The Friendly Skies Just Got Punctured for $1 Million for Disability Policy

In a case that garnered nationwide attention, air transportation giant United Airlines Inc. (UAL) has agreed to pay more than $1 million and implement changes to settle a federal disability lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency has announced.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that United’s competitive transfer policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer. By requiring workers with disabilities to compete for vacant positions for which they were qualified, and which they needed in order to continue working, the company’s practice frequently prevented employees with disabilities from continuing employment with United, the EEOC said.

The consent decree settling the suit requires United to pay $1,000,040 to a small class of former United employees with disabilities and to make changes nationally. United will revise its ADA reassignment policy, train employees with supervisory or human resource responsibilities regarding the policy changes, and provide reports to the EEOC regarding disabled employees who were denied a position as part of the ADA reassignment process.


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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Inspector General Finds CMS Payments to Insurers Often Inaccurate

Because the back-end of HealthCare.gov is still unable to accurately calculate subsidies owed to Obamacare sign-ups, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been relying on estimates provided by insurers of what is owed them, according to an audit by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

According to the audit, “On the basis of our sample results, we concluded that CMS’s system of internal controls could not ensure that CMS correctly made financial assistance payments….”

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), qualifying health insurance applicants can receive federal assistance to offset the cost of their monthly premiums, but the back-end system for determining the amounts owed is still unfinished, according to a report about the audit in today’s Wall Street Journal.

According to the OIG report:

Under CMS’s interim process for approving financial assistance payments in effect during our audit period, issuers submitted to CMS a monthly ‘Enrollment and Payment Data Template’ covering enrollees in all of the issuers’ plans. Each template contained the aggregate financial assistance amounts that the issuer submitted for reimbursement on the basis of its confirmed enrollment totals. Confirmed enrollees were defined as those who had paid their first month’s premium to the QHP [Qualified Health Plan] issuer and had their enrollment information approved by the issuer.

Though the audit covered just the first enrollment period under the ACA in 2013-2014, the problem persists, according to the Wall Street Journal.


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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Survey Says Most Obamacare Enrollees Happy with Their Coverage

The latest Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act (ACA) Tracking Survey pegs the percentage of uninsured working-age adults at 13 in May 2015, down from 20 percent prior to the first Obamacare enrollment period in 2013-2014. This represents an estimated decline of 12.1 million uninsured adults since enrollments began.

The surveyors announced that they “interviewed a nationally representative sample of 19-to-64-year-old adults, including a sample of adults who either have marketplace or Medicaid coverage or might be eligible for it.”

According to the survey, the respondents reported no more difficulty in finding a physician or scheduling an appointment than those with pre-Obamacare health plans, and majorities in all categories expressed satisfaction with their new coverage under the ACA.


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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FedEx Joins Walmart in Trucker Pay Woes

FedEx has agreed to a roughly $228 million settlement over a lawsuit alleging the company misclassified more than 2,000 California drivers as independent contractors and thus owes them overtime pay and other benefits.

FedEx originally prevailed in a federal court proceeding, which ruled that the company was not subject to California labor laws. An appeals court, however, overturned that decision.

FedEx then appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, but before the issue could come to trial, both sides agreed to a settlement totaling some $228 million for the workers at FedEx Ground Package Systems, covering the period between 2000 and 2007.

FedEx confirmed that the branch in question is no longer operating.


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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Walmart Could Be on the Hook for $100 Million in Back Trucker Pay

Walmart’s policy of paying its truck drivers by miles driven and activities performed violates California’s minimum wage law, a federal judge has ruled, putting the retailer on the hook for as much as $100 million in back wages.

“The court finds that the pay policies detailed in the [company’s trucker] manuals violate California minimum wage law by failing to pay drivers at least minimum wage for all the time they work,” wrote U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.

In 2008 Walmart truckers sued the company, claiming that they were not adequately paid for non-driving tasks such as inspections, rest breaks, fueling, waiting at scales and taking mandatory “layover” periods to reduce fatigue.

Walmart did not immediately announce if it would appeal the ruling.


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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‘Embedded Rule’ Makes Out-of-Pocket Health Expenses Trickier Than Before

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), out-of-pocket health expenses in non-grandfathered insurance plans will rise to $6,850 in 2016 for individuals and to $13,700 for family coverage.

Breaking from the past, however, the individual limit now applies regardless. In other words, if one individual rolls up $12,000 in annual health expenses, only $6,850 of that will be credited against the overall family limit of $13,700.

Whereas in the past, that $12,000 would be credited entirely to the family limit, that is no longer the case. This is all courtesy of what’s being called “the embedded rule,” meaning that individual limits are embedded in the overall limit.

On the plus side for the individual with the $12K bill, the insurance company must cover the remaining $5,150, but the other family members must spend another $6,850 on medical expenses before the insurance company becomes liable again.

This “embedded rule” is covered in a the latest set of Obamacare FAQs (No. 27) issued by the Department of Labor (DOL).

NOTE: As the Wall Street Journal is reporting today, however, ACA out-of-pocket limits apply only if the patient uses a provider listed in the insurance company’s network. Out-of-network expenses can be billed directly to the consumer once the insurance company pays its part, even if the bill exceeds ACA’s out-of-pocket limits.


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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Obamacare State Exchanges Biting the Dust

Hawaii became the latest state to shut down its online health insurance marketplace after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began cutting back on grant funds because its exchange was out of compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Hawaii exchange enrolled only 8,500 persons in the first year of Obamacare, costing the state $24,000 per sign-up, the highest average in the nation.

Along with the website shutdown, the state’s 73-member marketplace/outreach workforce will be laid off by Feb. 28, 2016.

The Aloha State thus joins a growing list of states that have jettisoned their online exchanges either permanently or temporarily.

Oregon, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico and Nevada are in the temp-perm category, while Colorado, Minnesota and Vermont are contemplating joining their ranks.

The shutdowns are ominous given the possibility the Supreme Court could end all health care subsidies except to residents of states that operate their own exchanges.


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 Sues Company for Inflexible Leave Policy Under ADA

ValleyLife, a disability support services company, unlawfully discriminated against disabled employees by refusing to provide them with reasonable accommodations in violation of federal law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.

ValleyLife is an Arizona corporation which provides programs and support services for individuals with disabilities in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.

According to the EEOC’s suit, ValleyLife fired employees with disabilities rather than provide them with reasonable accommodations due to its inflexible leave policy. The policy compelled the termination of employees who had exhausted their paid time off and/or any unpaid leave to which they were eligible under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

For example, the commission said that ValleyLife forced out one supervisor, Glenn Stephens, due to his need for further surgery when his FMLA leave was exhausted. ValleyLife did not engage in any interactive process to determine whether any accommodations (including additional leave) were possible, accord­ing to the suit.

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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 Files Third Transgender Lawsuit

Deluxe Financial Services Corp., a Shoreview, Minn.-based check-printing and financial services corporation, violated federal law by subjecting a transgender employee to sex discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a lawsuit.

This is the third lawsuit filed recently by the EEOC alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity/transitioning/transgender status. In April, 2015, a Florida eye clinic paid $150,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit filed in September 2014, seeking relief for an employee who had been transitioning to female; also in September 2014, the EEOC filed suit seeking relief for an employee of a Detroit area funeral home fired for transitioning from male to female.

According to the EEOC’s suit against Deluxe Financial Services, Britney Austin had performed her duties satisfactorily in the company’s Phoenix offices throughout a lengthy tenure there. However, after she began to present at work as a woman and informed her supervisors that she was transgender, Deluxe refused to let her use the women’s restroom. Supervisors and coworkers subjected Austin to a hostile work environment, including hurtful epithets and intentionally using the wrong gender pronouns to refer to her.

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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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OSHA Issues Guideline on Transgender Bathrooms

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published an OSHA Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers. The publication provides guidance to employers on best practices regarding restroom access for transgender workers.

The guide was developed at the request of the National Center for Transgender Equality, an OSHA Alliance partner that works collaboratively with the agency to develop products and materials to protect the safety and health of transgender workers.

OSHA’s Sanitation standard requires that all employers under its jurisdiction provide employees with sanitary and available toilet facilities, so that employees will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when employees need them.

Many companies have implemented written policies to ensure that all employees – including transgender employees – have prompt access to appropriate sanitary facilities. The core belief underlying these policies is that all employees should be permitted to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identify. For example, a person who identifies as a man should be permitted to use men’s restrooms, and a person who identifies as a woman should be permitted to use women’s restrooms.

The publication includes a description of best practices and also makes employers aware of federal, state and local laws that reaffirm the core principle of providing employees with access to restroom facilities based on gender identification.


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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