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.
Borzi currently works as a research professor in the Department of Health Policy, School of Public Health and Health Services, The George Washington University Medical Center, where she is involved in research and policy analysis involving employee benefit plans, the uninsured, managed care, and legal barriers to the development of health information technology. For 16 years until January 1995, Borzi served as pension and employee benefit counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations of the Committee on Education and Labor. During the Clinton administration, Borzi served on working groups dealing with insurance reform, workers’ compensation and employer coverage.
Borzi is a charter member and a former president of the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, and served as a member of its Board of Governors from 2000-2008. Borzi is also a former member of the Advisory Committee of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and a current member of the Advisory Board of the Pension Research Council, the Wharton School, the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Board of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER). In 2008, Borzi was appointed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to serve as a public member of the Administrative Committee for the Goodyear VEBA, an entity that was judicially established pursuant to a negotiated settlement agreement between the company, the Steelworkers and class representatives for the Steelworkers retirees.
DOL Withdraws Its Interpretation of the FLSA Regarding Relocation Expenses Incurred by H-2A and H-2B Workers
In a notice published in today’s Federal Register, the DOL announced that it is withdrawing for further consideration its interpretation that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its implementing regulations do not require employers to reimburse workers under the H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant visa programs for relocation expenses even when such costs result in the workers being paid less than the minimum wage. The interpretation was published on December 18 and 19, 2008 regarding the H-2A and H-2B programs, respectively.
The NLRB Makes its Pilot ADR Program Permanent
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has decided to make permanent a pilot alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program it established in 2005. This voluntary program was instituted for the resolution of unfair labor practice cases. According to NLRB Chairman Wilma Leibman:
ADR programs provide the parties with several benefits, including savings in time and money, greater control over the outcome of their cases, and more creative, flexible, and customized resolutions of their disputes. Settlement discussions conducted with the assistance of an ADR neutral may broaden resolution options, often by going beyond the legal issues in controversy, and may be particularly useful where traditional settlement negotiations are likely to be unsuccessful or have already been unsuccessful. Our experience with the pilot ADR program demonstrates that participation in the program provides the parties with a process for expeditiously resolving their disputes, which serves to effectuate the purposes of the Act.
IRS Announces that Employees Who Accept Offer to Resign or Retire in Lieu of Layoff are Eligible for New COBRA Subsidy
In a March 24 webcast sponsored by the DOL, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stated that individuals who accept their employer’s offer to resign or retire to avoid further layoffs are to be considered involuntarily terminated, and therefore eligible for the new COBRA subsidies made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), otherwise known as the stimulus package.