Supreme Court to Review Legality of ACA Health Care Subsidies

With just a few days to go before the start of the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Supreme Court has agreed to hear both sides in the King v. Burwell lawsuit, which aims to strike down health care subsidies in the 36 states that chose not to establish insurance exchanges.

At question is language in the original reform bill that says tax credits would be available for qualifying residents in states that operated their own exchange, or health insurance marketplace. Despite the plain language, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidelines saying that tsuch subsidies are available across the board, both in states with their own exchanges and in states where the federal government operates the marketplace (HealthCare.gov).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit sided with the IRS, but the high court has agreed to settle the issue. To do so means that at least four justices agreed to review the case, which further means that at least four justices don’t agree with the IRS’s ruling. There would be no reason for a review if the four (or more) justices agreed with the Fourth Circuit’s decision.

Most major Supreme Court decisions are not released until the end of the session, generally in late June, so expect a ruling next summer.


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.
GoTo top Top

USCIS Website Redesigned with Enhanced Mobile Tool

USCISThe United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has relaunched its website, USCIS.gov, with a new look and an enhanced tool for mobile user to check the status of their cases.

The USCIS announcement explained:

Our updated homepage for www.uscis.gov and www.uscis.gov/espanol will still offer the user-friendly icons and tabs you are familiar with, and it will now provide easy-to-navigate sections on USCIS news, outreach events, educational webinars, and other services. You can now access the enhanced Case Status tool on your mobile device. The tool now includes case history, next steps and clearer information. The new look of the website and updates to Case Status will give customers a unified user experience from one, trusted government source.

Earlier this year, we also unveiled big changes to the Change of Address and e-Request tools. The improvements we made are a direct result of listening to and taking action on customer feedback. We are committed to working this way in the future to provide a better customer service experience.


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.
GoTo top Top

‘Skinny’ Health Plans Must Cover Hospitalization & Physicians, IRS Says

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was written, it set a “minimum value” standard on all health plans by saying a health policy must cover 60 percent of the cost of the “benefits provided by the plan,” but the text failed to specify which benefits must be offered.

This week the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filled in the void by saying all minimum value — or so-called “skinny” — plans that “fail to provide substantial coverage for in-patient hospitalization services or for physician services (or for both)” do not meet ACA standards.

Prior to this ruling, some employers and health insurance consultants had used a minimum value calculator offered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to achieve 60 percent coverage without offering hospitalization and physician services. These plans can no longer be issued, the IRS says, without triggering potential assessments under the ACA. Current “skinny” plans will be exempt from penalties through March 1, 2015.

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 and 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.
GoTo top Top

EEOC Files Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against Restaurant

Crooked Creek Investment Company, doing business as Crooked Creek & Creekside Bar & Grille in Saginaw, Mich., violated federal law when it refused to hire an applicant as a food server because she was pregnant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed this week.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the job seeker had prior experience working in a restaurant.  She applied for a vacant food server position in February 2013.  Her first interview with Crooked Creek went well and she was asked to return for a second interview.  When she revealed her pregnancy during the second interview, however, Crooked Creek refused to consider her further for the job, the EEOC said.

Refusing to consider a woman for a job because she is pregnant violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.  The EEOC filed suit against Crooked Creek in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, after first attempting to settle the matter through its pre-litigation conciliation process.  The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the applicant along with injunctive relief intended to prevent further instances of pregnancy discrimination.

“Women should not be forced to remove themselves from the labor market simply because they are pregnant,” said EEOC trial attorney Omar Weaver.  “The EEOC will vigorously enforce a pregnant woman’s right to be fairly considered for a job.”

As the EEOC ramps up its surveillance of pregnancy discrimination — often resulting in litigation — no company should go without our new Pregnancy Discrimination Prevention Program.


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.
GoTo top Top

Bugs Plague Launch of Obamacare SHOP Website

healthcaredotgovAfter the SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) website was launched for testing in five states this past week, defects were soon uncovered, including approved health plans that failed to appear in searches and an inability to render the pages correctly on Internet Explorer and Firefox. Google Chrome was the one browser that loaded the site correctly.

The SHOP website is actually a sub-site on HealthCare.gov that is accessed by a “Small Businesses” tab at the top of the home page. States participating in the health care exchange/marketplace program also have SHOP options online.

Originally scheduled to debut in October 2013 so small businesses could search for affordable health insurance, the SHOP function failed to even operate and was disabled for repair. A year later and there are still problems, but administration officials claim everything should be fixed in time for the official nationwide launch on Nov. 15, the first day of open enrollment for Obamacare health plans for 2015.

With the Obamacare Marketplaces set to launch the 2015 Open Enrollment period on Nov. 15, it’s a good time to post Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One ACA Information Center Poster to keep your employees up to date.


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.
GoTo top Top

DOL Extends Commentary Period on Contractor Reporting Rule

The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a 60-day extension of the comment period for its proposed rule requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to submit an annual Equal Pay Report on employee compensation to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs *OFCCP).

Under the terms of the proposal, this requirement would apply to companies that file EEO-1 reports, have more than 100 employees, and hold federal contracts or subcontracts worth $50,000 or more for at least 30 days. Through the Equal Pay Report, OFCCP would be able to collect summary employee pay and demographic data using existing government reporting frameworks.

President Obama signed a presidential memorandum on April 8 instructing the secretary of labor to propose a rule to collect summary compensation data from federal contractors and subcontractors. The department published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register on Aug. 8, with a deadline to submit comments by Nov. 6. The comment period will be extended through Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. To read and comment on the proposed rule, please visit http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/EPR.


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.
GoTo top Top

USCIS National Records Center Celebrates 15th Anniversary

Who knew this 300,000-square-foot underground facility ever existed, but word comes from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that its National Records Center is turning 15 years old.

Located in Lee’s Summit, Mo., the center houses 20 million files on documented immigrants, each file one to six inches thick. Some 500 full-time employees and contract workers process 1.5 million files a year, according to USCIS Chief of Staff Juliet K. Choi, who recently visited the facility to mark its anniversary.

Employers and business owners, to understand your legal relationship to USCIS, get a copy of our I-9 Compliance Kit today. It covers all the details of ensuring your employees have been verified to have a legal right to work in the U.S.


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.
GoTo top Top

Harvest Time Sees WHD Investigators Rooting Out Violations

fallharvestThe fall harvest season has always been a time for celebration when communities across the country honor the fruits of farm labor. While we enjoy things like fresh cider and pumpkin pie, it’s important to remember that all of that is made possible thanks to agricultural workers who labor through long and often hot days in the fields.

Farm labor is tough and sometimes dangerous work. That’s why there are strict laws designed to ensure workers are duly compensated and kept safe while they pick, gather and prepare fruits and vegetables for their long journey to our homes. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) is tasked with enforcing those laws and the WHD takes seriously the responsibility of protecting the well-being of workers. And, by enforcing the laws WHD also preserve a fair and level playing field for honest, law-abiding employers who shouldn’t have to compete against those who reduce their labor costs by not paying their workers properly and who cut corners on safety.

One recent case in Texas shows all too well how flouting the law can put lives in danger. During a recent investigation conducted in a pumpkin field outside the town of Floydada, WHD discovered a utility vehicle originally meant to seat only two people was rigged instead with loose chairs and a bench seat used to transport up to ten workers at a time. Of course there were no seatbelts and none of the seats were attached to the vehicle floor. Those workers were transported daily in dangerous and uncomfortable conditions – often up to 120 miles.

In that case, WHD acted quickly to secure a commitment from the farm labor contractors to immediately stop transporting workers in any unsafe vehicle – and they made good on that commitment. WHD action helped to ensure that those who toil in the fields to harvest the food for our families return safely to theirs at the end of a long day.

Employers and business owners, to better understand the nation’s wage and hour laws, get a copy of our FLSA Compliance Program.


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.
GoTo top Top

NLRB, Philippines Sign MOU to Help Filipino Workers in the U.S.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to strengthen their collaborative efforts to provide Filipino workers, their employers, and Filipino 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).

The NLRB is the independent government agency responsible for enforcing the NLRA, the primary law governing relations between employers and employees in the private sector. The act guarantees workers the right to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions, or to refrain from such activities. Employers and employees alike are protected from unfair labor practices.

Under the framework, the NLRB and the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as NLRB Regional Offices and Philippine 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 Philippine Embassy and its consulates.

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


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.
GoTo top Top

Suit Against NCAA Claims Student Athletes Are Covered Under the FLSA

A former college athlete is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and a slew of Division 1 colleges and universities, alleging that student athletes should be covered by the wage and hour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the law which regulates minimum wages and overtime.

The suit maintains that the NCAA affords better treatment to students in work study programs, “who work at food service counters or sell programs or usher at athletic events, or who wait on tables or wash dishes in dormitories” and thus qualify as temporary employees of the NCAA and are paid at least a federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour for their non-academic work.

The suit by former soccer player Samantha Sackos claims that student athletes deserve the same status as work study participants, that is, as “temporary employees of the NCAA.” The lawsuit was filed this week in Indiana.

Employers and business owners, to better understand the nation’s wage and hour laws, get a copy of our FLSA Compliance Program.


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.
GoTo top Top