EEOC Releases Pregnancy Discrimination Enforcement Guidance

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued its first comprehensive update since 1983 on pregnancy discrimination enforcement guidance. The just-published "Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues" supersedes the 1983 publication of a Compliance Manual chapter on the subject and incorporates significant developments in the law during the past 30 years, according to the commission.

In addition to addressing the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, the guidance discusses the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended in 2008, to individuals who have pregnancy-related disabilities.

Among other issues the publication discusses are:

  • The fact that the PDA covers not only current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman's potential to become pregnant;
  • Lactation as a covered pregnancy-related medical condition;
  • The circumstances under which employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers;
  • Issues related to leave for pregnancy and for medical conditions related to pregnancy;
  • The PDA's prohibition against requiring pregnant workers who are able to do their jobs to take leave;
  • The requirement that parental leave (which is distinct from medical leave associated with childbearing or recovering from childbirth) be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms;
  • When employers may have to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments under the ADA and the types of accommodations that may be necessary; and
  • Best practices for employers to avoid unlawful discrimination against pregnant workers.

Click here to access the guidance document online.


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 Offers States $100 Million to Improve Medicaid

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is ponying up $100 for states to innovate and improve their Medicaid services and patient care.

“Medicaid innovation is moving forward, and the new Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program [IAP], announced in response to recommendations from governors, will give states the opportunity to even further strengthen their great work,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

This initiative is consistent with states’ recommendation that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) identify opportunities for care improvement and address high priority areas such as mental health and emergency department utilization.

Through the Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program, HHS is investing over $100 million in technical support to help states in their efforts to improve health, improve care and decrease costs for their Medicaid beneficiaries.  While complementing other federal-state delivery system reform efforts such as the State Innovation Models initiative, this new initiative will help jumpstart innovation by providing federal tools and resources to support states in advancing Medicaid-specific delivery system reform.

The Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program will develop Medicaid specific resources to support state-based innovative health care reform efforts by identifying and advancing new Medicaid service delivery and financing models to improve patient care by providing data analytics, improving quality measurement and rapid cycle evaluation capabilities, and advancing effective and timely dissemination of best practices and learning among states.


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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Rodriguez Moves from OCR to USCIS

The man whose nomination to head the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Deparment of Labor (DOL) was withdrawn by President Obama under pressure from Republicans is now headed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to oversee the nation's immigration policies.

Leon Rodriguez has been sworn in as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a ceremony at USCIS headquarters. Rodriguez, born in Brooklyn and raised in Miami, comes to USCIS with a broad legal background and will lead the nearly 18,000 employee agency charged with administering the nation’s immigration and naturalization system.

Rodriguez's predecessor, Alejandro Mayorkas, is under investigation for his handling of the EB-5 program, which grants green cards to forreign nationals who invest $500,000 to $1 million in select U.S. companies.

As for Rodriguez himself, immigration watchdog groups and immigration specialists say they know little or nothing about the new USCIS head or what his viewpoints are.

“This is both an exciting and challenging time for USCIS,” Rodriguez said. “Our role in administering our nation’s immigration and naturalization laws has never been more important. I look forward to working with the entire USCIS family, including our partners and constituents, to ensure that our mission is carried out with fairness and integrity.”

Rodriguez was confirmed by the Senate in June as the director of USCIS.  He previously served as the director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a position he held from 2011 to 2014. From 2010 to 2011, he served as chief of staff and deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Previously, Mr. Rodriguez was county attorney for Montgomery County, Maryland from 2007 to 2010. He was a principal at Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver in Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2007.

He served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1997 to 2001, first as chief of the White Collar Crimes Section from 1998 to 1999 and then as first assistant U.S. Attorney until his departure. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Rodriguez was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division at DOJ from 1994 to 1997 and a senior assistant district attorney at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in New York from 1988 to 1994. He received a B.A. from Brown University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.


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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UAW Opens Office Near VW Plant in Tennessee

After losing a unionization vote and agreeing not to attempt any organizing efforts for another year, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has nonetheless opened an office near the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., that rejected its organizing effort just months ago.

Volkswagen Chattanooga released a statement saying the establishment of a union local "is a matter for the trade union concerned. There is no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter."

Volkswagen has expressed interest in establishing a workers' council to help in management decisions, but according to U.S. law, that can only happen if the company is unionized. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has indicated he would like to change that law, but the odds are long against doing so.


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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Studies Concur: Obamacare Signed Up at Least 8 Million

Studies by the Commonwealth Fund, the Urban Institute and the Gallup organization all agree that sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) totaled at least 8 million. Nationwide, that equates to one in four previously uninsured being covered for their health care in 2014.

The biggest gain came in California, where the uninsured were reduced by half, from 22 to 11 percent of the population. Almost two-thirds of the newly covered, however, were enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's free Medicaid program for the poor.


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 Announces Second Round of Health Care Innovation Awards

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell today announced new prospective awardees to test innovative care models, bringing the total amount of funding to as much as $360 million for 39 recipients spanning 27 states and the District of Columbia. These models are designed to deliver better health care and lower costs under the Health Care Innovation Awards program.  

“The Health Care Innovation Awards support our ongoing work to drive down health care costs while providing high quality care to CMS beneficiaries,” said Secretary Burwell. “These awards advance innovative solutions in delivering and improving care from all across our nation.”

The prospective (not yet final) awards range from an expected $2 million to $23.8 million over a three-year period. These awards are made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and round out the anticipated recipients for round two of the Health Care Innovation Awards program. 

Examples include projects to promote better care for persons living with HIV/AIDS, reduce unnecessary use of emergency departments, improve pediatric dental care, promote prevention and management of cardiovascular disorders, and improve care coordination in rural areas of the country.  Earlier this year, HHS announced 12 prospective round two recipients receiving as much as $110 million in combined funding and testing models in 13 states.  Prospective recipients will receive their final Notice of Award later this summer.

Prospective recipients in round two of the Health Care Innovation Awards will be testing models in the following areas, but not limited to:

  • Five prospective awards will focus on improving emergency care;
  • Ten prospective awards will focus on improving care for children;
  • Four prospective awards will focus on promoting prevention and improving management of cardiovascular diseases;
  • Seven prospective awards will focus on promoting better rural care coordination and telehealth;
  • Seven prospective awards will focus on improving care for frail elderly patients or providing support for aging in the community; and
  • Two prospective awards will focus on promoting better care for persons living with HIV/AIDs.

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 Extends Contractor Minimum Wage Commentary Period

The Department of Labor (DOL), besieged by requests for more time to comment on its proposal to raise the minimum wage for federal contract employees, has extended the public commentary period until July 28, 2014.

In announcing the extension, the DOL explained the proposal in this way:

The Department is proposing regulations to implement Executive Order 13658, Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors. The Executive Order seeks to increase efficiency and cost savings in the work performed by parties that contract with the Federal Government by raising the hourly minimum wage paid by those contractors to workers performing work on covered federal contracts to: (i) $10.10 per hour, beginning January 1, 2015; and (ii) beginning January 1, 2016, and annually thereafter, an amount determined by the Secretary of Labor. The NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] incorporates existing definitions, procedures, remedies, and enforcement processes under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Service Contract Act, and the Davis-Bacon 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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HHS Awards $83.4 Million to Train New Primary Care Providers

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has announced $83.4 million in Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding to support primary care residency programs in 60 Teaching Health Centers across the nation. The funding will help train more than 550 residents during the 2014-2015 academic year, increasing the number of residents trained in the previous academic year by more than 200 and helping to increase access to health care in communities across the country.

Created by the ACA, the Teaching Health Center Program expands residency training in community-based settings. Residents will be trained in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, geriatrics and general dentistry.

“The Affordable Care Act supports the training of new primary care physicians through the Teaching Health Center program,” Secretary Burwell said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the continued growth of this program to help prepare even more physicians to provide primary care in communities across the country.”

The awards will expand the number of states with Teaching Health Centers from 21 to 24. Teaching Health Centers are located in a variety of settings, including urban, rural, and tribal communities and serve diverse populations.


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 Launches EHR Innovations for Improving Hypertension Challenge

In an effort to help clinical practices use health information technology (health IT) like electronic health records (EHRs) to reduce high blood pressure, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today launched a new challenge asking health care professionals and other caregivers to submit the tools they use to improve patient care.

The EHR Innovations for Improving Hypertension Challenge, launched by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), is part of Million Hearts, a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Million Hearts brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies including ONC, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.

“Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and there are many health-care providers who employ clinical decision support tools, like standardized treatment approaches or protocols to control hypertension among their patients. This challenge helps us find the best examples of those efforts and scale them up,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, national coordinator for health information technology.

Evidence-based treatment protocols provide a playbook for providers to guide their selection of effective therapies for blood pressure control, contributing to better health, better health care and lower costs for patients. The deadline for submissions is October 6 and winners will be announced on Oct. 28.


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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Walgreens Agrees to Pay $180,000 Over a $1.39 Bag of Chips

Drugstore giant Walgreens has agreed to pay $180,000 to a longtime employee with diabetes and to implement revised policies and training to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC's lawsuit charged that former cashier Josefina Hernandez, who has Type II Diabetes, was fired by a South San Francisco Walgreens because of her disability after she ate a $1.39 bag of chips during a hypoglycemic attack in order to stabilize her blood sugar level. 

Hernandez had worked for Walgreen for almost 18 years with no disciplinary record, and Walgreens knew of her diabetes.  Yet the company security officer testified that he did not understand nor did he seek clarification when Hernandez wrote, "My sugar low.  Not have time," in reply to his request for an explanation of why she took the chips before paying.

Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer.  After an investigation by EEOC investigator Carlos Rocha, and after attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Walgreen Company, Case No. CV 11-04470) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

On Apr. 14, U.S. District Judge William Orrick noted that "Walgreen has failed to allege any misconduct that is unrelated to her disability," and denied Walgreens' motion for summary judgment.  At this hearing, Walgreens' own legal counsel acknowledged Hernandez as a long-term valued employee with a very good track record, and described her termination as a "harsh result" perceived by the EEOC as unfair.


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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