Connecticut Minimum Wage to Rise to $10.10 an Hour in 2017

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed into law a bill raising the state's minimum wage to the highest for any state in the nation, $10.10 an hour.

The new rate will phase in, rising from the current $8.70 an hour to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2015, then to $9.60 on Jan. 1, 2016, and finally to $10.10 in January 2017.

Gov. Malloy called the signing one of his "proudest days as a governor," adding, "It's time to get people out of poverty."


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 Claims Obamacare Sign-Ups Have Reached 6 Million

In a transatlantic conference call with supporters, health care navigators and volunteers, President Obama today claimed sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) have already reached 6 million even before the official deadline of March 31. (Navigators are paid to help people enroll in Health Insurance Marketplace policies.)

During the call, President Obama "thanked the group for all their hard work to date and discussed the importance of building on this progress over the last four days of open enrollment," according to the White House press office.

The congratulatory call follows an announcement earlier this week that those who have encountered difficulty signing up online can now check a box while on HealthCare.gov to seek an extension. So long as they then officially ask for an extension by April 15, they will be able to continue the sign-up process for an undisclosed period of time.

Before the launch of the marketplaces in October, the administration said the goal was 7 million enrollees by March 31, but that has since been reduced to 6 million due to troubles with the federal website and, though unstated, to conform with public-relations and election-year realities.


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 Chicago Office Issues Landscape-Changing College Player Decision

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in a regional decision springing from efforts of student athletes at Northwestern University, has ruled that amateur college players have the right to unionize.

Peter Sung Ohr, regional NLRB director in Chicago, wrote: "I find that players receiving scholarships from the Employer [Northwestern University] are 'employees' under Section 2(3) of the Act. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that an election be conducted under the direction of the Regional Director for Region 13…." 

Thus the Northwestern players who petitioned the NLRB regional office are free to organize and bargain over wages and other issues covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

"While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director's opinion, we disagree with it," responded Northwestern Vice President Richard Cubbage. "Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes."

The 123 schools in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision turned a $1.3 billion profit on $3.2 billion in revenue in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to the data submitted to the Department of Education.

The NLRB governs the rights of private-sector employees, meaning that the ruling affects only athletes who compete at private schools. Public-school players seeking to unionize would have to gain approval from state-run labor boards.


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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Check a Box and Get an Obamacare Sign-Up Extension

As the Washington Post first reported, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is creating a checkbox on the HealthCare.gov website to allow persons to indicate they tried to enroll before the March 31 sign-up deadline but were unable to finish, thus gaining an extension of unannounced length if they ask for one by mid-April.

HHS officials said they would not be seeking reasons for the extension requests, just verifying that the checkbox was highlighted on the individual's account.

"We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment — either online or over the phone," Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters told Fox News.


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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OFCCP Rules for Hiring Veterans and the Disabled Now in Effect

Two final rules from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) are now in effect, in essence establishing quotas for the hiring of veterans and the disabled by federal contractors and subcontractors.

One rule updates requirements under the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974; the other updates those under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. For more than 40 years these laws have required federal contractors and subcontractors to affirmatively recruit, hire, train and promote qualified veterans and people with disabilities respectively.

The VEVRAA rule provides contractors with a quantifiable metric to measure their success in recruiting and employing veterans by requiring contractors to annually adopt a benchmark either based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce (currently 8 percent), or their own benchmark based on the best available data. The rule strengthens accountability and record-keeping requirements, enabling contractors to assess the effectiveness of their recruitment efforts. It also clarifies job listing and subcontract requirements to facilitate compliance.

The Section 503 rule introduces a hiring goal for federal contractors and subcontractors that 7 percent of each job group in their workforce be qualified individuals with disabilities. The rule also details specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination — similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities.

Both rules took effect yesterday, March 24, and apply to businesses that do contractual work with the federal government.


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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States Add Wiggle Room to Obamacare Sign-Up Deadline

Some states are already gaming the Obamacare enrollment deadline by announcing that those who start the sign-up process by the official deadline of March 31 can have extra time to complete their applications.

Maryland, Nevada and Minnesota have already announced the wiggle room. Minnesota officials also said that so long as the late-signers have coverage kicking in by May 1, they will not be subject to a fine for lacking health insurance. This was later confirmed as acceptable by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans who lack health insurance for 90 days or more in 2014 can be fined $95, or 1 percent of their income, prorated for the period they lacked coverage, though the government has offered many "hardship" exemptions. The fine is set to rise each year.

Oregon, whose online Health Care Marketplace is still not fully operational, is considering an outright extension of the sign-up deadline, something that would require approval from the federal government.


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 Announces National Stand-Down for Fall Prevention

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a national safety stand-down from June 2 to 6 to raise awareness among employers and workers about the hazards of falls, which account for the highest number of deaths in the construction industry.

"Falls account for more than a third of all deaths in this industry," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "We're working with employers, workers, industry groups, state OSH plans, and civic and faith-based organizations to host safety stand-downs that focus on recognizing hazards and preventing falls. We are getting the message out to America's employers that safety pays and falls cost."

During the stand-down, employers and workers are asked to pause their workday to talk about fall prevention in construction, and discuss topics like ladder safety, scaffolding safety and roofing work safety. OSHA has also launched an official national safety stand-down website with information on how to conduct a successful stand-down. Afterwards, employers will be able to provide feedback and receive a personalized certificate of participation.

The stand-down is part of OSHA's ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign, which was started in 2012 and was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. The campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to plan ahead to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for their workers and train all employees in the proper use of that equipment.


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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Sibelius Finds Loophole to Extend Obamacare Open Enrollment Period

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sibelius is eyeing special enrollment periods, or SEPs, to extend the Obamacare health care sign-up deadline past March 31, citing technological problems that prevented many from signing up.

In recent testimony to Congress, she "made it clear that if, through no fault of their own, [consumers] were unable to enroll, that eligibility extends to a delayed enrollment period and they will have a special enrollment period which we have the authority to grant."

This contradicts — or at least adds a wormhole for safe passage through legislative restrictions — to an earlier statement made by HHS Office of Health Reform Director Michael Hash, who noted that "We do not believe we have the authority to extend that period beyond March 31," adding, "We have no plans to do so."


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 Raises Fines for Non-Posting of Title VII, ADA and GINA Posters

Effective April 18, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is raising its fine for non-posting of notices regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII protections, provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and provisions of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) from $110 per instance to $210.

In other words, if you fail to post all three, you could be fined $630 and ordered to post the notices.

According to the published EEOC notice:

In accordance with the Federal Civil Monetary Penalty Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, this final rule adjusts for inflation the civil monetary penalty for violation of the notice-posting requirements in Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.


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 Enrollments Reach 5 Million, Administration Says

Through yesterday, the administration claims total enrollment in Obamacare health care plans had reached 5 million, 25 percent of them in the 18-35 age group, with March 31 the cut-off for open enrollment.

Originally, administration spokespersons said the goal was to reach 7 million enrollments with 40 percent of them "young invincibles," who would rarely use their insurance and thus offset the cost of older, more health-challenged individuals. Now they have backed off that number, saying that it was a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) calculation, not theirs.

Few observers expect enrollment to top 6 million by the end of the month. Even though Americans who lack health insurance will be socked with a minimum $95 tax penalty for failing to be covered, a Bankrate survey found that 34 percent of uninsured Americans don't plan on buying health insurance. The survey also found that half of people without insurance are unaware of the March 31 deadline and 70 percent are unaware that subsidies for their insurance might be available.


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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