EEOC Files First Two Transgender Discrimination Lawsuits

Lakeland Eye Clinic, a Lakeland, Fla.-based organization of health care professionals, discriminated based on sex in violation of federal law by firing an employee because she is transgender, because she was transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

This is one of the first two lawsuits ever filed by the agency alleging sex discrimination against transgender individuals.  The other case, EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. was filed simultaneously by the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit against Lakeland Eye Clinic, the defendant’s employee had performed her duties satisfactorily throughout her employment.  However, after she began to present as a woman and informed the clinic she was transgender, Lakeland fired her.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including that based on gender stereotyping.  The EEOC filed suit against Lakeland Eye Clinic in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division (Case No. 8:14-cv-2421-T35 AEP) after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The suit seeks both monetary and injunctive relief.

The lawsuits announced yesterday are part of the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).  The commission adopted this SEP in December of 2012.  The SEP includes “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, as they may apply” as a top commission enforcement priority.


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 Reconsiders Obamacare Enrollment Goal for Second Year

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathew Burwell told the Los Angeles Times this week that her agency is reconsidering its 13-million policyholder goal for enrollment in the second year of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In the first year, after drop-outs the enrollment stands at 7.3 million, meaning that almost 6 million more would have to enroll in the second year, along with the present policyholders continuing their coverage, to reach 13 million.

Ms. Burwell told the newspaper that federal officials are using analytics and consulting with insurance industry officials and market analysts to determine a possible new enrollment goal. She gave no indication of when the new goal would be announced.

Open enrollment commences Nov. 15.


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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Number of Insurers Offering Federal Obamacare Policies Jumps 25 Percent

The number of health insurance companies offering policies on HealthCare.gov beginning Nov. 15 — the start of the next open enrollment period — will jump to 249 from the 191 that participated during the first enrollment period. And that’s after subtracting nine companies that are opting out.

In announcing the uptick, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathew Burwell said her first priority is “improving access and affordability through the marketplace. In order to make sure that Americans continue to access affordable choices, we have to get HealthCare.gov right.”

Burwell was referring to the many technical glitches that hampered the launch of HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace for the 36 states that chose not to set up their own health insurance exchanges.

For the full story on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) affects your business, no matter how large or small, get 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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Supreme Court Turns 225 Today

The Supreme Court came into being 225 years ago today when President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act of 1789.

The act gave the court six justices, and over the years the number has changed to where it stands today at nine justices. The act also established the system of lower courts and the post of attorney general.


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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USCIS Replaces Secure Red Ink With Secure Blue Ink

U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun using a new secure blue ink for many of its secure stamps.

The older secure red ink was retired and is no longer used by USCIS.  You will now see the following list of stamps with secure blue ink:

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Parole Stamp
  • Temporary I-551 Alien Documentary Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) Stamp
  • Refugee Stamp (Section 207)
  • Asylum Stamp (Section 208)
  • Initial / Replacement Form I-94 Stamp

Employers should be aware of this recent change in secure ink color when examining acceptable documents presented by employees during the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process. Lists of acceptable documents appear on the last page of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

Employers cannot reject an unexpired acceptable document presented by a worker, nor can they specify which documents they will accept. Learn more about acceptable documents here.

Employers are reminded that they must accept the documents presented by a worker when completing Form I-9 so long as those documents appear genuine on their face and relate to the person presenting them.

I-9 audits occur frequently and can lead to hefty fines. Get our I-9 Compliance Kit today to help you verify employment eligibility properly.


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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HIPAA Omnibus Rule Compliance Deadline Arrives

The compliance deadline for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Omnibus Final Rule, issued in January 2013, has arrived. By tomorrow (Sept. 23, 2014), both covered entities and business associates need to be in full compliance with the rule’s provisions.

As the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced when issuing the rule:

The changes in the final rulemaking provide the public with increased protection and control of personal health information.  The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules have focused on health care providers, health plans and other entities that process health insurance claims.  The changes announced today expand many of the requirements to business associates of these entities that receive protected health information, such as contractors and subcontractors. Some of the largest breaches reported to HHS have involved business associates. Penalties are increased for noncompliance based on the level of negligence with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per violation. The changes also strengthen the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Breach Notification requirements by clarifying when breaches of unsecured health information must be reported to HHS.

For detailed information about the requirements contained in the final rule, please order a copy of our HIPAA Omnibus Rule 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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More Than 100,000 Stand to Lose Obamacare Coverage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has warned again that some 115,000 people will lose the health insurance policies they purchased under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if they don’t submit documents showing their legal right to reside in the United States by the end of the month.

“We are committed to keeping coverage affordable for the millions of Americans who depend on it, and to doing so in an efficient, transparent way that protects taxpayers,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement.

“It’s critically important that consumers who still owe income-related documents to the [ACA federal] Marketplace send them in by September 30 so we can continue to hold down their costs.  We are pleased that the number of individuals who were at risk of losing their Marketplace coverage, or seeing changes in their costs because of data matching issues has been dramatically reduced in the last three months.”

CMS is actually being lenient by extending its original Sept. 5 submission deadline until the end of the month.

In a separate announcement, Tavenner said yesterday that total Obamacare sign-ups had fallen to 7.3 million from 8 million because some 10 percent of policyholders had failed to pay their premiums.

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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Hotel Chain Gets Whopper Fine After I-9 Audit: $2 Million!

Grand-America-Hotel-Utah

Grand America Hotel in Utah

Salt Lake City-based Grand America Hotels and Resorts will forfeit nearly $2 million for hiring unauthorized workers, including illegal aliens, according to a non-prosecution agreement signed last week between the company, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The Sinclair Services Company subsidiary, which operates hotel and resort properties in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Idaho, will avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for its full cooperation with HSI’s investigation and taking action to correct its hiring practices.

According to facts laid out in the agreement, several lower-level Grand America employees and mid-level managers conspired to rehire unauthorized workers amidst an HSI administrative audit of I-9 employee verification forms that began in September 2010. The audit ended a year later with Grand America being notified that 133 employees were not authorized to work in the United States.

The company was issued a warning notice and it told HSI it had terminated the employees.  However, HSI special agents later learned the conspirators created three temporary employment agencies, essentially shell companies, two in August 2011 and one in October 2011, to rehire 43 of the unauthorized workers. The agreement says most of the workers returned under different names using fraudulent identity documents.

(more…)


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 Top 10 Workplace Safety Violations for FY 2014

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced the preliminary Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2014 (the code is in parentheses, followed by the number of incidents):

Fall protection (1926.501) – 6,143
Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 5,161
Scaffolding (1926.451) – 4,029
Respiratory Protection (1910.134) – 3,223
Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 2,704
Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,662
Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 2,490
Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,448
Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 2,200
Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303) – 2,056

To protect your workers, you should order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ Injury and Illness Prevention Program 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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DOL Earmarks $10.2 Million to Help States Fight Worker Misclassification

For years the Department of Labor (DOL) has been operating a cooperative program with several states to crack down on worker misclassification — labeling actual employees as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and benefits — and now the agency is targeting $10.2 million in aid to those states to speed up enforcement efforts.

The funds will be used to increase the ability of state unemployment insurance (UI) tax programs to identify instances where employers improperly classify employees as independent contractors or fail to report the wages paid to workers at all, according to a DOL statement. The states that were selected to receive these grants will use the funds for a variety of improvements and initiatives, including enhancing employer audit programs and conducting employer education initiatives.

Four states will be eligible for “bonuses” totaling $2 million due to their “high performance or most improved performance in detecting incidents of worker misclassification.” The remaining $8.2 million will be shared among the other 19 states participating in the program.

“This is one of many actions the department is taking to help level the playing field for employers while ensuring workers receive appropriate rights and protections,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in a statement issued by the DOL. “Today’s federal grant awards will enhance states’ ability to detect incidents of worker misclassification and protect the integrity of state unemployment insurance trust funds.”

Employers, protect yourselves  against DOL audits and fines by getting a copy of our Worker Misclassification Prevention 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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