Obamacare Enrollment Reaches 3.6 Million in Latest Tally

As of Saturday, Dec. 2, Obamacare enrollment on the federal marketplace had reached 3.6 million with two weeks remaining before open enrollment closes on Dec. 15.

obamacare-enrollment-reaches-3.6-million

HealthCare.gov website reminder of enrollment’s closing date

A total of 823,180 people during the week ending Dec. 2 signed up for an insurance plan sold on HealthCare.gov, which serves most of the United States, according to  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials.

In comparison, through Dec. 10 last year, some 4.02 million had signed up, and that year enrollment ended a month later, on Jan. 15.

Obamacare advocates worry that this year’s enrollment will not match 2016’s total of 9.2 million sign-ups for a variety of reasons, including drastic cuts to the advertising and promotional budget for the program. They also fret that many customers are unaware of the shortened enrollment period this year (though some states that offer their own online marketplaces have longer deadlines.)

“While cumulative enrollment totals remain ahead of past years, the pace of enrollment has slowed dramatically,” watchdog group Get America Covered said in a blog post on Medium.com

(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

DOL Seeks Comments on Revising Its Tip Pool Regulations

The Department of Labor (DOL) is proposing to revise the agency’s 2011 tip pool regulations to allow the sharing of tips with back-of-the-house employees provided everyone is paid the minimum wage.

dol-proposes-changes-to-tip-credit-regulationsIt has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register, in which it states the agency is  “proposing to rescind the parts of its tip regulations that bar tipsharing arrangements in establishments where the employers pay full Federal minimum wage and do not take a tip credit against their minimum wage obligations.”

In other words, under the proposed rule employers can share tips with “restaurant cooks, dishwashers, and other traditionally lower-wage job classifications,” provided all employees earn the minimum wage and employers don’t take the tip credit available under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

(For tipped employees, employers may take what is called a “tip credit,” meaning they can pay tipped employees less than the minimum wage ((the federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13)) so long as the tips bring that wage up to $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum.)

According to the DOL, the proposal would help decrease wage disparities between tipped and non-tipped workers – an option that is currently restricted by a rule promulgated in 2011 that has been challenged in a number of courts. However, as critics have pointed out, once employees are paid the minimum wage, tips belong to the establishment, not the server, bartender or busboy. The restaurant’s owner can thus collect all the tips and share them equitably — or if he so chooses, just pocket the money.

(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

New NLRB General Counsel Reigns in Obama-era Rulings

In a memo issued Dec. 1, new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb ordered NLRB offices across the country to refer all cases to him that are based on rulings during the eight years of President Obama.

peter-robb-new-nlrb-general-counsel

Peter Robb, new NLRB General Counsel

Robb wrote: “Significant legal issues include cases over the last eight years that overruled precedent and involved one or more dissents, cases involving issues that the Board has not decided, and any other cases that the Region believes will be of importance to the General Counsel.”

The NLRB general counsel serves as a referee and gatekeeper for deciding which cases should be reviewed and prosecuted. It is not unusual during a change of administrations for the general counsel to draw in decisions made during the time of the outgoing administration. Robb’s Democratic predecessor issued a similar memo when he came on board.

In short, Robb’s action puts on hold the Obama-era broad expansion of employee rights, often centered on Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which governs the relationship between employers and employees and their unions, if any.

(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

EEOC Scores First Victory in Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit

Score a victory for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its effort to get courts to side with its position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based not only on sex but also on sexual orientation.

eeoc-wins-first-sexual-orientation-discrimination-lawsuitThe commission’s sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit against Scott Medical Health Center, P.C., was one of the first two it filed and has now become the first to result in a victory.  A federal district court in Pittsburgh recently awarded the EEOC, on behalf of Scott Medical employee Dale Massaro, more than $55,000 in damages, the statutory maximum.

The court also issued a permanent injunction barring Scott Medical from engaging in any further sex harassment and requiring it to report to the EEOC for five years on any sex harassment complaints it receives.

Massaro worked as a telemarketer at Scott Medical and was subjected by his supervisor to “derogatory comments, slurs, and offensive questioning about his personal relationships.” When Massaro reported the harassment to the CEO, the CEO informed him that the supervisor was “just doing his job” and took no corrective action. After about a month into the job, the employee couldn’t take it anymore and quit. The EEOC then filed a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit on his behalf in March 2016.

(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

DOL Announces 18-Month Extension of Transition Period for Fiduciary Rule Enforcement

The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced an 18-month extension from Jan. 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019, of the special Transition Period for the Fiduciary Rule’s Best Interest Contract Exemption and the Principal Transactions Exemption, and of the applicability of certain amendments to Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 (PTEs). This follows public comment on a proposed extension that was published in August.

dol-announces-extension-of-fiduciary-rule-transition-periodThe extension gives the department the time necessary to consider public comments submitted pursuant to the department’s July Request for Information, and the criteria set forth in the Presidential Memorandum of Feb. 3, 2017, including whether possible changes and alternatives to exemptions would be appropriate in light of the current comment record and potential input from — and action by — the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), state insurance commissioners and other regulators. The president directed the department to prepare an updated analysis of the likely impact of the Fiduciary Rule on access to retirement information and financial advice.

During the extended Transition Period, fiduciary advisers have an obligation to give advice that adheres to “impartial conduct standards.” These fiduciary standards require advisers to adhere to a best interest standard when making investment recommendations, charge no more than reasonable compensation for their services, and refrain from making misleading statements.

(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

EEOC Releases ‘Promising Practices’ for Preventing, Responding to Harassment

In advance of issuing revised sexual harassment guidelines — the first revision in two decades — the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a report by its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace detailing five principles that have generally proven effective in preventing and addressing harassment.eeoc-issues-report-on-harassment-in-the-workplace

Called ‘Promising Practices,” the five principles are:

  1. Committed and engaged leadership
  2. Consistent and demonstrated accountability
  3. Strong and comprehensive harassment policies
  4. Trusted and accessible complaint procedures
  5. Regular, interactive training tailored to the audience and the organization

The report includes checklists based on these principles to assist employers in preventing and responding to workplace harassment. The promising practices identified in this document are based primarily on these checklists. Although these practices are not legal requirements under federal employment discrimination laws, they may enhance employers’ compliance efforts.

The report notes:

When evaluating the effectiveness of harassment prevention and correction strategies, it may be helpful for organizations to carefully analyze complaint trends. A relatively high number of internal complaints may signify that harassment has occurred or was perceived to have occurred, but may also indicate employees’ awareness of and confidence in the internal complaint process. A relatively low number of internal complaints may result from employees’ lack of awareness or trust in the complaint process, or, alternatively, from the absence of harassing conduct in the organization. Organizations may find it helpful to solicit information from employees in anonymous surveys, harassment training sessions, or other settings in which employees may feel comfortable, regarding their awareness of and confidence in the organization’s harassment policies and complaint procedures. Organizations could also solicit suggestions from employees about how to enhance employees’ knowledge of and faith in the organization’s harassment prevention and correction efforts.


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

ICE to Target National Food Service Chain, Report Asserts

According to The Daily Beast, which claims to have obtained an internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memo, ICE agents will soon be targeting a “national food service chain.” The chain was unnamed in the report.

ICE-to-target-nationwide-food-chain-for-hiring-illegal-aliensStatistics indicate that the food service industry workforce in general consists of some 9 percent undocumented workers.

Tom Homan, acting ICE director, recently announced that his agents would be increasing their “worksite enforcement” rate by four- or five-fold and would be deporting any illegal aliens found at a business and also punishing owners who violate the law.

“Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers,” Homan said recently in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

(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

DOL Delays Compliance Deadline for ERISA Disability Benefits Procedure

The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a 90-day delay – through April 1, 2018 – of the applicability date for ERISA plans to comply with a final rule amending the claims procedure requirements applicable to disability benefits.

labor-department-delays-erisa-disability-compliance-deadline

Labor Secretary Acosta

The three-month delay of the applicability date announced Nov. 24 is intended to give interested stakeholders the opportunity to submit, and for the department to consider, data and information related to concerns by some insurance industry and employer groups, and some members of Congress, that the claims procedure amendments will drive up disability benefit plan costs, cause an increase in litigation and, in so doing, impair workers’ access to disability insurance benefits.

The final rule amending the disability benefits claims procedure requirements for ERISA plans was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 19, 2016. The amendments were to become applicable to claims for disability benefits filed on or after Jan. 1, 2018.

(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

OSHA Extends Deadline for Injury-Illness Electronic Filing

To allow affected employers additional time to become familiar with a new electronic reporting system launched on Aug. 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  has extended the  date by which employers must electronically report injury and illness data through the Injury Tracking Application (ITA) to Dec. 15, 2017.osha-extends-electronic-filing-deadline-for-injuries-illnesses

OSHA’s final rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses sets Dec. 15, 2017, as the date for compliance (a two-week extension from the Dec. 1, 2017, compliance date in the proposed rule). The rule requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness information they are already required to keep under existing OSHA regulations.

Unless an employer is under federal jurisdiction, the following OSHA-approved State Plans have not yet adopted the requirement to submit injury and illness reports electronically: California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.  Establishments in these states are not currently required to submit their summary data through the ITA.

Similarly, state and local government establishments in Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, and New York are not currently required to submit their data through the ITA.

(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

Trump Nominates Pharma Exec to Head HHS

President Trump has nominated Alex Azar to head up the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

alex-azar-named-to-head-hhsAs recently as January of this year, Azar was president of the American wing of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, where he served from 2012 in various posts. Under President George W. Bush, Azar served as deputy secretary of HHS from 2005 to 2007.

The post of HHS secretary has been vacant since Tom Price, M.D., resigned in September amid scrutiny of his use of chartered and military jets for transportation — to the tune of at least $1 million in taxpayer funding.

Azar was on a short list for the nomination. Two other  potential nominees — Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — said publicly they were happy in their current roles, leaving the field open.

(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