HealthCare.Gov Contractor Gets Six-Month Extension

Declaring that it would be foolish to switch contractors during an open-enrollment period, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended by six months the web technology services contract of Accenture, which was called in to fix the many glitches that plagued the launch of HealthCare.Gov in November 2013.

The next open-enrollment period to sign up for health care on the site opens Nov. 15 and closes Feb. 15, 2015. Accenture's original $90 million contract was set to expire in January but will now last until July 10, 2015.

To understand all the in's and out's of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the various online marketplaces available to you and your employees, please procure a copy of Personnel Concepts' 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 Names New Chair for EEOC

President Obama has named Jenny R. Yang Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to succeed outgoing Chair Jacqueline Berrien. Yang is currently vice chair of the EEOC, and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 25, 2013. Yang will be the first Asian-American Chair of the EEOC.

"It is an honor and privilege to have been named by President Obama to serve as chair of the EEOC," Chair Yang said. "Our outgoing  chair, Jacqueline Berrien, has left an extraordinary legacy. I look forward to building upon that foundation with my fellow commissioners, our general counsel, and all of our dedicated and talented staff."

As a member of the commission and vice chair, Yang led a comprehensive review of the agency's systemic program, which addresses issues of alleged discrimination that have broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic area. She also represented the agency on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Immediately prior to joining the EEOC, Yang was a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, where she represented employees across the country in numerous complex civil rights and employment actions. Yang also served as a senior trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section, where she enforced federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment by state and local government employers from 1998 to 2003.

Yang received her B.A. from Cornell University in government. She received her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a note and comment editor of the law review and a Root-Tilden public interest scholar. Yang and her husband, Kil Huh, director of the States' Fiscal Health Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, have two sons.

Yang's appointment to the EEOC expires on July 1, 2017.

Employers and business owners, stay up to date on all the rules and regulations affecting your business in terms of equal employment opportunity — which is the law — by ordering a copy of our EEO Compliance Poster Subscription, which includes a quarterly newsletter.


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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NLRB and Ecuadorian Ministry Sign Collaborative MOU

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to strengthen their collaborative efforts to provide Ecuadorian workers, their employers, and Ecuadorian business owners in the United States with information, guidance, and access to education regarding their rights and responsibilities under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Under the framework agreed upon, the NLRB and the Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as NLRB Regional Offices and Ecuadorian Consulates nationwide, will cooperate to provide outreach, education, and training, and to develop best practices. The framework has been used by other federal labor agencies, including the Department of Labor, which have similar agreements with the Ecuadorian Embassy and its consulates.

The agreement is aimed to promote a broader awareness within the Ecuadorian community of the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers, along with the services that the NLRB provides.

With coordination from the consulates, the NLRB expects to meet with Ecuadorian workers around the country to help forge innovative solutions to issues specific to their needs. The memorandum of understanding will also increase the NLRB’s ability to provide employers, including Ecuadorian business owners in the United States, with resources directly available to them, including access to education and training resources regarding rights and responsibilities under the NLRA.

To help you better understand and comply with the NLRA, Personnel Concepts has prepared a comprehensive National Labor Relations Act Compliance Kit. Get your copy today.


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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EEO-1 Reports for Large Employers, Federal Contractors Due Sept. 30

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has completed its mailing of the 2014 EEO-1 survey notification letters.  The EEO-1 is an annual survey that requires all private employers with 100 or more employees, and federal government contractors or first-tier subcontractors with 50 or more employees and a contract/subcontract of $50,000 or more, to file the EEO-1 report.  The filing of the EEO-1 report is not voluntary but is required by federal law.  The annual filing deadline is Sept. 30.  

The EEO-1 report provides valuable employment data by race/ethnicity, gender and job categories, and is used by researchers, private attorneys, human resource staff in developing affirmative action plans, and in the commission's enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Employers who meet the criteria listed above or employers that filed the EEO-1 report in 2013 and have not received the 2014 EEO-1 Notification Letter by the end of July, 2014, should immediately contact the EEO-1 Joint Reporting Committee at (866) 286-6440 (toll-free) or e-mail,  e1.techassistance@eeoc.gov.

Deidre M. Flippen, director of the EEOC Office of Research, Information and Planning, points out that: "This year we continue our efforts to make it easier for employers to file by providing more technical assistance guidance in the form of a postal code lookup table, sample self-identification forms, and the ability for employers who upload their data files, to test their data files for errors prior to upload.  These new tools will assist employers in meeting the Sept. 30 deadline."

To help you understand all your business and employee obligations under Equal Employment Opportunity — which is the law — subscribe to our EEO Compliance Poster Subscription and get compliance posters for workplace display, along with a quarterly newsletter to update you on changing laws and regulations.


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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Pennsylvania Becomes 27th State to Expand Medicaid

Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Corbett has long sought changes in how the federal health care system is run, has finally agreed to expand its Medicaid coverage under terms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but will let private insurers run the program for the state with 100 percent federal funding.

Pennsylvania thus becomes the 27th state to expand its Medicaid program, enabling 2.2 million more adults and children to be covered beginning Jan. 1.

Critics of the governor claim he was forced to accept the expansion in the face of a tough reelection campaign

"We're trying to show that by giving individuals personal responsibility in building in healthy behaviors that we're not just trying to do what we've always done," said Beverly Mackereth, Corbett's Department of Public Welfare secretary. "We're trying to build a program that changes behavior and allows people to benefit more from the healthcare that they're given.".


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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NLRB Rules a Facebook ‘Like’ Is Protected, Concerted Activity

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that a Facebook discussion on an employer's tax withholding calculations and an employee's "like" of the discussion constituted "protected, concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

When employees at Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille in Connecticut discovered that they owed more in state taxes than they had anticipated, a workplace discussion ensued and the owners planned a meeting to broach the issue. At the same time, a former employee posted this "status updated" on her Facebook page: "Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money…Wtf!!!"

When two current employees joined in the Facebook discussion — one merely "liking" a comment — Triple Play fired them for disloyalty.

The NLRB, in Vincent Spinella v. Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille, ruled that the Facebook discussion was "protected, concerted activity" under the NLRA because the subject matter concerned workplace issues and thus did not amount to disloyalty. The ruling noted:

"It is beyond question that issues related to wages, including the tax treatment of earnings, are directly related to the employment relationship, and may form the basis for protected concerted activity within the meaning of Section 7."

The restaurant was ordered to restore the terminated employees and make whole any wages they had lost as a result of their firings. The establishment was also ordered to rewrite its social media policy.

The NLRB has been vigorously enforcing employee rights in the era of cyber-communications. To help you navigate the board's many rules and interpretations, Personnel Concepts has prepared a Workplace Social Media Policy Program. Get your copy today.


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 and Mexico to Sign Memorandum of Understanding

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will sign a national Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States on Friday, Aug. 29,\ at EEOC headquarters in Washington D.C.  

The MOU is designed to further strengthen collaborative efforts to provide immigrant, migrant and otherwise vulnerable Mexican workers and their employers with guidance and information and access to education relative to their rights and responsibilities under the laws enforced by the EEOC.  EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien and Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora will sign the MOU in English and in Spanish.


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, NIOSH Release Recommendations on Temporary Worker Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today released a publication called Recommended Practices for use by staffing agencies and host employers to better protect temporary workers from hazards on the job.

OSHA chief David Michaels announced the publication during his speech at the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association (VPPPA) annual conference in National Harbor, Md. The new Recommended Practices publication highlights the joint responsibility of the staffing agency and host employer to ensure temporary workers are provided a safe work environment.

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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 Weighs in On Religious Garb and Grooming at Work

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, recently issued explicit guidance on "Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities."

The bottom line is that employers must respect and accommodate religious garb and grooming in their places of business unless they can prove that doing so would pose "an undue hardship." And religion is defined very broadly as encompassing not only recognized, formalized faiths but also "religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or may seem illogical or unreasonable to others."

Fortunately, the guidance — which you can read by clicking here — gives various examples of how religious accommodations should be handled and also lists instances in which an "undue hardship" exception might apply.


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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Connecticut Obamacare Chief Named New Czar of HealthCare.Gov

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has named the head of Connecticut's Obamacare program to run HealthCare.gov for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Kevin Counihan will join CMS officially as Marketplace Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  In addition, Lori Lodes has been named the new Director of Communications for CMS.

In his role as Marketplace CEO, Counihan will be responsible and accountable for leading the federal marketplace, managing relationships with state marketplaces, and running the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which regulates health insurance at the federal level.  He will report to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

Counihan is an experienced senior executive with more than three decades of success in business, marketing, operations, product development and strategic planning for health care organizations.  He most recently served as Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange CEO, a role he was chosen for by Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy, and during which he oversaw the successful implementation of the state’s marketplace, where enrollment exceeded expectations.  Connecticut was the first state to surpass the goal for Affordable Care Act enrollees, and since 2012, the state’s uninsured rate has been cut nearly in half – from 7.9 percent to 4.0 percent.  Nine states have contacted Connecticut’s exchange about implementing its technology.


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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