DOL’s Home Health Care Worker Rule Truncated Even More

Following its decision in December that vacated a rule by the Department of Labor (DOL) to force third-party employers to pay home health care workers minimum wages and overtime, the District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday threw out Section 552.6 of the same rule, which sought to narrow the definition of “companionship services” in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The court ruling found that the DOL “yet again … is trying to do through regulation what must be done through legislation. And, therefore, it [Section 552.6] too must be vacated.”

The DOL rule had sought to limit the FLSA exemption from minimum wage and overtime laws to 20 percent of the time that health care workers are helping the elderly and disabled in their places of residence. In other words, 80 percent of time spent in domestic caring would be subject to both minimum wage and overtime protections.


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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MSHA Final Rule Mandates Use of Proximity Detection Systems in Mining Ops

Today, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced a final rule that will require operators of underground coal mines to equip continuous mining machines with proximity detection systems. It will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 15 and become effective 60 days thereafter.

“Simply put, the proximity detection final rule will save lives and has the potential to dramatically improve the safety of mining operations,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “It already has the support of many in the mining industry. In fact, a number of coal companies installed proximity detection systems long before there was a legal obligation to do so.”

Thirty-five coal miners have died since 1984 when they became pinned, crushed or struck by continuous mining machines. To combat these kinds of accidents, a number of mining companies have adopted the use of proximity detection, a technology that uses electronic sensors to detect motion or the location of one object relative to another. These systems can be programmed to send warning signals and stop machines before they injure or kill miners working in the confined space of an underground coal mine.

With the new rule, a proximity detection system consists of machine-mounted components and miner-wearable components worn by each miner on the working section. The final rule establishes performance and maintenance requirements for these systems and requires training for persons performing the installation and maintenance.

The rule includes phase-in periods of 8 to 36 months to give mine operators ample time to obtain MSHA approvals, modify continuous mining machines to meet the new requirements, and provide training to miners. The phase-in periods are based on the availability of four MSHA-approved proximity detection systems, the estimated number of continuous mining machines that would be rebuilt or replaced by new machines during the phase-in periods, and manufacturers’ capacity to produce and install these systems.


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, Florida Partner Against Worker Misclassification

Officials from the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Florida Department of Revenue have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the goal of protecting the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other non-employee statuses.

Under the agreement, both agencies will share information and coordinate law enforcement. The MOU represents a new effort on the part of the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification, according to the announcement of the agreement. The Florida Department of Revenue is the latest state agency to partner with the Labor Department.

In Fiscal Year 2013, WHD investigations resulted in more than $83,051,159 in back wages for more than 108,050 workers in industries such as janitorial, food, construction, day care, hospitality and garment. WHD regularly finds large concentrations of misclassified workers in low-wage industries, the DOL says.

“Misclassification deprives workers of rightfully-earned wages and undercuts law-abiding businesses,” said Dr. David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “This memorandum of understanding sends a clear message that we are standing together with the state of Florida to protect workers and responsible employers and ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

Memoranda of understanding with state government agencies arose as part of the DOL’s Misclassification Initiative, with the goal of preventing, detecting and remedying employee misclassification. Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Utah and Washington state agencies have signed similar agreements.


To help employers classify their workforces properly, Personnel Concepts has prepared a comprehensive Worker Misclassification Prevention Kit. Get yours 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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Aetna to Institute $16-an-Hour Wage Floor

Some 5,700 employees of Aetna Inc., the health insurance provider, will see their wages rise to $16 an hour as the company prepares to become “a much more consumer-oriented business” with “a better and more informed work force,” according to CEO Mark T. Bertolini.

Chalk part of the company’s decision up to Obamacare, as Aetna now finds itself more actively involved in the individual insurance market.

Aetna’s move follows closely on the heels of decisions by Gap Inc., Ikea and Starbucks Corp., among others, to elevate base wages.

The 5,700 affected Aetna workers, who currently receive the minimum wage in the state where they work, will receive their raises in April. At the same time, Aetna is promising to cut health insurance costs for the employees. The wage increase averages 11 percent company-wide, but in some locales, it represents a 33-percent jump.


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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OSHA Recordkeeping Annual Summary Due by Feb. 1

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 300A injury and illness summary form must be posted in a conspicuous workplace location by Feb. 1 and kept up until April 30.

The 300A is a summary of the information from the OSHA 300 injury and illness recordkeeping form (which shouldn’t be posted, just the summary form).

The summary form must be signed by a company executive to verify that the information is current and correct.


On Jan. 1 of this year, new OSHA reporting and recordkeeping requirements came into effect. To help you understand your new obligations, please order a copy of our OSHA Recordkeeping and Reporting Compliance Kit, which includes a guide, the forms you need, handouts and a CD-ROM.


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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U.S. Chamber Sues to Overturn Quickie Election Rule

Citing violations of the First Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and various sections of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Chamber of Commerce of the United States has sued to have the recent “Quckie Election” rule governing unionization efforts overturned.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Dec. 12 promulgated its long-anticipated “Final Rule to Modernize Representation-Case Procedures,” which will take effect April 14 unless blocked by a court, as the Chamber hopes to do.

The final rule accelerates the union organization voting process by eliminating, or making much more difficult, many procedural ploys used by employers to stretch out the process and prevail in the eventual vote.

The NRLB, however, sees its effort as “modernizing [NLRA] rules in light of modern technology, making its procedures more transparent and uniform across regions, and eliminating unnecessary litigation and delay.”

The Chamber counters that  “the Final Rule will restrict employers’ ability to litigate issues of eligibility and inclusion at the pre-election hearing, even if those issues are timely raised; sharply limit employers’ opportunity to seek Board review of a Regional Director’s decision before the election; and eliminates mandatory Board review of post-election disputes, making such review discretionary only. In these circumstances, if the union wins the election, the employer may be denied any Board review of the Regional Director’s decision and the employer’s only recourse for judicial review will be to subject itself to an unfair labor practice proceeding by refusing to bargain with the union.”


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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Health Care Subsidies Could Cost Consumers at Tax Time

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in charge of enacting Obamacare, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in charge of enforcing the very same Affordable Care Act (ACA), have issued a statement about providing help at tax time for those who signed up for health care through one of the ACA exchanges. What they’re not directly admitting is that, if a consumer received a subsidy that was wholly or partially unwarranted, that person will have to pay back the portion of the subsidy, whether partial or whole, that was unwarranted based on final 2013 income. That payback sum will be due at tax time. Here’s the two agencies’ press release:

In preparation for the 2015 tax filing season, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department are putting in place resources to provide tax filers with the information and resources they need to get their questions answered.

Millions of Americans who get their health insurance through work are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act, and millions of others have signed up for the Health Insurance Marketplaces and received financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums.

Starting this year, consumers will see some changes to their tax returns.  While the vast majority of tax filers – over three quarters – will just need to check a box on their tax return indicating they had health coverage in 2014, people who have coverage through the Marketplaces, or decided not to enroll in coverage, should be aware of some additional steps that will be a part of the tax filing process starting this year.

Consumers will have questions about this new process and the Administration is committed to providing the information and tools tax filers need to understand the new requirements. In the coming weeks, the Administration will launch additional resources to help consumers prepare for tax filing season, including online tools to help individuals connect with local tax preparation services and determine if they are eligible for an exemption.


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.
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Obamacare Enrollment Up to 6.6 Million for 2015

Since Open Enrollment began on Nov. 15, nearly 6.6 million consumers selected a health insurance plan or were automatically re-enrolled in the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM), according to a post on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) blog.

The Week 7 snapshot (as HHS calls it) includes the New Year’s holiday; consumers continued to shop and select the plan that best meets their financial or health needs.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, nearly 6.6 million Americans have access to quality, affordable health coverage for 2015 through the Federally Facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace. As we turn to the New Year, our focus is on helping every individual who is interested in quality, affordable health insurance to understand their options and to get covered,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. “For coverage starting on February 1, it is important for people to sign-up now ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline.”

HHS produces more detailed reports that look at plan selection across the Federally Facilitated Marketplace and State-Based Marketplaces on a monthly basis. The first Open Enrollment monthly report was released on Dec. 30. Weekly snapshots do not include the consumers who visited, called, shopped or selected a plan through a State-Based Marketplace.

The Open Enrollment snapshots for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace provide point-in-time estimates for weekly data. These are preliminary numbers and could fluctuate based on consumers changing or canceling plans or having a change in status such as new job or marriage. The snapshots also include totals from the beginning of the 2015 Open Enrollment period, which started Nov. 15, 2014. Note that data revisions may mean that the weekly totals do not always equate to the cumulative numbers.


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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MSHA Says Coal Mining Deaths at Historic Lows

Preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) indicates that 40 miners died in work-related accidents at the nation’s mines in 2014, two fewer than in the previous year. Coal mining deaths dropped from 20 in 2013 to 16 in 2014, the lowest annual number of coal mining deaths ever recorded in the United States. The previous record low was 18 in 2009.

While the numbers of coal mines and miners have recently declined, the number of deaths in 2014 is about half what the industry experienced in the early 2000’s, when the numbers of working coal miners were at comparable levels.

Twenty-four deaths occurred in metal and nonmetal mines last year, an increase from 22 deaths in 2013.

The most common causes of mining accidents in 2014 involved powered haulage and machinery; five powered haulage and five machinery related deaths occurred in coal mines, and powered haulage accounted for eight deaths in metal and nonmetal mining. Powered haulage accidents involve equipment used to transport people, materials or supplies, and machinery accidents are associated with the action or motion of machinery or failure of component parts.


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 87 Percent of Obamacare Sign-Ups Receive Subsidies

A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides the first detailed analysis of enrollment in the Obamacare marketplaces for the first month of the 2015 open enrollment period.   About 87 percent of people who selected health insurance plans through HealthCare.gov for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2015 were determined eligible for financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums, compared to 80 percent of enrollees who selected plans over a similar period last year.

In addition, more than 4 million people in both the state and federal marketplaces signed up for the first time or re-enrolled in coverage for 2015 during the first month of open enrollment. That includes more than 3.4 million people who selected a plan in the 37 states that are using the HealthCare.gov platform for 2015, and more than 600,000 consumers who selected plans in the 14 states that are operating their own marketplace platform for 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 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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