ADA Service Animal Regulations Updated

This week service animal regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were updated regarding dogs being placed in shopping carts, which is no longer permitted.

The FAQs, in answering whether service dogs can be placed in shopping carts, reads:

Generally, the dog must stay on the floor, or the person must carry the dog.  For example, if a person with diabetes has a glucose alert dog, he may carry the dog in a chest pack so it can be close to his face to allow the dog to smell his breath to alert him of a change in glucose levels.

The full FAQs are available on ADA.gov.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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Fictitious Enrollees Approved — and Renewed — by HealthCare.Gov

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) ran a two-year sting operation on the federal Obamacare site, HealthCare.gov, and was able to enroll 11 fake applicants using fabricated documents and even leaving some required information out.

All 11 were renewed this year, according to a report released yesterday.

Six applicants at one point were terminated, but GAO investigators posing as the fake enrollees were able to get five reinstated with even larger subsidies. The sixth terminated case was pending when the report was prepared in April.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) told the GAO, upon learning of the report, that CMS is not required to detect fraud, even though it operates the site.

The investigative operation has since ceased.


For the full story on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) affects your business, no matter how large or small, please obtain a copy of our comprehensive yet easy-to-follow Affordable Care Act Compliance Kit.



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 Ratchets Up Campaign Against Independent Contractor Misclassification

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) today issued another broadside against employer misuse of the independent contractor job status to avoid the responsibilities of labeling and treating a worker as an employee.

WHD administrator David Weil issued an interpretation titled “The Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s ‘Suffer or Permit’ Standard in the Identification of Employees Who Are Misclassified as Independent Contract,” in which he broached the longstanding independent contractor litmus test based on “economic realities.”

He observed: “In order to make the determination whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the FLSA, courts use the multi-factorial ‘economic realities’ test, which focuses on whether the worker is economically dependent on the employer or in business for him[self] or herself.”

Weil further explained:

In applying the economic realities factors, courts have described independent contractors as those workers with economic independence who are operating a business of their own. On the other hand, workers who are economically dependent on the employer, regardless of skill level, are employees covered by the FLSA.

And he concluded, “In sum, most workers are employees under the FLSA’s broad definitions.”

Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1” of July 15, 2015, can be viewed and read here.


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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Cases Challenging Contraceptive Services Workaround Rule Losing in Court

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order that operates nursing homes, yesterday became the latest group to lose a court battle over the Obama administration’s plan to have health insurance companies directly contact employees about providing contraceptive services.

The plan, released last Friday by a consortium of federal agencies, was crafted in response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which absolves privately held companies with religious objections of the Obamacare mandate that health insurance policies include free contraceptive services. The wraparound forces health insurance companies to offer such services directly to the employees after their employers officially opt out. (Houses of worship are completely exempt from the mandate.)

In the case brought on behalf of The Little Sisters, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled 2-1 that the wraparound “relieves them [The Little Sisters and other objecting companies] from complicity.”

Similar cases in the 3rd, 5th, 7th and D.C. circuits have also ruled in the administration’s favor.


For the full story on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) affects your business, no matter how large or small, please obtain a copy of our comprehensive yet easy-to-follow Affordable Care Act Compliance Kit.



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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Obama Directs DOL to Create Regulation Enabling State-Run Retirement Vehicles

Picking up on a theme he’s visited many times in the past — the creation of a national IRA (individual retirement account) — President Obama on Monday directed Thomas Perez, secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL), to draft a regulation enabling states to create such investment vehicles for employees not covered by company retirement options.

The president said the regulation should “provide a clear path forward for the states to create retirement savings programs.”

At least two states already have created programs for employees at firms not offering retirement investment plans. California has the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust that will automatically enroll all state-based employees in the plan once it’s implemented (which won’t be before 2016 at the earliest). Similarly, Illinois has the Secure Choice Savings Program payroll-deduction IRA.

The Illinois bill requires all businesses in existence for at least two years with 25 or more employees to automatically enroll their employees in the program unless they offer another retirement option to their workers. The start of the program is at least two years off, however.

Other states, including Connecticut, Colorado, Arizona, Maine, Indiana and several more are in various stages of studying and implementing similar programs.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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Final Rules Issued on Alternative Contraceptive Services Delivery Methods

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of the Treasury (DOT), have issued interim final rules that establish an alternative way for eligible organizations that have a religious objection to covering contraceptive services to seek an accommodation from contracting, providing, paying, or referring for such services.

These rules allow these eligible organizations to notify HHS in writing of their religious objection to providing contraception coverage, as an alternative to filling out the form provided by the Department of Labor to provide to their issuer or third-party administrator.

HHS and the DOL will then notify insurers and third party administrators of the organization’s objection so that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate payments for contraceptive services, with no additional cost to the enrollee or organization, and no involvement by the organization.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, the departments are also issuing final rules that provide the above accommodations to closely held for-profit entities.

(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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Administration to Appeal Legal Block to Obama’s Immigration Plan

Administration lawyers will be back before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals tomorrow in a second attempt to get the justices to lift a legal hold placed on the president’s immigration executive orders by a federal judge in Texas.

The effort could prove to be the last opportunity for President Obama to see his immigration plan put into operation before his term expires.

If the three-justice panel in New Orleans again denies the appeal, which it did once before in May, the action by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen blocking Obama’s twin executive orders of November 2014 will stand, and a lawsuit by 26 states against the initiatives could proceed.

Two of the justices who voted against the administration in May will again be on the panel. At that time, a 2-1 ruling noted that “the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal” if the issue goes to trial.

The Obama plan would free up to five million undocumented immigrants from possible deportation and award many of them with work authorizations, actions which the lawsuit contents are beyond the president’s executive powers.

Legal watchdogs expect the issue eventually to reach the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, widespread pro-immigration demonstrations are scheduled to be held outside the Louisiana courthouse tomorrow.


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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HHS Awards $840 Million in Health Care Grants

Health departments across the country will receive more than $840 million in cooperative agreements from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve and sustain emergency preparedness of state and local public health and health care systems.

The cooperative agreement funds are distributed through two federal preparedness programs: the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) programs. Nationwide, HHS has awarded a total of $228.5 million for HPP and $611 million for PHEP in fiscal year 2015.

“Protecting health from the impacts of emergencies – whether it’s a disease outbreak or a natural disaster – requires constant, continuous vigilance,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR). “States and communities leverage our program every day to enhance community resilience and protect the nation’s health security.”


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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Obama Overtime Rule Published, Public Comments Close on Sept. 4

The Department of Labor (DOL) and its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) today published their proposed new overtime rules in the Federal Register, opening a public commentary period that will close 60 days after publication, on Sept. 4.

As announced last week by President Obama, the rule would set the threshold for exempt employee status at a salary of $970 a week, or $54,440 a year, with an automatic annual rider to increase the salary to match inflation.

Exempt employees do not earn overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The current salary threshold, established in 2004, is just $455 a week, or $23,660 a year.

Though the rule more than doubles the salary threshold, the agency did not alter the duties tests that help determine whether an employee can be considered exempt. Instead, input is being sought from the public on whether the duties tests even need to be changed in light of the higher salary bar being established.

Specifically, the department is asking for comments on whether it should adopt the so-called “California rule” that would set a 50 percent maximum for non-exempt duties performed by exempt workers, which would also prohibit concurrent exempt and non-exempt work from counting toward the non-exempt duties threshold.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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NLRA Celebrates Its 80th Anniversary

On July 5, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) into existence, and along with it, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On the observance of the law’s 80th anniversary, current NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce noted:

Enacted in midst of the Great Depression, the National Labor Relations Act gave workers an avenue to join together to improve their wages and working conditions. The ability to organize and bargain collectively put more money in the pockets of workers while helping build — and maintain — the middle-class.  Through good times and bad, the act has offered workers a voice in their workplace and promoted industrial peace. Our country and workplaces have changed over the last eight decades, but the need for the act has remained a constant.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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