Emeryville, Calif., Votes for Highest City Minimum Wage in Nation

By a vote of the city council yesterday, the city of Emeryville, Calif., has opted to enforce a $16-an-hour minimum wage, effective in 2019, which to date is the highest level enacted by any municipality in the nation.

The council voted unanimously to start the phase-in by raising the minimum wage to $14.44 an hour on July 1 for large businesses, and to $12.25 an hour for small businesses.

Large businesses are defined as those with more than 55 employees; their minimum wage mandate will rise each July 1 according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), then reach $16 an hour in 2019.

Small businesses will see their wage rates rise to $13 an hour on July 1, 2016, then to $14 in 2017, $15 in 2018, and $16 in 2019.

“People who work 40 hours a week should not have to be eligible for any public assistance,” said Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin during the council discussion.

Nearby Oakland will incrementally raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 1, 2018, thereafter tying it to the CPI.

The California state minimum wage will max out at $10 an hour this coming Jan. 1 unless a new law is enacted.


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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DOL Sends Proposed Overtime Rules to OMB

In a blog post yesterday, Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Tom Perez announced he has sent his agency’s proposed revamp of the nation’s overtime rules to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

Perez gave no details but noted: “The rules governing who is eligible for overtime have eroded over the years. As a result, millions of salaried workers have been left without the guarantee of time and a half pay for the extra hours they spend on the job and away from their families.”

The proposed changes probably will raise the weekly salary of $455 needed to qualify for an overtime exemption and/or increase the percentage-of-time requirements spent on managerial/supervisory work to qualify.


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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ER Visits Spike Under Obamacare

More Americans enjoy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but that doesn’t always mean they can find a primary physician, and as a result emergency room (ER) visits are climbing, according to three-quarters of emergency physicians polled by The American College of Emergency Physicians.

Some 28 percent of those polled also report “significant increases” in ER visits, while 56 percent say the number of those coming to the ER on Medicaid is increasing.

“America has severe primary care physician shortages, and many physicians will not accept Medicaid patients because Medicaid pays so inadequately,” Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of ACEP, said in a statement.  “Just because people have health insurance does not mean they have access to timely medical care.”

Because of low fee schedules, many primary physicians refuse to see patients on Medicaid, whose ranks have swelled under Obamacare.


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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CMS Claims Grouped Medicare Providers Save Money

An independent evaluation report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today reportedly shows that an innovative payment model created as a pilot project by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) generated substantial savings to Medicare in just two years, according to an HHS press release.

Additionally, the independent Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has certified that this patient care model is the first to meet the stringent criteria for expansion to a larger population of Medicare beneficiaries.

The independent evaluation report for CMS found that the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Model generated more than $384 million in savings to Medicare over its first two years – an average of approximately $300 per participating beneficiary per year – while continuing to deliver high-quality patient care.

The actuary’s certification that expansion of Pioneer ACOs would reduce net Medicare spending, coupled with Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s determination that expansion would maintain or improve patient care without limiting coverage or benefits, means that HHS will consider ways to scale the Pioneer ACO Model into other Medicare programs.

“This is a crucial milestone in our efforts to build a health care system that delivers better care, spends our health care dollars more wisely, and results in healthier people,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “The Affordable Care Act gave us powerful new tools to test better ways to improve patient care and keep communities healthier. The Pioneer ACO Model has demonstrated that patients can get high quality and coordinated care at the right time, and we can generate savings for Medicare and the health care system at large.”

The Pioneer ACO Model, one of the first payment models launched by CMS, gives experienced health care organizations accountability for quality and cost outcomes for their Medicare patients. Doctors and hospitals who form Pioneer ACOs can share in savings generated for Medicare if they work to coordinate patient care, keep patients healthy and meet certain quality performance standards, or they may be required to pay a share of any losses generated.

Currently, the Pioneer ACO Model is serving more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries.


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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OSHA Issues Final Rule on Confined Spaces in Construction

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to increase protections for construction workers in confined spaces.

Manholes, crawl spaces, tanks and other confined spaces are not intended for continuous occupancy. They are also difficult to exit in an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions and asphyxiation.

Last year, two workers were asphyxiated while repairing leaks in a manhole, the second when he went down to save the first — which is not uncommon in cases of asphyxiation in confined spaces, according to OSHA.

“In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don’t have to happen,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “This new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces. In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year.”

The rule will provide construction workers with protections similar to those manufacturing and general industry workers have had for more than two decades, with some differences tailored to the construction industry. These include requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards — a safety option made possible by technological advances after the manufacturing and general industry standards were created.


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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National Fall Safety Stand-Down Starts Today

Starting today, a record number of companies and workers around the country are expected to join the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the next two weeks in the second annual National Fall Safety Stand-Down to focus on preventing catastrophic deaths and injuries from occurring because of falls and accidents while working at elevated heights.

“Last year’s Stand-Down was a big success. More than 5,000 employers talked about fall protection with more than a million workers. It was a tremendous commitment to safety on the part of businesses and workers alike. I am confident that we can do even better this year,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.

“The construction industry is so important to our economy. We all depend on it every day. It drives growth and prosperity. It generates good, middle-class jobs that can support a family. But we have to make sure those jobs are as safe as they can possibly be. That’s why fall prevention and this Stand-Down are so important.”

Fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA violation, proving the size of this problem.

During the two-week Stand-Down, employers and workers will voluntarily stop work to focus on these hazards and preventing them. Industry and business leaders, including universities, labor organizations, and community and faith-based groups, have scheduled Stand-Downs in all 50 states. In addition, the U.S. Air Force will be hosting fall Stand-Downs at bases worldwide and a major event will be co-hosted at the United States Capitol Dome with Turner Construction.


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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Obamacare (Still Open) Enrollment Finally Ends

Barring some late action, the special enrollment period for Obamacare sign-ups — which actually extended the planned open enrollment period by 45 days — closed last night at midnight. Most state health insurance exchanges followed suit.

The yearly open enrollment period to sign up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was set to run from Nov. 15, 2014, through March 15 of this year. But when officials figured there would be late converts once they filed their taxes and saw they had to pay a penalty for not having insurance, a special enrollment period (SEP) was tacked on to run from March 16 through the end of April.

Results of the SEP have yet to be released.


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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EEOC Wins Conciliation Battle in Supreme Court

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that courts may only conduct a “relatively bare-bones review” of conciliation efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The decision stems from the EEOC’s lawsuit against Mach Mining, LLC, headquartered in Marion, Ill. The commission sued Mach Mining in September 2011, alleging that the company violated Title VII by failing to hire any female miners since beginning operations in 2006, despite having received applications from many highly qualified women.

Mach Mining chose to defend against these allegations in part by criticizing the EEOC for inadequately conciliating the matter before suing. The EEOC moved for partial summary judgment with respect to Mach Mining’s so-called affirmative defense that the commission had failed to properly conciliate before filing its complaint.

The Supreme Court’s decision adopts a standard that requires only that the EEOC “afford the employer a chance to discuss and rectify a specified discriminatory practice.” The court emphasized that “such limited review respects the expansive discretion that Title VII gives the EEOC over the conciliation process” but ensures that the Commission fulfills its obligation to conciliate.

The court also highlighted that intrusive judicial review of conciliation would flout the confidentiality requirements in the statute and ultimately would undermine conciliation itself. The court concluded that courts reviewing conciliation efforts must not “impinge” on the commission’s latitude to conduct the type of conciliation it thinks reasonable in a particular case, or on its “responsibility to eliminate unlawful workplace discrimination.”


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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DOL Seeks Comments on Proposed Black Lung Benefits Act Rule

The Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs is publishing for public comment a proposed Black Lung Benefits Act rule that gives coal miners greater access to their health records and requires coal miner owners to pay all benefits due in a claim before the award can be challenged through modification. The NPRM was posted on the Federal Register’s website for public inspection today.

The rule requires parties — including employers, claimants, attorneys and other authorized representatives — to disclose all medical information developed in connection with a claim for benefits, even when the party does not intend to submit the information into evidence.

Requiring all parties to exchange medical data in claims for black lung benefits would protect the nation’s coal miners by giving them full access to information about their health. Currently, the claimant and the coal company liable for benefit payments can develop as much medical information about the miner as their finances allow, and then choose which data to submit as evidence for the claim adjudicator’s consideration.

A coal miner without full access to health information may delay seeking treatment or make an uninformed decision about whether to continue to work. Making medical information freely available to all parties will also enhance the accuracy of entitlement determinations.


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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Workers’ Memorial Day Honors Those Who Lost Their Lives at Work

Today is national Workers’ Memorial Day, honoring those who lost their lives at work.

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement on Workers’ Memorial Day:

“Each year, Workers’ Memorial Day gives us an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives in the course of a day’s work, and to recommit to keeping workers safe on the job. In 2015, as we mark the five-year anniversaries of three tragedies — the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in which 11 workers lost their lives, the Upper Big Branch mine disaster which took the lives of 29 miners, and the Tesoro refinery explosion which killed seven workers — we are reminded that while we have made great strides in worker safety, we must do more.

In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed on the job. That number has fallen dramatically since the Occupational Safety and Health Act passed in 1970, but it’s still 4,585 too many. It’s 4,585 too many men and women who lost their lives trying to earn a paycheck. It’s 4,585 too many workers — mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers — who went to work but never came home.


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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