SCOTUS Sides with Trucking Company Against EEOC in Attorney’s Fees Award

A unanimous Supreme Court has overturned a circuit court’s decision throwing out the award of $4.5 million in attorney’s fees to a trucking company, which had won a class action sexual harassment lawsuit brought against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC brought the class action lawsuit against CRST Van Expedited Inc. to district court, alleging female employees had been sexually harassed or assaulted while on the job. The court threw out the lawsuit, however, because the agency never bothered to investigate or to reconcile its claims. The district court then awarded the prevailing party (the trucking company) $4.5 million in attorney’s fees, to be paid by the EEOC.

Upon review, the circuit court threw out the award because the prevailing party had not won on “the merits.” The Supreme Court disagreed, 8-0, and remanded the case back to the lower court.

“In cases like these, significant attorney time and expenditure may have gone into contesting the claim,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in delivering the opinion of the court. “Congress could not have intended to bar defendants from obtaining attorney’s fees in these cases on the basis that, although the litigation was resolved in their favor, they were nonetheless not prevailing parties.”


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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It’s Official: Overtime Exemption Threshold to Be $47,476 a Year

The Department of Labor (DOL) today will unveil its new overtime rule, setting an annual salary of $47,476 as the minimum compensation for an employee to be exempt from overtime pay. The current standard is $23,660.

Vice-President Joe Biden, who will be touting the new rule at a stop in Columbus, Ohio, today, said: “The middle class is getting clobbered. If you work overtime, you should actually get paid for working overtime.”

According to the DOL website, the new rule will:

  • Raise the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year), ensuring protections to 4.2 million workers.
  • Automatically update the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability.
  • Strengthen overtime protections for salaried workers already entitled to overtime.
  • Provide greater clarity for workers and employers.

In today’s Final Rule, the DOL explains the steps to being declared exempt from overtime:

Since 1940, the implementing regulations have generally required each of three tests to be met for the exemptions to apply: (1) the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (the ‘salary basis test’); (2) the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (the ‘salary level test’); and (3) the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (the ‘duties test’).

Employers will have until Dec. 1 to implement the new standard.


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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May 18 the New Witching Day for Overtime Final Rule?

UPDATE: Earlier (see below) we ventured that Monday, May 16, might see the arrival of the new overtime rule, but several sources are now indicating it will be tomorrow, Wednesday, May 18. Stay tuned.

Growing speculation has it that the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Obama administration will issue their final rule on overtime exemptions on Monday, since May 16 is the last day that a rule would not be subject to repeal under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) should the Republicans take back the White House in 2017.

Terms of the CRA mandate that any rule issued within 60 days of the close of Congress will be reviewable for 60 days when the incoming Congress convenes.

Beating the May 16 deadline means that President Obama could veto any rollback attempt.

The long-discussed and -awaited rule will escalate the annual salary to be exempt from overtime pay from the current $22,660 to anywhere from $47,000 to $52,000.


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 Issues Final Rule on Wellness Programs, ADA and GINA

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued final rules that describe how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) apply to wellness programs offered by employers that request health information from employees and their spouses.

The two rules provide guidance to both employers and employees about how workplace wellness programs can comply with the ADA and GINA consistent with provisions governing wellness programs in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as amended by the Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act).

The rules permit wellness programs to operate consistent with their stated purpose of improving employee health, while including protections for employees against discrimination.

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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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Obamacare Insurers Pulling Out of Rural Areas

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 400 more U.S. counties will see their health insurance options whittled down to just one provider in 2017. In 2016, insurers pulled out of 225 counties, and next year the total is expected to rise to as many as 650. In those counties, consumers will have no option but to go with the one insurer left standing.

These counties are about 70 percent rural, foundation researcher Cynthia Cox told the Wall Street Journal. The rural exit reflects the cost of insuring people in such areas.


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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Wendy’s to Replace Order Takers with Self-Service Kiosks

In response to rising minimum wage standards in many states, Wendy’s the fast food chain is rolling out self-service kiosks for customers to punch in their orders, replacing human order takers.

The kiosks will be available at Wendy’s 6,000 nationwide locations in the second half of this year, but it will be up to franchisees whether to use them, according to Wendy’s President Todd Penegor.

McDonald’s is also considering the installation of kiosks, according to reports.


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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Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Payments Unconstitutional

A federal judge has sided with House of Representative Republicans in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of unappropriated funds totaling some $175 billion being transferred over 10 years to insurers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer issued the ruling but put it on hold pending appeal.

“None of the Secretaries’ extra-textual arguments – whether based on economics, ‘unintended’ results, or legislative history – is persuasive,” Judge Collyer wrote in her May 12 ruling. “The Court will enter judgment in favor of the House of Representatives and enjoin the use of unappropriated monies to fund reimbursements due to insurers.”

House Republicans under Speaker John Boehner had filed suit, arguing that their legislative body never appropriated the funds in question as the Constitution requires.

Collyer said the law is “clear,” and money was never allocated for that program.

The money was earmarked by the ACA to provide subsidies to health care insurers for low-income Obamacare policyholders.

The White House said it would appeal the decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which it earlier stacked with supporters under then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, abrogating then-rules of cloture.


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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Coming Soon to Cyberspace: Your Company’s Injury and Illness Data

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to modernize injury data collection in an effort to better inform workers, employers, the public and OSHA about workplace hazards. With this new rule, OSHA claims it is applying the insights of behavioral economics to improve workplace safety and prevent injuries and illnesses.

OSHA already requires many employers to keep a record of injuries and illnesses to help these employers and their employees identify hazards, fix problems and prevent additional injuries and illnesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that more than three million workers suffer a workplace injury or illness every year. Currently, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses at individual employers is made public or available to OSHA. Under the new rule, employers in high-hazard industries will send OSHA injury and illness data that the employers are already required to collect, for posting on the agency’s website.

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

The availability of these data will enable prospective employees to identify workplaces where their risk of injury is lowest; as a result, employers competing to hire the best workers will make injury prevention a higher priority, OSHA maintains. Access to these data will also enable employers to benchmark their safety and health performance against industry leaders, to improve their own safety programs.

To ensure that the injury data on OSHA logs are accurate and complete, the final rule also promotes an employee’s right to report injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation, and clarifies that an employer must have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage employees from reporting. This aspect of the rule targets employer programs and policies that, while nominally promoting safety, have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting injuries and, in turn leading to incomplete or inaccurate records of workplace hazards.

Using data collected under the new rule, OSHA says it will create the largest publicly available data set on work injuries and illnesses, enabling researchers to better study injury causation, identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread and evaluate the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention activities. OSHA will remove all personally identifiable information associated with the data before it is publicly accessible.


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 Announces Challenge to Redesign Medical Bills

Speaking at the annual Health Datapalooza conference this week, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced a challenge to encourage health care organizations, designers, developers, digital tech companies and other innovators to design a medical bill that’s simpler, cleaner, and easier for patients to understand, and to improve patients’ experience of the overall medical billing process.

The “A Bill You Can Understand” design and innovation challenge is intended to solicit new approaches and draw national attention to a common complaint with the health care system: that medical billing is a source of confusion for patients and families, according to Burwell.

For many, she explained, the problem starts with the billing process itself. People who use health care in the U.S. today can often receive bills from multiple hospitals, doctors, labs or specialists for the same episode of care that vary in content, presentation and use of health industry jargon. Because of this, it can be difficult for patients to understand what they owe, what their insurance plan covers, and whether the bills are correct or complete.

“This challenge is part of HHS’ larger effort to put patients at the center of their own health care,” said Secretary Burwell. “With today’s announcement, we are creating progress toward a medical bill that people can actually understand and a billing process that makes sense – progress that includes creating a forum that brings everyone to the table:  patients, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and innovators.”


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 Issues Document Clarifying Disability Leave

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a new resource document that addresses the rights of employees with disabilities who seek leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The document is entitled Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disability charges filed with the EEOC reached a new high in fiscal year 2015, increasing over 6 percent from the previous year. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that allow people with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs, unless it would pose an undue hardship for the employer.

One troubling trend the EEOC says it has identified in ADA charges is the prevalence of employer policies that deny or unlawfully restrict the use of leave as a reasonable accommodation. These policies often serve as systemic barriers to the employment of workers with disabilities. They may cause many workers to be terminated who otherwise could have returned to work after obtaining needed leave without undue hardship to the employer. EEOC regulations already provide that reasonable accommodations may include leave, potentially including unpaid leave that exceeds a company’s normal leave allowances.

This resource is intended to help educate employers and employees about workplace leave under the ADA to prevent discriminatory denials of leave from occurring, according to the EEOC. It responds to common questions employers and employees have raised about leave requests that concern an employee’s disability. The document creates no new agency policy, but it is one in a series of EEOC Resource Documents that explain how existing EEOC policies and guidance apply to specific situations. It consolidates existing guidance on ADA and leave into one place, addressing issues that arise frequently regarding leave as a reasonable accommodation, including the interactive process, maximum leave policies, “100 percent healed” policies, and reassignment. It also provides numerous examples that illustrate existing legal requirements and obligations for both employees and employers.

“Providing employees with a period of leave for medical treatment or recovery can be a critical reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities,” said EEOC Chair Jenny Yang. “This resource document explains to employers and employees in a clear and practical way how to approach requests for leave as a reasonable accommodation so that employees can manage their health and employers can meet their business needs.”

Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act also addresses undue hardship issues, including the amount and/or length of leave required, the frequency of leave, the predictability of intermittent leave, and the impact on the employer’s operations and its ability to serve customers and clients in a timely manner.


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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