organizations better enables us to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities under federal immigration law,” adding, “[o]ur grant recipients, who are well known and respected in their communities, will collaborate with us to prevent immigration-related discrimination in the workplace.”
The twelve groups slated to receive DOJ funding for the immigration-related anti-discrimination initiative are: the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Civil Rights Division; Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; Catholic Charities of Dallas; Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Colorado Legal Services; Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA); National Farm Worker Service Center; National Immigration Law Center (NILC); New York City Human Rights Commission; Texas RioGrande Legal Aid; University of Iowa; and the Washington Farm Labor Association.
Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that with the increased 2010 fiscal year DOJ budget, the agency intended to substantially enlarge the Civil Rights Division and improve enforcement of antidiscrimination laws.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has posted to its website three technical assistance documents for contractors. These guides do not create any new legal requirements, but rather are intended to serve as basic resources for contractors and subcontractors that are subject to laws enforced by the agency.
An updated version of the Technical Assistance Guide for Federal Construction Contractors (pdf) is intended only for government contractors who have construction contracts or subcontracts, including contractors who have federally assisted construction contracts. According to the OFCCP, this document is designed to help these contractors and subcontractors understand their contractual obligation to comply with the laws administered by OFCCP; understand the role of the OFCCP in enforcing federal equal employment opportunity and affirmative action laws that apply to federal contractors and subcontractors; develop written affirmative action programs where appropriate; implement the affirmative action steps that are described in the Standard Federal Equal Employment Specifications; and prepare for an OFCCP compliance evaluation.
A second guide is designed for non-construction contractors and subcontractors who are nonetheless subject to laws enforced by the OFCCP. Such entities include subcontractors who furnish supplies or services that are necessary to perform a federal contract. The Supply & Service Technical Assistance Guide (pdf) provides information on these supply and service contractors’ obligations to comply with OFCCP-enforced nondiscrimination and affirmative action laws, and discusses how to development written affirmative action plans and to prepare for a compliance evaluation.
The final compliance document now available online is a New Contractors’ Guide (pdf). According to the OFCCP, this guide is intended “to introduce new contractors to their EEO obligations, the enforcement process, and the array of resources OFCCP offers to assist contractors in meeting their obligations.”
EEOC Releases Proposed Regulations to Implement the Equal Employment Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published in today’s Federal Register (pdf) its proposed revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and accompanying interpretive guidance in order to implement the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). Last week, the EEOC published on its website a question and answer guide regarding these proposed rules.
Effective January 1 of this year, the ADAAA rejected a line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the definition of “disability” under the ADA. The ADAAA significantly expands the scope of ADA coverage, enabling more individuals alleging disability-based employment discrimination to establish that they are disabled under the ADA. To that end, Congress directed the EEOC to revise its ADA regulations to comply with the ADAAA.Continue Reading...
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a question and answer guide addressing the proposed regulations drafted in response to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). On Wednesday, the EEOC approved the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) by a vote of 2-1 along party lines. Text of the proposed regulations is slated for publication in the Federal Register next week, to be followed by a 60-day public comment period.
The ADAAA, which went into effect on January 1, 2009, significantly expands the definition of “disability” under the ADA, allowing more individuals to fall under the ADA’s protection. Although the ADAAA, like the ADA, defines “disability” as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment, the ADAAA changes how each of these components of the definition should be interpreted. According to a Notice issued by the EEOC, the ADAAA:Continue Reading...
On Monday President Obama announced his intent to nominate Chai Feldblum to serve as one of the five members of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Yesterday, her nomination was sent to the Senate for confirmation. Feldblum is currently a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she has taught since 1991. According to her faculty bio, Feldblum was instrumental in drafting and negotiating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. She also helped draft and negotiate the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and various medical privacy bills and regulations. In addition, Feldblum is the Director of Georgetown Law Center’s Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic, and is co-director of Workplace Flexibility 2010, an initiative aimed to advance a national policy on workplace flexibility. Feldblum has written a number of articles and books advocating disability and gay rights, and has on several occasions testified before Congress to promote the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and employment flexibility to benefit older workers, among other workplace issues.
Feldblum earned her undergraduate degree from Barnard College, and her law degree from Harvard Law School. Feldblum has clerked for Judge Frank M. Coffin on the First Circuit Court of Appeals and for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court.
If confirmed by the Senate, Feldblum would be the third Democrat to sit on the EEOC panel. Acting Chairman Stuart Ishimaru and Acting Vice Chair Christine Griffin are both Democrats, while Commissioner Constance Barker is currently the lone Republican serving on the Commission. Republican Naomi Earp, who served as EEOC Chair during the Bush Administration, resigned in the Spring. In July, President Obama nominated Democrat Jacqueline Berrien to serve as the new EEOC Chair. Acting Vice Chair Griffin – who has been confirmed to serve as the deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management – is allowed to remain on the Commission until a successor is approved.
Labor Secretary Solis Reaffirms Commitment to EFCA's Passage, DOL Enforcement Efforts in AFL-CIO Speech
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told attendees of the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in Pittsburgh today that she will work with the White House to “make the strongest case possible for the Employee Free Choice Act” and reiterated her position that the Department of Labor (DOL) “is once again back in the enforcement business.” Her speech also outlined recent DOL enforcement efforts, and proposed regulations to reform the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program.
With respect to DOL enforcement, Solis announced that the agency is “adding nearly 670 additional investigators, inspectors, and other program staff, returning our worker protection efforts to a level not seen since 2001. So far, these resources has allowed the Wage and Hour Division to ensure that contractors on federal stimulus projects pay their workers the prevailing wage rates that they are entitled to.” Solis emphasized that worker safety is a chief concern, noting that since July, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has completed 689 inspections and issued nearly 1,100 violations resulting in $1.6 million in fines.
Solis touched on immigration reform as well, explaining that the DOL is proposing to restructure the H-2A visa program. According to Solis, the proposed regulations “will reverse what I believe are unjust wage issues and working conditions for vulnerable U.S. and temporary foreign workers,” and “will ensure that before we import temporary workers to meet some labor shortages, U.S. workers have first dibs.”
As for the beleaguered Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), Solis claimed that “it’s not enough to have fair wages and a safe workplace – workers also need a voice on the job!” To that end, Solis pledged to support EFCA, as well as the use of Project Labor Agreements for large federally funded projects.
President Obama is scheduled to speak at the AFL-CIO convention tomorrow.
In a recent New York Times article, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. revealed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) intends to substantially increase the Civil Rights Division and enforcement of antidiscrimination laws. The Civil Rights Division prosecutes violations of criminal civil rights statutes and enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, and national origin. Such laws enforced by this division include the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Immigration Reform and Control Act.
According to the article, the fiscal year 2010 budget requests an increase of approximately $22 million for the Civil Rights Division, up 18 percent from the prior year. The Division seeks to hire more than 50 civil rights attorneys, a significant boost to this department.
The expansion of the Civil Rights Division and its enforcement efforts is part of a greater predicted trend for this administration. Budgets for the Department of Labor (DOL) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have similarly received substantial funding increases for fiscal year 2010. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has emphasized that stepping up enforcement of workplace laws is a top priority, particularly for the Wage and Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For example, the Wage and Hour Division – the DOL sub-agency responsible for enforcing, among other laws, federal minimum wage, overtime, and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – is expected to hire more than 200 new compliance officers for this purpose. Therefore, employers can anticipate increased scrutiny from these agencies, and should take the necessary steps to comply with workplace laws before facing an agency audit or inspection.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a proposed rule (pdf) rescinding regulations instituting safe harbor procedures for employers that receive no-match letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA) or notice of suspect documents letters from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding their employees’ authorization to work in this country. The No-Match rule – which has been enjoined by a lawsuit filed in 2007 and therefore never implemented – provides that No-Match letters be accompanied by a set of procedures for employers to follow to address the flagged identification discrepancies and avoid a finding that they have constructive knowledge of a worker’s illegal status and thus civil and criminal liability under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Shortly after this rule was introduced, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) filed a lawsuit challenging, among other things, the sufficiency of the No-Match letter to put an employer on notice of a potential illegal hire. A U.S. District Court in California granted the plaintiff’s preliminary injunction blocking the rule’s enforcement. In 2008, the DHS issued a supplemental final rule clarifying certain aspects of the No-Match rule, but did not change the safe-harbor procedures. Neither the final No-Match rule nor the supplemental final rule have been enforced.Continue Reading...
In anticipation of a resurgence of the H1N1 (“Swine”) flu, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued recommendations and strategies for employers to follow in order to minimize any potential outbreak. The Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009-2010 Influenza Season outlines steps employers should take in advance of the flu season, strategies to employ in the event an outbreak becomes severe, and guidelines to use in determining when an employee who is absent from work with the flu should return to the job.
Recommendations include reviewing or establishing a flexible influenza pandemic plan; having an understanding of the organization’s normal seasonal absenteeism rate; instituting more flexible sick-leave and telecommuting policies, especially in the event of school or childcare closings; encouraging seasonal flu vaccinations as well as the H1N1 vaccination when it becomes available; permitting higher-risk employees to work from home; and actively screening employees who report to work if the severity of the outbreak increases. The guidance also suggests that organizations assess their essential business functions to determine the minimum level of staffing needed to remain operational, and plan accordingly.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has revised a portion of its Compliance Manual addressing the timeliness of filing pay discrimination claims in light of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was enacted on January 29 of this year. This law overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), which required plaintiffs to file a charge of compensation discrimination within 180 days (300 in jurisdictions that have a local or state law prohibiting the same form of pay discrimination) of the discriminatory act or decision. The new law reinstates the “paycheck rule,” which allows courts to consider the receipt of a paycheck or other benefits stemming from the initial discriminatory pay decision to constitute a separate discriminatory act for statute of limitations purposes. The revised Compliance Manual reflects this shift in section 2-IV C.4, Compensation Discrimination, by stating that the period for submitting a claim of pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) begins when any of the following situations occur:Continue Reading...
The Obama Administration has selected Patricia A. Shiu, a public interest employment lawyer, to head the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP is the DOL sub-agency charged with administering and enforcing three laws that prohibit discrimination and require federal contractors and subcontractors to implement affirmative action plans.
Shiu is currently the Vice President for Programs at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) in San Francisco. According to biographical information posted by the National Employment Law Association (NELA), Shiu joined the Employment Law Center in 1983, and has focused on employment discrimination and family and medical leave cases. She has also served as the director of the Society’s Work and Family Project, and lobbied for the passage of California’s Family Rights Act and its regulations. In 1993, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley appointed Shiu to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Reviewing Authority. In addition, Shiu is a former member of NELA’s Executive Board, and served as one of its vice presidents.Continue Reading...
DOL Issues Proposed Rule Requiring Federal Contractors to Notify Employees of Their Rights Under Federal Labor Law
Pursuant to President Obama’s Executive Order (EO): Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws issued on January 30, 2009, the Department of Labor (DOL) has published in today’s Federal Register a proposed rule requiring government contractors and subcontractors to post notices outlining employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The proposed rule describes what these notices should include, which entities are covered, and explains the sanctions, penalties, and other remedies that may be imposed in the event of noncompliance.
The EO required that most federal departments and agencies include in their contracts a provision requiring contractors and subcontractors to post “in conspicuous places in and about [their] plants and offices where employees covered by the [NLRA] engage in activities relating to the performance of the contract,” notice of an employee’s rights under federal labor law. The EO specifically exempts two types of federal contracts from triggering the new posting: collective bargaining agreements and purchases under the simplified acquisition threshold, currently $100,000. The proposed rule establishes standards and procedures for implementing this EO, to be codified in subchapter D, Part 471 of Volume 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.Continue Reading...
DOT Regulation on Observed Return-to-Work and Follow-Up Drug Testing Goes into Effect August 31, 2009
After a lengthy public comment period and legal challenges, a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing regulation requiring employees of aviation, railroad, motor carrier, mass transit, pipeline and maritime industries who previously failed a drug test to partially disrobe and be directly observed during return-to-work and follow-up tests will go into effect August 31, 2009. Continue reading at Littler's Workplace Privacy Counsel blog.
NLRB Order Provides Insight into How UNITE HERE, Workers United Representation Disputes Will be Handled
A recent order issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) may herald the agency’s handling of other petitions seeking to resolve questions of union representation brought about by the UNITE HERE / Workers United split. The Board’s Order, issued July 21, 2009, affirmed the Regional Director’s decision issued July 12 dismissing the employer’s petition. Although the Board’s apparent adoption of a unified response to petitions filed in the wake of the UNITE HERE / Workers United split may provide some guidance as to how the Board will address these questions in the future, its chosen course of action avoids any discussion of whether a schism in the union occurred, and should lay the groundwork for potential federal court challenges.
In the case at issue, the employer, Royal Laundry, was faced with competing claims by UNITE HERE and the Western States Regional Joint Board (WSRJB) to represent its employees. Each union claimed to be the legitimate union representative of the bargaining unit. Prior to this, the employees had been members of Local 75 of UNITE HERE, but their executive board chose to endorse a petition to disaffiliate from UNITE HERE and join other Joint Boards and Locals to form a new union, Workers United. In the process, the local’s executive board retained its shop stewards and Joint Board staff representatives.Continue Reading...
Last week the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a technical assistance document outlining an employee’s rights and obligations when presented with a severance package in exchange for a waiver of employment discrimination claims. The document, Understanding Waivers of Discrimination Claims in Employee Severance Agreements, explains in a question and answer format when a waiver of rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Equal Pay Act (EPA) would be deemed valid. The document places special emphasis on waivers of rights under the ADEA by clarifying the seven factors that must be satisfied under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) for an ADEA waiver to be considered “knowing and voluntary.” The document also presents a checklist for employees in the event they are offered a severance agreement and a sample waiver form.
President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Jacqueline Berrien as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Berrien currently serves as Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). According to the White House press release on her nomination, Berrien worked as a Program Officer in the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program from 2001 to 2004. Before that, Berrien was an assistant counsel with LDF and directed the Fund’s voting rights and political participation work. According to biographical information provided by the NAACP, as assistant counsel Berrien represented African-American voters in proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U.S. District Courts. Prior to working for the LDF, Berriern was a staff attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union. Additionally, Berrien has taught in trial advocacy programs at Fordham and Harvard law schools and served on the adjunct faculty of New York Law School. After graduating law school, Berrien clerked for the Honorable U.W. Clemon, the first African-American appointed to the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama.
Berrien earned her law degree from Harvard Law School, where she served as a General Editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College.
Agency Councils Issue Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement Executive Order Promoting Project Labor Agreements
On Tuesday, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council (Councils) published in the Federal Register (pdf) a proposed rule implementing President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) encouraging the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). Issued on February 6 of this year, EO 13502: Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects (pdf) declares it the policy of the federal government “to encourage executive agencies to consider requiring the use of project labor agreements in connection with large-scale construction projects . . .” Specifically, this EO states:Continue Reading...
On July 10, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a memorandum (pdf) to the heads of executive departments and agencies encouraging the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) until a final rule implementing President Obama’s Executive Order on this subject is implemented. On February 6 of this year, Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 13502: Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects (pdf), which declared it the policy of the federal government “to encourage executive agencies to consider requiring the use of project labor agreements in connection with large-scale construction projects . . .” Specifically, the EO stated, in pertinent part:Continue Reading...
Tammy McCutchen, Former Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division and Littler Shareholder, Comments on the Abolishment of the Employment Standards Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor
The Employment Standards Administration (or “ESA” in DOL-speak) is not well-known outside the Beltway and the community of wage and hour practitioners. ESA is an umbrella organization responsible for management and oversight of four subordinate agencies:
- The Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”)
- The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”)
- The Office of Labor-Management Standards (“OLMS”), and
- The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (“OWCP”)
The Assistant Secretary of ESA and the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division are both positions whose incumbents must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Directors of the OFCCP, OLMS and OWCP are appointed by the Secretary of Labor.
On July 8, 2009, Acting Assistant Secretary of ESA, Shelby Hallmark, announced that the ESA will be abolished in November, with the leaders of the four agencies – WHD, OFCCP, OLMS and OWCP reporting directly to the Secretary of Labor. Continue reading at Littler's Wage & Hour Counsel blog.
On July 1, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated a significant new audit initiative by issuing Notices of Inspection (“NOIs”) to 652 businesses, which is more in one day than ICE issued throughout the entire last fiscal year. Continue reading at Littler's Global Immigration Counsel blog.
In a public meeting held Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted 2-1 to revise its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to conform with changes to the law made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The proposed revisions will now be forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review before they can be formally published in the Federal Register.Continue Reading...
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) has issued an opinion letter (FMLA2009-1-A) clarifying that an employer’s internal notification policy regarding employee attendance can be enforced against an employee attempting to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) so long as compliance with the notice policy is practicable given the employee’s particular circumstances. In a previous opinion letter dated January 15, 1999 (FMLA-101) the DOL had concluded that employers’ call-in/no show policies and related disciplinary measures could not be applied so long as the employee provided notice within two business days that the leave was FMLA-related, regardless of whether such notice could have been provided sooner. To the extent that FMLA-101 created a blanket “two-day rule” for providing FMLA notice, the WHD is rescinding it.Continue Reading...
Within the next six months, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) expects to develop and/or issue six regulations affecting workplace laws and practices. According to the agency’s spring regulatory agenda released on Monday, regulations implementing the employment provisions of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) are expected to be issued by the end of this month. The EEOC’s proposed GINA regulations were published earlier this year.Continue Reading...
A number of federal agencies including the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) are requesting information in advance of a future rulemaking on group health plans. Specifically, the EBSA’s Request for Information (RFI) seeks input on questions related to the mental health parity provisions made by the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). The RFI was published in the April 28, 2009 edition of the Federal Register.Continue Reading...
The Department of Labor (DOL) has published in today’s Federal Register its semiannual regulatory agenda. (pdf) The agenda lists all regulations the agency expects will be under review or development until April 2010, as well as those completed within the past six months. Specifically, the document lists 13 items in the pre-rule, proposed rule, final rule, and long-term action stages, along with a brief description, review timetable, comment period, and agency contact information for each regulation.
Of the 13 regulations, four are listed as being under section 610 review. Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) requires each federal agency to develop a plan for the periodic review of its rules that have or will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Those regulations currently under such review by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) include the bloodborne pathogens and methylene chloride standards. Also included in this review category are the explosives and blasting standard in the pre-rule stage at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the plan assets – participant contributions regulation under review by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) has announced that it plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding revisions to the Labor Organization Officer and Employee Report (LM-30) financial disclosure form. Form LM-30, which had been revised in 2007, requires union officers and employees (except employees performing exclusively clerical or custodial services) to report certain financial transactions and financial interests in order to make public any actual or potential conflict between their personal financial interests and their obligations to the labor organization and its members. The proposed rulemaking will focus on the changes made by the 2007 regulatory revisions which, the agency claims, dramatically altered the old Form LM-30 and instructions that had not substantially changed in over 40 years.
The new LM-30 raised the ire of organized labor, as it imposed new requirements and expanded the form from two to nine pages. The AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit – AFL-CIO v. Chao – in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to enjoin the use of the new form, alleging that the DOL lacked the authority to impose the new rule, and that the form’s expanded requirements are arbitrary and capricious. This case is still pending. The revised rule will address the scope and extent of the reporting obligations, and the questions raised by the recent litigation. Until these questions are resolved, the OLMS will accept either the old Form LM-30 or the new one for compliance purposes.
Labor advocate and founding executive director of the American Rights at Work (ARW) Mary Beth Maxwell is joining the Department of Labor (DOL) as a senior advisor to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. According to an ARW press release, Maxwell will work with the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families, the Obama Administration’s new initiative aimed at “restoring labor standards, improving workplace safety, enhancing work and family balance, protecting retirement security, and helping protect middle- and working-class incomes.”
Maxwell has been a vocal advocate of the beleaguered Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), and was widely rumored to be Obama’s pick to serve as Secretary of Labor. Maxwell is most known for her work at the ARW, a nonprofit advocacy organization begun in 2003 whose mission is to “promote the freedom of workers to join a union and bargain collectively.” Solis herself has ties to the ARW, having once served as the organization’s treasurer and board member. Prior to working at the ARW, Maxwell served as National Field Director for Jobs with Justice, an organization affiliated with the Service Employees International Union with which Secretary Solis is closely aligned. Her other positions have included acting as Deputy Field Director for NARAL, directing the pro-choice organization’s electoral, legislative, media, and fundraising training programs for local affiliates. Maxwell has also worked as Field Director for the United States Student Association.
President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security responsible for overseeing lawful immigration to this country. To that end, the USCIS adjudicates, among other things, the petitions and applications of potential immigrants and guest workers.
Born in Cuba, Mayorkas is currently a litigation partner in a private law firm. Prior to entering private practice, Mayorkas served as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, where – at the age of 39 – he began as the youngest U.S. Attorney in the country. In this position, Mayorkas prosecuted a wide variety of cases, including those involving public corruption, investment fraud, civil rights violations, high-tech and computer-related crime, organized crime, environmental crime, and international money laundering. In addition, the National Law Journal has named Mayorkas as one of the "50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America."
President Obama has announced his plans to nominate Craig Becker and Mark Pearce as board members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board). The five-member Board serves as a quasi-judicial body in deciding cases under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Board Members are appointed to five-year terms, with the term of one member expiring each year. The Board traditionally consists of three members selected by the party controlling the White House, and two from the other party. Becker and Pearce, along with Chairwoman Liebman, would constitute the three Democratic-selected seats. Assuming President Obama follows precedent, only one Republican Board seat will remain vacant. When and how that seat will be filled is not clear.Continue Reading...
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a technical assistance document outlining employer best practices for avoiding discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities. The document, Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, supplements Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, a guidance document the EEOC released on this topic in 2007. The earlier document specifically examines how federal anti-discrimination laws apply to workers with certain family caregiving obligations. The new guidance provides suggestions for best practices that an employer can proactively adopt to potentially lessen the chances of committing EEO violations against caregiving employees. Suggestions include implementing personal or sick leave policies that allow employees to use leave to care for sick family members, flexible work arrangements, part-time opportunities with proportional compensation and benefits, and equal-opportunity policies that address unlawful discrimination against caregivers.
On April 20, 2009, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided its second update regarding the H-1B cap count. USCIS has received approximately 44,000 H-1B petitions subject to the regular cap of 65,000. This represents only 1,000 additional filings since April 13th and means that new H-1B petitions may still be filed. Continue reading at Littler's Global Immigration Counsel blog.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, April 22 to discuss discrimination against employees with caregiving responsibilities. At this meeting, the agency will release a new document, Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. This document will supplement formal guidance the EEOC issued on this topic in 2007.
The meeting will be held at the EEOC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters at 131 M Street, N.E. at 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). The scheduled panelists include: Cynthia Calvert, Deputy Director, The Center for WorkLife Law; Karen Minatelli, Director of Work and Family Programs, National Partnership for Women and Families; Heather Boushey, Senior Economist, Center for American Progress; and Jeff Norris, President, Equal Employment Advisory Council.
On April 16, 2009, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that the effective date of the Federal Contractor E-Verify Rule will be delayed until June 30, 2009. To that end, the federal government will include the new E-Verify clause in affected contracts on or after June 30, 2009. The government will also take steps to reach out to affected contractors to bi-laterally modify existing affected contracts on or after that date. Continue reading on Littler's Global Immigration Counsel blog.
President Obama has picked Thomasina Rogers as his nominee for Chair of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (“OSHRC” or “Review Commission”). The OSHRC is a quasi-judicial independent federal agency created to decide contests of citations or penalties resulting from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace inspections. As Chair, Rogers would be in charge of the administrative operations of the Review Commission, as well as participate with other commissioners in case adjudication.
Rogers was appointed to the Review Commission in 1998 by former President Bill Clinton, and served as Chair from 1999-2002. She was reappointed in April 2003. In 1994, Rogers served as a chair of the Administrative Conference of the U.S. until its dissolution at the end of 1995. In addition, Rogers served for seven years in the Federal Government's Senior Executive Service (SES). While at the SES, Rogers worked as legal counsel to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where she had primary responsibility for managing the development of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) employment regulations.
Rogers is a graduate of Northwestern University and Columbia University School of Law.
President Obama has chosen Lorelei Boylan as his nominee for Administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is a sub-agency within the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment Standards Administration (ESA) responsible for enforcing federal labor laws concerning, among other topics, minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, youth employment and special employment, family and medical leave, migrant workers, lie detector tests, worker protections in certain temporary worker programs, and the prevailing wages for government service and construction contracts.
Boylan currently serves as the Director of Strategic Enforcement at the New York State Department of Labor, Labor Standards Division. According to a White House press release, Boylan supervises the Apparel Industry/Fair Wages Task Force, a state-wide specialized unit charged with investigating low-wage industries for wage and hour violations. Prior to heading the Task Force, Boylan spearheaded the Bureau of Immigrant Workers’ Rights, a newly formed division of New York’s DOL, where she developed policies to assist those with limited English proficiency. Prior to working for New York’s DOL, Boylan practiced law as an Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Attorney General’s Office. She was hired under the Honor’s Program to represent the State in defensive and affirmative litigation. In this capacity, Boylan investigated businesses for violations of state and federal labor laws and represented the Department of Health in New York State Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals. Before becoming a lawyer, Boylan worked for several years for a global monitoring company, counseling firms on compliance with state and federal labor laws, OSHA, immigration and tax laws.
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has appointed Jordan Barab as deputy assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Barab will also serve as acting assistant secretary for OSHA as of April 13.Continue Reading...
President Obama has chosen Jane Oates as his nominee for assistant secretary of the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The ETA is the DOL’s sub-agency tasked with administering federal government job training and worker dislocation programs, federal grants to states for public employment service programs, and unemployment insurance benefits. The ETA provides these services primarily through state and local workforce development systems.
Currently, Oates is the executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and senior policy advisor to Governor Jon S. Corzine. Oates also serves on the State Employment and Training Commission (SETC), the State Commission on Adult Literacy and Education, New Jersey High School Redesign Task Force, the Public Sector Work Group and chairs the State Educators Health Benefits Commission and the Governor’s Schools Board of Overseers. Before taking her current position in 2006, Oates served as the senior policy advisor on higher education, national service, adult literacy, education research and workforce issues to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released its revised Field Operations Manual (FOM). (pdf) According to an OSHA news release, this document, formerly known as the Field Inspection Reference Manual, “constitutes OSHA's general enforcement policy and procedures for use by the agency's field offices in conducting inspections, issuing citations and proposing penalties. It is the guiding document for OSHA's compliance officers, whose mission is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women.”Continue Reading...
Yesterday the immigration community was surprised to learn that while the 20,000 H-1B numbers set aside for the advanced U.S. degree cap were nearly all accounted for, only two-thirds of the 65,000 regular H-1B cap numbers were used up. This means that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to accept applications for initial H-1B status more than a week after the H-1B filing season opened up on April 1st. This is in stark contrast to the 133,000 H-1B petitions received within the first two days of filing last year. Continue reading on Littler's Global Immigration Counsel blog.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued Notice 2009-27, which provides guidance on the COBRA premium subsidy that was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), or stimulus package. ARRA, among other things, includes a provision that authorizes a 65 percent federal subsidy for continuing health care coverage under COBRA for employees who qualify as “assistance eligible.”
The IRS guidance provides 27 pages of detailed questions and answers on issues including who qualifies as an assistance eligible individual, what constitutes an involuntary termination for purposes of the definition of an assistance eligible individual, how to calculate a premium reduction, and which types of coverage are suitable for premium reductions, among other topics.
For more information on the IRS guidance, see Littler’s ASAP: IRS Clarifies Key Provisions of the New COBRA Subsidy by: Nancy L. Ober.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has posted on its website expanded employer guidance on the premium Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) subsidies provided for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), or stimulus plan. A significant portion of this Q & A guidance, FAQs For Employers About COBRA Premium Reduction Under ARRA, clarifies the new COBRA notice requirements under ARRA. ARRA requires employers and plan sponsors to notify certain current and former plan participants and their beneficiaries about the reduction in health premium costs. Earlier this month, the DOL posted on its website model notices that an employer can provide to current and former employees to comply with the ARRA notice provisions.
The expanded guidance provides a number of examples to help employers determine who should receive the full version of the general, abbreviated general and alternative notices, and who should receive the notice in connection with extended election periods. Other portions of the Q & A address more general topics concerning the COBRA subsidy, such as which plans are subject to the premium reduction provisions, and who is eligible to receive this benefit.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a new guidance document on its respiratory protection standard. The document, Assigned Protection Factors for the Revised Respiratory Protection Standard, (pdf) provides employers with information for selecting respirators for employees exposed to airborne contaminants.
The Respiratory Protection standard applies to general industry, construction, longshoring, shipyard and marine terminal workplaces, and governs fit testing, medical evaluations, specific training and proper respirator use.
OSHA revised its existing Respiratory Protection standard in 2006 to add Assigned Protection Factors (APF) and Maximum Use Concentration (MUC) provisions. The APF is the workplace level of respiratory protection that a respirator or class of respirators is able to provide to workers. Employers use APF numbers to select the appropriate class of respirators to provide the necessary level of protection against airborne contaminants. According to OSHA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Donald G. Shalhoub: “proper respirator selection prevents exposure to hazardous contaminants and is an important component of an effective respiratory protection program. . . . This guidance document serves as another useful resource for protecting the health and safety of workers at risk for respiratory illnesses.”
The following summarizes some federal agency happenings this week:
Phyllis Borzi is Tapped to Serve as Assistant Secretary of DOL’s EBSA
President Obama has nominated Phyllis C. Borzi to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). The EBSA is the organization within the DOL whose mission it is to educate and assist the 150 million Americans covered by more than 679,000 private retirement plans, 2.5 million health plans, and similar numbers of other welfare benefit plans; as well as plan sponsors and members of the employee benefits community.Continue Reading...