HHS Names Mental Health Professionals to New Committee

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today the appointment of national experts to guide a new initiative to better serve Americans with serious mental illness.

The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) was established by the 21st Century Cures Act to improve federal coordination of efforts that address the pressing needs of adults with serious mental illness and children and youth with serious emotional disturbance.  Individuals with these conditions too often lack access to evidence-based treatment and supports and experience high rates of suicide, unemployment, homelessness, criminal justice involvement and other negative outcomes.

The ISMICC is composed of senior leaders from 10 federal agencies including HHS, the departments of Justice, Labor, Veteran Affairs, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor and the Social Security Administration along with 14 non-federal public members.

In response to a call for interested participants, HHS received over 200 nominations from outstanding individuals offering to serve on this important body.  The non-federal membership will represent mental health researchers, providers, patients, families, judges, law enforcement officers, and other professionals working with individuals living with serious mental illness.

The first meeting will be Aug. 31.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Latest EEO Digest Includes Article on Disparate Treatment Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the latest edition of its federal sector Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEO Digest), which is available on the EEOC’s website.

This edition (Fiscal Year 2017, Volume 3) features a special article titled “Establishing Disparate Treatment Discrimination.” The comprehensive article discusses the analysis of disparate treatment discrimination claims and recent Commission decisions.

“Unlawful discrimination based on disparate treatment is one of the most common issues raised in federal sector EEO complaints,” explained Carlton M. Hadden, director of the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO). “This article is an excellent resource to help stakeholders understand the burdens of proof in a disparate treatment discrimination complaint.”

The EEO Digest, a quarterly publication prepared by OFO, features a wide variety of recent Commis­sion decisions and federal court cases of interest. The Digest also includes hyperlinks so that stakeholders can easily access the full decisions which have been summarized. This edition of the Digest contains summaries of noteworthy decisions issued by EEOC, including cases involving: Agency Processing, Attorneys’ Fees, Class Complaints, Compensatory Damages, Dismissals, Findings on the Merits, Official Time, Remedies, Sanctions, Settlement Agreements, Stating a Claim, Summary Judgment, and Timeliness.

The summaries are neither intended to be exhaustive or definitive as to the selected subject matter, nor are they to be given the legal weight of case law in citations.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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DOL Seeks 18-Month Extension of Fiduciary Rule

Enforcement of its Conflict of Interest Fiduciary Rule was set to begin on Jan. 1, 2018, but the Department of Labor (DOL) yesterday submitted a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) seeking amendments to three of the rule’s exemptions that would push back enforcement by 18 months to July 1, 2019.

After a Trump-era delay from April 7 to June 9 of this year, the rule now requires investment advisers to act as fiduciaries and place their clients’ interests above their own; in other words, not to just push products with the highest commissions. Enforcement was paused until 2018.

The exemptions being amended are the best-interest contract exemption; Class Exemption for Principal Transactions in Certain Assets Between Investment Advice Fiduciaries and Employee Benefit Plans and IRAs; Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 for Certain Transactions Involving Insurance Agents and Brokers, Pension Consultants, Insurance Companies, and Investment Company Principal Underwriters.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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OSHA Improves Its Online Whistleblower Complaint Form

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently revised its online whistleblower complaint form to help users file a complaint with the appropriate agency. The form provides workers with another option for submitting retaliation complaints to the Department of Labor’s OSHA.

The updated form guides individuals as they file a complaint through the process, providing essential questions at the beginning so they can better understand and exercise their rights under relevant laws. One significant improvement to the system includes pop-up boxes with information about various agencies for individuals who indicate that they have engaged in protected activity that may be addressed by an agency other than OSHA. The new form is available in English and Spanish.

“Workers who report unsafe conditions and wrongdoing have a range of legal protections from retaliation,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “The revised online complaint form works to ensure whistleblowers file their complaints with the appropriate federal agency for prompt action.”

In addition to the online form, workers can file complaints by fax, mail, or hand-delivery; contacting the agency at 800-321-6742; or calling an OSHA regional or area office.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation, workplace safety and health, and consumer protection laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov/.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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With Trump Nominees, NLRB May Revisit Previous Rulings

With President Trump’s nomination of two pro-business attorneys to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), giving Republicans majority control, 3-2, observers are speculating that the board will revisit some Obama-era decisions and modify or reverse them.

Marvin Kaplan, chief counsel of the independent federal agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, was approved by the Senate before it recessed for the summer on a party line vote of 50-48. Left in abeyance was the nomination of pro-business labor attorney William Emanuel, who works for the law firm Littler Mendelson in Los Angeles. Democrats have criticized both men as being too pro-employer.

The sitting president’s party is allowed majority representation on boards and commissions such as the NLRB and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

When the two are fully ensconced at the NLRB, speculation has it that the board will revisit several Obama-era decisions that are pro-employee and pro-labor union.

(more…)


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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ADA-Compliant Websites Regulation Put on Inactive List

An issue that has been on the radar since at least 2010 has now been placed on the back burner: In its most recent regulatory agenda, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has put on its inactive list a proposed regulation that would make websites serving the public be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant. Under the Obama DOJ, that rule was to be issued in 2018.

The ADA requires that places of public accommodation ensure equal access to the goods and services they offer to disabled individuals. The law, enacted in 1990 before the onset of the public Internet, makes no mention of cyber access, but numerous lawsuits have challenged websites that do not offer alternative access routes for the disabled. Congress has never taken up the issue either.

Even California, one of the most progressive states in the nation, has yet to extend the ADA to websites. The most famous case involving the issue was Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, which was heard by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. That court ruled, in its words, “calling on Congress, the Attorney General, and the Department of Justice to take action to set minimum web accessibility standards for the benefit of the disabled community, those subject to Title III, and the judiciary.”

 

 


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Circuit Court to Hear Overtime Rule Appeal in Early October

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, arguably the most conservative of all appeals courts, announced it will hear the appeal to the injunction against the Obama-era overtime rule in early October.

That rule, which raised the salary threshold for overtime exemption to $913 a week, was blocked by a federal judge in Texas just days before it was to take effect on Dec. 1, 2016. The Obama administration appealed, but when the Trump administration took over, the appeal was modified. The Trumpistas now want to keep the salary threshold trigger in place, but not at the level proposed by the Obama Department of Labor (DOL).

The Trump DOL has already issued a Request for Information (RFI) to hear opinions on what the salary threshold should be.

The original decision by the Texas judge was based on his finding that the DOL had no authority to set a salary threshold at any level.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Aetna Withdrawing from Obamacare Exchanges — in Its Own Words

Aetna announced today that it’s withdrawing from the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) marketplace. Here is the company’s announcement:

Aetna has long been committed to providing access to affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans. That is why, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, we invested significantly and participated actively in the public exchanges. When these exchanges struggled to deliver on their promise to consumers, we stuck with them – helping policymakers identify meaningful, measurable reforms to increase access for people across the nation.

Unfortunately, our participation in several public exchanges simply became unsustainable.

The fact is, since Aetna first started participating in public exchanges in 2014, we have absorbed more than $500 million in pre-tax losses on our individual Commercial products.  In the face of such volatility and uncertainty, we made the difficult decision to withdraw from public exchanges in 11 states for 2017.

Aetna is hardly alone.

As a matter of record, more than 25 companies left or announced their intent to exit public exchanges in 2016, and the marketplace continues to deteriorate.

In the wake of the District Court ruling to block our proposed merger with Humana, many in the media have focused on our withdrawals from these public exchanges in 2017. Much of this coverage does not tell the full story about our participation in the Affordable Care Act.

The media focus on select emails, taken out of context, obscures the severe and unsustainable current and projected future losses that drove our decision to withdraw from these public exchanges.

We are considering our options for responding to the court ruling. Regardless of the eventual outcome, we will continue to work together with the new Congress and administration to develop long-term solutions that give Americans more choice and control over their health care.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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UPS Settles Lawsuit over Its 12-Month Leave Policy for $1.7 Million

United Parcel Service (UPS) has settled for $1.7 million a lawsuit begun in 2009 over its 12-month leave policy, which on the surface sounds generous but which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The UPS policy allowed employees to take a full 12 months off without pay for medical leave, but if they failed to return after that period, they would be terminated.

The EEOC contended that the termination clause violates the ADA because that law requires an “interactive process” to determine if there’s a “reasonable accommodation” that would allow the employee to continue working.

In 2016, the EEOC clarified its position by issuing guidance titled “Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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DOL Hopes Agreement with Sonic Becomes Fast Food Industry Standard

The  Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) and Sonic Industries Services Inc. – franchisor of the SONIC Drive-In restaurant chain – have signed a voluntary agreement to help SONIC’s independently owned and operated franchise locations comply with federal labor laws. As part of the agreement, the Oklahoma City-based franchisor will provide a forum and the resources needed to assist the division in educating SONIC Drive-In owners, managers and employees nationwide.

“We encourage other franchisors to follow SONIC’s example and take similar steps to benefit their franchises’ employees and owners by complying with the law,” said Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator for Program Operations Patricia Davidson. “Abiding by the law makes better business sense than facing the prospect of paying back wages, damages, and penalties for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).”

The WHD says it will provide easy-to-use compliance assistance tools designed for the franchise restaurant industry. The package will include video and online training, educational articles for use in internal company publications, and sample training materials for use in company staff meetings. The Division will also make representatives available to provide training and compliance assistance to SONIC franchisees, and the Division and SONIC will collaborate using publicly available data to promote franchisee compliance with the FLSA.

SONIC Drive-In is the nation’s largest drive-in restaurant chain, serving approximately 3 million customers daily. Nearly 94 percent of its 3,500 drive-in locations are locally owned and operated.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time-and-one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law further requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. It also establishes a minimum age of 18 for workers in those non-agricultural occupations that the secretary of labor declares to be particularly hazardous for 16- and 17-year-old workers or detrimental to their health or well-being. The FLSA also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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