EEOC Launches Online Inquiry and Appointment System

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that five of its offices have launched a new Online Inquiry and Appointment System. The system will allow individuals to electron­ically submit initial inquiries and requests for intake interviews with the agency. Initial inquiries and intake interviews are typically the first steps for individuals seeking to file a charge of discrimination with EEOC.

The EEOC receives about 200,000 inquiries per year through the mail, in person, and by phone. About 90,000 of those inquiries become formal charges of discrimination filed with the agency, making the charge-filing process the agency’s most common interaction with the public. This new online system is part of the EEOC’s ACT Digital initiative to improve service to the public, streamline the administrative process, and reduce the use of paper submissions and files.

The EEOC launched the new Online Inquiry and Appointment System on March 13 in the following five offices: Charlotte, Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix and Seattle. People living or working within 100 miles of these EEOC offices will be able to use the online system to submit an inquiry and schedule an intake interview. Individuals can access the Online Inquiry and Appointment System at https://publicportal.eeoc.gov/Portal/ or from EEOC’s website at https://www.eeoc.gov/employees/online_inquiry.cfm. The agency plans to evaluate the public’s experience with the new system in these five offices prior to a nationwide rollout later this fiscal year.

“This new system will make the EEOC much more accessible to the public — it’s a big step forward in the agency’s move to online services,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “We encourage people to provide candid feedback as they use the system, so we can make sure it works well for the public and for the agency.”


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 to Honor Gap of Enforcement of Fiduciary Rule

On Friday, March 10, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance on enforcement of its Fiduciary Rule, which was set to be implemented on April 10 but for which the agency has proposed a 60-day delay.

In its guidance, the department says it basically won’t enforce the rule from April 10 through the proposed 60-day delay on June 7, whether or not it ultimately decides to delay implementation. Therefore, there is at least a 60-day gap of enforcement regardless of the implementation day.

The DOL Fiduciary Rule requires retirement plan advisers to place the interest of their clients ahead of their own interest, i.e., to function as a fiduciary.

READ THE GUIDANCE


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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OCR Releases Guidance on Protecting ePHI from Cyber Threats

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the entity within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that enforces the Privacy, Security and Breach rules of HIPAA, has released new guidance advising covered entities and business associates on best practices for preventing and reporting cyber attacks.

Reporting and Monitoring Cyber Threats” advises companies that maintain ePHI (electronic protected health information) to report suspicious activity, including cybersecurity incidents, to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). US-CERT is an organization within the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) that is responsible for analyzing and reducing cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

Under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), those entities that maintain ePHI must establish administrative procedures to safeguard such private medical and personal data.

In its guidance, OCR also urges covered entities and business associates to monitor US-CERT’s website regularly for information on new cyber vulnerabilities, or to subscribe to the agency’s Weekly Vulnerability bulletins.


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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Repeal of Contractor ‘Blacklisting’ Rules Awaits Trump’s Signature

Both houses of Congress — the Senate by a single vote — have agreed on a joint resolution to void President Obama’s Executive Order 13673, dubbed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Rules, which require federal contractors to routinely disclose any labor law or safety violations their companies experienced, thus earning the executive order the onerous nickname “blacklisting rules.” President Trump is expected to sign the measure as soon as it reaches him.

The Congressional action actually focuses on the implementing rules for the order issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council, which were already subject to an injunction by a district court in Texas.

Before the Senate vote – 49-48, along party lines – the White House issued a statement saying the rules “would bog down Federal procurement with unnecessary and burdensome processes that would result in delays, and decreased competition for Federal government contracts.”

When Trump signs the resolution, the regulations implementing the executive order will go bye-bye under terms of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), and the pending lawsuit in Texas will be moot.


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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House Republicans Release Obamacare Replacement Plan

On Monday (March 6), Republican leadership in the House of Representatives unveiled their plan to replace Obamacare with a program that relies heavily on tax credits and expanded options with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Under the plan, no one can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and adult children can stay on their parents’ policies through age 26.

The plan would keep in place current Obamacare subsidies until 2020 for those already enrolled under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed law would also end all penalties under the ACA and do away with both the individual mandate to buy insurance and the employer shared responsibility provision that currently forces companies with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance or pay a fine.

In place of the individual mandate, the law would impose a 30-percent price hike on anyone who goes more than two months without insurance, thereby seeking to keep people from gaming the system by buying insurance only when they get sick or injured and need it.

Expanded federal funding for Medicaid, initiated under the ACA, would also continue till 2020 and then be readjusted.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, two of the bill’s authors — Representatives Kevin Brady and Greg Walden — also note:

Additionally, our legislation establishes a Patient and State Stability Fund to help low-income Americans afford health care and to repair the damage done to state markets by ObamaCare. States that take advantage of this new fund will have broad flexibility to develop innovative programs like Maine’s invisible high-risk pool or Alaska’s state-based reinsurance program. If they choose, states may also use these resources to increase access to preventive services, like getting an annual checkup. This program gives states new tools and flexibility to care for their unique patient populations.

Tax credits would be based on age. For instance, individuals under 30 would be eligible for $2,000 a year in tax credits, while those 60 or older would get double, $4,000. Families would be eligible for up to $14,000 a year in tax credits. Health Savings Accounts would be expanded to allow for purchasing over-the-counter medications; yearly HSA caps would be $6,550 for individuals and $13,100 for families.

The bill also ends all ACA taxes — on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health-insurance premiums and medical devices. The health insurance exchanges, set up under the ACA, would continue operating, but new subsidies would end.

The nearly 70-page bill titled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will be simultaneously marked up in two House committees Wednesday morning.

READ THE ENTIRE PLAN


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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Several Regulations on Trump Chopping Block

President Trump recently signed an executive order requiring every federal agency to establish a “Regulatory Reform Task Force” to eliminate what he considers to be unnecessary and burdensome regulations hampering the American economy.

His action follows a meeting he had with what is known as the Business Roundtable, a conservative coalition of management executives formed to promote pro-business public policy. From the gist of that meeting, it appears that a number of workplace regulations could be on the chopping block.

The seven regulations singled out by the Business Roundtable are:

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) Employer Reporting Requirements
  • EEOC Wellness Program Rules 
  • ACA Excise Taxes 
  • Overtime Regulations
  • Fair Pay And Safe Workplaces Executive Order (EO 13673)
  • EEOC’s Revised Employment Information Report
  • CEO Pay Ratio Disclosure

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 Removes FAQs on Fiduciary Rule from Its Website

With the DOL Fiduciary Rule already delayed until June 9 at the earliest, and with the rule’s content and direction under review, the Department of Labor has quietly removed its FAQs titled “CONSUMER PROTECTIONS FOR RETIREMENT INVESTORS – FAQS ON YOUR RIGHTS AND FINANCIAL ADVISERS.” The FAQs were just published in January 2017.

Some sites still carry copies of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the rule. You can find the FAQs published here.

The Fiduciary Rule, which was originally scheduled to take effect on April 10 before being delayed at President Trump’s request, makes those who sell retirement plans responsible as fiduciaries, meaning they have to put the best interest of their clients first rather than selling the most profitable-to-them investing products.


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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EEOC Training Institute Announces Schedule for 2017

The Office of Federal Operations (OFO) of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released its 2017 Federal Training Course Calendar, which includes two new courses: Special Emphasis Program Management and Anti-Harassment Program Management.

VIEW THE SCHEDULE


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 Proposes Delay in Fiduciary Rule to June 9, Pending Public Comments

The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a proposed extension of the applicability dates of the fiduciary rule and related exemptions, including the Best Interest Contract Exemption, from April 10 to June 9, 2017.

The announcement follows a presidential memorandum issued on Feb. 3, 2017, which directed the department to examine the fiduciary rule to determine whether it may adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.

The proposed extension is intended to give the department time to collect and consider information related to the issues raised in the memorandum before the rule and exemptions become applicable.

The department will accept public comments on the proposed extension for 15 days following its publication. Comments on issues raised in the presidential memorandum will be accepted for 45 days.

The proposal will be published in the March 2, 2017, edition of the Federal Register and can also be viewed on the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) website, www.dol.gov/ebsa/.


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 to Delay Implementation of Beryllium Rule to May 20

The Department of Labor  (DOL) has announced a proposed delay in the effective date of its rule titled Occupational Exposure to Beryllium, from March 21, 2017, to May 20, 2017.

The announcement follows a White House memorandum, entitled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review,” issued Jan. 20, 2017, that directed the department to undertake a review of any new or pending regulations and temporarily postpone the date that they would take effect.

The proposed delay will allow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) an opportunity for further review and consideration of the rule, in keeping with the White House memorandum. OSHA published the final rule on Jan. 9, 2017, and, in response to the memorandum, previously announced the effective date would be postponed to March 21, 2017. In its review process, OSHA has preliminarily determined that it is appropriate to further delay the effective date to May 20, 2017, for the purpose of additional review into questions of law and policy.

The proposed extension of the effective date will not affect the compliance dates of the beryllium rule. Comments regarding the additional proposed extension will be accepted through March 13, 2017. Comments can be submitted on this proposal at http://www.regulations.gov or to the OSHA Docket Office (Docket No. OSHA-H005C-2006-0870).

The proposal has been scheduled for publication in the Federal Register.


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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