Alexander Acosta Approved as Labor Secretary

The Senate has just voted 60-38 to approve Alexander Acosta as Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL). Acosta fills the post that President Trump’s first nominee, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from under pressure about revelations in his personal life.

Acosta is viewed as a more moderate secretary over Puzder, having served on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and as head of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice (DOJ). He has also been a U.S. Attorney in Florida. Puzder spent his life in business in management roles, lastly as a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Hardee’s and Carl Jr.’s, from which he just resigned.

Two issues facing Acosta immediately are the fates of the fiduciary rule, which the DOL has delayed until June 9 but is also still under review and reconsideration, and of the Obama-era overtime rule, raising the salary exemption threshold from $22,660 a year to $47,476. In Senate testimony, Acosta hinted he would like to rewrite the rule and lower the threshold closer to $30,000 a year;.


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.
GoTo top Top

DOL to Launch Surveys to Gauge Americans’ Retirement Planning

The Department of Labor (DOL) has filed an information request with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) titled “On the Road to Retirement Surveys” to “gather data about how people make planning and financial decisions before and during retirement, especially with regard to the information that they receive and how they respond to it.”

The request states that the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) “seeks to undertake a long-term research study that will track U.S. households over several years in order to collect data and answer important research questions on how retirement planning strategies and decisions evolve over time.”

The information collection request seeks approval for “pre-test surveys, a screening survey, an initial participant survey, an advice interaction survey, and an annual participant survey.”


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.
GoTo top Top

Trump Vows to Continue Obamacare Cost-Sharing Payments

After taking funding for “the wall” along the U.S. southern border off the table in ongoing budget negotiations, President Trump today removed another sticking point with the Democrats by promising to continue $7 billion a year in cost-sharing payments to Obamacare health insurers.

Funding authorization for the federal government expires April 28 on the president’s 100th day in office unless Congress approves a continuing resolution or a new budget, thus the concessions to gain votes by Democrats.

The cost-sharing funds, never authorized by Congress but dispensed anyway by the Obama administration, were ruled illegal by a federal judge. An appeal is to be heard next month, but Trump has nonetheless vowed to continue the appropriations that help insurers make up for losses on policies sold on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces.


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.
GoTo top Top

Miscimarra Named Acting Chair of NLRB

President Donald J. Trump has named board member Philip A. Miscimarra acting chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“It is an honor to be named NLRB acting chairman by the President,” Miscimarra said. “I remain committed to the task that Congress has assigned to the board, which is to foster stability and to apply the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in an even-handed manner that serves the interests of employees, employers and unions throughout the country.”

Miscimarra also recognized former Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce for his service on the board. Pearce will continue as a board member in a term expiring on Aug. 27, 2018, and has served as a board member since 2010, including chairman since 2011. The board also currently includes board member Lauren McFerran, whose term expires on Dec. 16, 2019. Two Board Member seats are currently vacant.

Miscimarra has served as a board member since Aug. 7, 2013. He was nominated by President Obama on April 9, 2013, and he was approved unanimously by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on May 22, 2013. He was confirmed by the Senate on July 30, 2013, and his current term expires on Dec. 16, 2017.

Before joining the board, Acting Chairman Miscimarra was a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School in the Wharton Center for Human Resources, and a labor and employment law partner with Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP in Chicago. He also previously worked as a labor and employment attorney with Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Murphy Smith & Polk PC (now the Chicago office of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC), and Reed Smith Shaw & McClay (now Reed Smith LLP).

Miscimarra received his Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School; a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School; and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duquesne University.


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.
GoTo top Top

OSHA to Recognize Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will recognize Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28 by holding various events throughout the country.

American workers are the backbone of our nation’s prosperity and a focal point of President Trump’s “America First” agenda. With the recent increased growth in manufacturing, mining and construction industries, OSHA renews its commitment to making safety a priority through education, training and collaboration with American workers, businesses and state partners, according to its press release.

At events nationwide, OSHA will honor those who have been injured or lost their lives in the workplace, helping to support and strengthen our nation.

For more information, visit OSHA’s Workers’ Memorial Day webpage. All local events are free and open to the public.


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.
GoTo top Top

USCIS to Issue Redesigned Green Cards

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017.

These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant than the ones currently in use.

The new card designs demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking a proactive approach against the threat of document tampering and fraud. They are also part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Also:

  • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
  • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

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.
GoTo top Top

States Rush in to Shore Up Obamacare

Led by Alaska, states are setting up reinsurance programs to help pay the health care costs of their most medically needy citizens in hopes that insurance companies won’t abandon the Obamacare marketplace entirely.

The latest to join the trend are Idaho, Oklahoma and Minnesota. Alaska was the first to establish a reinsurance fund, whichit  did in 2016.

In Tennessee, where the announced departure of Humana from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace threatens to leave the state with no Obamacare option, the insurance regulator, Julie Mix McPeak, is meeting with insurers with the message that, as reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, “We’ll do whatever we can to make this area attractive to you on the individual exchange market.”

To set up these funds, the states must obtain a waiver from the federal government, which the Trump administration has said it will grant.

All this comes as a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s health industry subsidies, totaling $7 billion a year, comes up before an appeals court in May. In the lawsuit, House Republicans claim the funds were never constitutionally authorized.


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.
GoTo top Top

EPA to Offer Buyouts to Shrink Workforce

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of President Trump’s goal to shrink the federal workforce (and budget), is establishing a buyout program to reduce its 15,000-person staff.

EPA acting deputy administrator Mike Flynn said the agency was acting on a letter from the White House urging immediate action on staffing reductions across the federal landscape.

“In light of this guidance, we will begin the steps necessary to initiate an early out/buy out … program,” Flynn said. He said he hopes to complete the process by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. He also noted that the EPA would maintain a hiring freeze even after the government-wide freeze was lifted recently.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 45 percent of the EPA’s employees are retirement eligible. Across all agencies, the average is 34 percent.

President Trump’s proposed  budget calls for a 31 percent reduction in the EPA workforce.


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.
GoTo top Top

Overtime Rule Appeal Rescheduled for June 30

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has granted the Trump administration another extension in an appeal filed by the Obama White House over a federal court injunction blocking its proposed new overtime rule.

The Trump Department of Labor (DOL) cited a lack of leadership — i.e., the nominee for Secretary of Labor has yet to be confirmed — in seeking the extension.

The Obama-era overtime rule sought to raise the salary threshold for overtime pay exemption from $23,660 a year to $47,476. A district judge in Texas blocked the rule days before it was to take effect this past Dec. 1.


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.
GoTo top Top

After Nearly Quarter-Century, Discrimination Case Is Settled

The Department of Labor (DOL) has settled a case that arose from a 1993 compliance review of NationsBank, N.A., that found systematic hiring violations involving African-American applicants for entry-level jobs and led to more than two decades of litigation. NationsBank merged with the Bank of America, N.A. in 1998.

The review by the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) determined the bank had violated Executive Order 11246 by unlawfully discriminating against the applicants for clerical, teller and administrative positions at the Charlotte, North Carolina facility.

In 2016, the department’s Administrative Review Board issued a Final Decision and Order granting relief to the African-American applicants who were not hired in 1993. Bank of America initially challenged the order in U.S. District Court, and the bank does not admit liability. A settlement has been reached, though, and the bank has now agreed to resolve the case by paying $1 million in back wages and interest to 1,027 African-American applicants for the North Carolina jobs. A U.S. District Court judge in the District of Columbia has entered an order to stay the proceedings until Bank of America fully complies with the terms of the settlement agreement.

(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.
GoTo top Top