Emerald City Wins Minimum Wage Battle Over Franchisees

A federal judge in Seattle has rejected a lawsuit by city-based franchisees that sought to delay implementation of the Emerald City’s looming $15-an-hour minimum wage law.

At issue was the minimum wage measure’s inclusion of franchises in the large company category (500 or more employees), meaning that McDonald’s and other franchisees have to establish the $15-an-hour wage in three years, while smaller businesses have seven years for full implementation.

(The minimum wage law gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally three years to phase in the increase — four if they provide health insurance. Smaller employers are allowed seven years.)

“The Ordinance is, at least putatively, designed to assist low wage workers, to decrease the gender wage gap, and to ensure that workers can better support and care for their families and fully participate in Seattle’s civic, cultural and economic life — objectives that are well within the scope of legitimate municipal policymaking,” wrote U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones in his 43-page decision issued Tuesday night.

The first phase of the new minimum wage law kicks in April 1 when large businesses must pay at least $11 an hour and small businesses at least $10 an hour.


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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Target to Follow WalMart’s Minimum Wage Lead

After earlier announcing it was trimming its workforce by 1,700 positions, Target has jumped on the minimum wage bandwagon by matching WalMart’s hourly wage minimum of $9 this year and $10 in 2016. The first increase is set for April.

The retailer already pays its employees more than the minimum wage, so it was not immediately clear how many employees would be affected. Target operates about 1,800 stores nationwide.


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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McDonald’s Workers Nationwide Blow Whistle on Safety Violations

McDonald's-workers-treated-with-mustard-for-burns-allegedlyWorkers at McDonald’s in 19 cities have filed safety complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The complaints involve allegations of severe burns on the job caused by hot oil, hot grills and greasy, slippery floors.

McDonald’s said it would review the allegations and noted that its franchisees “are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s brand U.S. restaurants.”

The complaints allege that their McDonald’s locations lack basic first aid supplies or personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, aprons, goggles and heat-resistant sleeves. According to the employees, managers would tell them to treat their burns with mayonnaise or mustard.

“My managers kept pushing me to work faster, and while trying to meet their demands I slipped on a wet floor, catching my arm on a hot grill,” said Brittney Berry, who has worked at a McDonald’s in Chicago since 2011, and who suffered a severe burn on her forearm and nerve damage from the accident. “The managers told me to put mustard on it, but I ended up having to get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.”


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 Excepted Benefits

The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury have published final rules to amend the definition of excepted benefits to include certain limited coverage that wraps around individual health insurance. Such coverage would have to be specifically designed to provide meaningful benefits such as coverage for expanded in-network medical clinics or providers, reimbursement for the full cost of primary care, or coverage of the cost of prescription drugs not on the formulary of the primary plan.

The final rules permit group health plan sponsors, in limited circumstances, to offer wraparound coverage to employees who are purchasing individual health insurance in the private market, including in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The rule sets forth two pilot programs for limited wraparound coverage.

One pilot allows wraparound benefits only for multi-state plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The other allows wraparound benefits for part-time workers who enroll in an individual health insurance policy or in Basic Health Plan coverage for low-income individuals established under the Affordable Care Act. These workers could, under existing excepted benefit rules, qualify for a flexible spending arrangement alternative to this wraparound coverage.

The final rules give employees who otherwise may not be able to get an employer-based benefits access to high-level benefits.

The departments first requested comments on limited wraparound coverage on Dec.24, 2013. The departments received suggestions from a wide range of stakeholders, including business groups supportive of the idea. In light of the comments received on the 2013 proposed rules, the departments published an additional proposed rule on Dec.23, 2014, focusing specifically on limited wraparound coverage. The final rules take into account the feedback received on both proposed rules and give businesses — including small businesses — new flexibility to meet the unique needs of their employees.

The final rules will be published in the March 18 edition of the Federal Register and can also be viewed online.


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 Lists Ten Fastest Growing Jobs

The Department of Labor (DOL) on its blog recently listed what it says are “The 10 Fastest Growing Jobs.”

In order from last to first, with median annual salaries shown in parentheses, these jobs are physical therapy assistants ($53,360); genetic counselors ($63,590); occupational therapy assistants ($55,270); helpers of brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons and tile and marble setters ($28,260); diagnostic medical sonographers ($66,410); interpreters and translators ($42,420); mechanical insulation workers ($40,500); home health aides ($21,020); personal care aides ($20,100); industrial-organizational psychologists ($80,330).

For job descriptions and projected growth rates, please access the blog post via the link in the first paragraph.


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, Philippine Consul Enter into Agreement

The Miami District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the consular section of the Philippine embassy of Washington, D.C., in Fort Lauderdale on March 11.

The agreement establishes an ongoing collaboration between these entities to provide Philippine nationals with information, guidance and access to resources on the prevention of discrimination in the workplace regardless of immigration status. Philippine First Secretary and Consul Arlene Tullid-Magno, on behalf of Minister and Consul General Emil T. Fernandez, and EEOC Miami District Office Director Malcolm S. Medley signed the agreement.

“By signing this Memorandum of Understanding today with the embassy’s consular section, the EEOC Miami District Office solidified our continued and longstanding commitment to this underserved community,” said Medley. “I am also extremely pleased that we are able to enter into an agreement which will further our efforts to reach Philippine nationals throughout the state of Florida. This Memorandum of Understanding provides the opportunity for the EEOC to continue with ongoing education, outreach and service. We look forward to a long-lasting and significant partnership.”

Tullid-Magno said: “We are fortunate to be able to work with a government that shares our principles and belief in the dignity and worth of human beings, regardless of their status in life. This is a partnership the Philippine embassy is eager to cultivate for the benefit of our working population in this country and we are thankful for the opportunity to do so and excited at the prospects that lie ahead. We are certainly pleased to sign our first EEOC local alliance with the Miami District Office, which has been at the forefront of our local engagement and outreach efforts in the Southeastern states over which the embassy has consular jurisdiction.”

Under the terms of the MOU, the EEOC will expand its relationship with the embassy’s consular section by providing it with materials explaining the laws enforced by the federal agency. In addition, the EEOC will provide information and training in areas of the state where Philippine nationals live and work.


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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HHS Says 11.7 Million Signed Up for Obamacare for 2015

Nationwide, nearly 11.7 million consumers selected or were automatically re-enrolled in health insurance coverage through the state and federal Health Insurance Marketplace as of Feb. 22, according to a report released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Of the total, 8.84 million (76 percent) were in states using the HealthCare.gov platform, and 2.85 million (24 percent) were in the 14 states (including Washington, D.C.) using their own marketplace platforms. Nearly 7.7 million individuals with a plan selection in the states using HealthCare.gov qualified for an average tax credit of $263 per month and more than half (55 percent) paid $100 or less per month after tax credits.

According to the report, nationwide, more than 4.1 million consumers under the age of 35 are signed up for marketplace coverage (35 percent of all plan selections compared to 34 percent of plan selections at the end of 2014 open enrollment). Almost 3.3 million consumers 18 to 34 years of age are signed up for marketplace coverage. As in 2014, that’s 28 percent of all plan selections.


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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Unanimous Supreme Court Rules in Favor of DOL Interpretive Rule

The Supreme Court has ruled that federal agencies may issue initial and amended interpretive rules without advance notice and without soliciting commentary from interested parties.

The case was Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). Thomas Perez is secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL), and at issue was his agency’s abrupt switch from previous interpretations on whether loan officers fall within the administrative exemption category of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In 2006, the Bush administration’s DOL had issued an opinion letter stating loan officers are exempt from overtime, but in 2010 the Obama administration’s DOL reversed that opinion and issued an interpretative letter stating that loan officers do not fall within the administrative exemption and thus qualify for overtime pay.

The MBA sued, and after previous court stops, the case went to the Supreme Court on March 9, where the justices ruled unanimously that interpretive rulemaking is not covered by the notice-and-commentary requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) as the MBA had claimed.

This ruling opens the floodgate for the DOL to reinterpret the salary requirement for earning an overtime exemption. The salary requirement currently stands at $455 a week, or less than $24,000 a year. The DOL has promised a new interpretation in the first quarter of calendar 2015. The agency can now do so without a notification of intent or a requirement to seek public commentary.


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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CMS Announces Special Tax-Season Obamacare Enrollment Period

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have announced a special enrollment period (SEP) for individuals and families who did not have health coverage in 2014 and are subject to the fee or “shared responsibility payment” when they file their 2014 taxes in states which use the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (FFM). This special enrollment period will allow those individuals and families who were unaware or didn’t understand the implications of this new requirement to enroll in 2015 health insurance coverage through the FFM.

The special enrollment period will begin on March 15, 2015, and end at 11:59 p.m. ET on April 30, 2015. If a consumer enrolls in coverage on or before the 15th of the month, coverage will be effective on the first day of the following month.

Those eligible for this special enrollment period must live in states with a Federally-facilitated Marketplace and:

  • Currently not be enrolled in coverage through the FFM for 2015;
  • Be able to attest that when they filed their 2014 tax return, they paid the fee for not having health coverage in 2014; and
  • Be able to attest that they first became aware of, or understood the implications of, the shared responsibility payment after the end of open enrollment (Feb. 15, 2015) in connection with preparing their 2014 taxes.

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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Franchises Sue Seattle Over Minimum Wage Law’s Application

The City of Seattle in 2014 passed a law raising the minimum wage in the Emerald City to $15 an hour in stages, with $11 an hour taking effect this April 1, but the phase-in schedule differs according to the size of the business.

Businesses with 500 or more employees are on a faster track — three years to implement $15 an hour versus seven years for smaller businesses — and local franchisees are upset that they’re being lumped into the large employee classification because of their association with their franchisers, aka McDonald’s, Burger King, et al. But they’re not taking it lying down. They’re suing the city, with the first hearing set for tomorrow, March 10.

The lawsuit is being brought by the International Franchise Association (IFA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which are arguing that lumping local franchises into the large business category violates the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection of the laws” provision.

Of course, the 14th Amendment specifically states that no state may “deny to any person” such equal protections, so to prevail in court, the plaintiffs will have to convince a judge that a franchise is equivalent to “any person” and that the city’s minimum wage ordinance is somehow discriminatory.

“If the minimum wage had been raised to $100 in Seattle, we would have disagreed,” explained IFA Senior Vice President Matthew Haller. “But if they had done it uniformly, we wouldn’t be filing a lawsuit.”


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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