EEOC Post Webinar Recording on Employer Wellness Programs

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has posted online a recording of its Oct. 19 webinar about the agency’s 2016 rules on employer wellness programs and federal law, the agency announced today.

On May 17, EEOC 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 family members. The rules allow limited incentives for employees and spouses to participate in such programs, but also include important privacy protections.

EEOC offered a webinar on Oct. 19 to discuss these rules. EEOC attorneys provided information that will help employers and wellness programs comply with the rules, including an overview of both rules and answers to frequently asked questions the commission has received since the rules were published. Also, a guest speaker from the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) discussed the interaction between these EEOC final rules and certain provisions of Title I of GINA and the Affordable Care Act applicable to employment-based group health plan coverage. This webinar is for human resource professionals, benefits attorneys and wellness program vendors.

A recording of the webinar is available at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/events/webcast-wellness.cfm.


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 Posts Webinar Recording on New EEO-1 Reporting Requirements

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has posted online a recording of its Oct. 26, 2016 webinar for employers about the new Employer Information Report, or EEO-1, at https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/eeo1survey/2017survey-webinar.cfm.

This webinar provides an overview of the EEO-1, describes the process of reporting and submitting summary pay and hours worked data, and gives examples of how to enter the data on the new form. A recording of the webinar, the presentation slides, and other resources related to the new EEO-1, including the new form, a Fact Sheet for Small Business, and a questions and answers document are available on EEOC’s 2017 EEO-1 Survey page.

Starting March 2018, the EEO-1 will collect summary pay and hours worked data, in addition to demographic information, from certain employers. The new information will improve investigations of possible pay discrimination, which remains a contributing factor to persistent wage gaps.


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 Open Enrollment Begins Today

Open enrollment on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) federal insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov, opens today with millions of people facing huge premium increases along with a loss of options.

In Arizona, for instance, consumers will have the choice of just one insurer in all but a single county, and in Southwest Florida residents also have just one option, Florida Blue. Meanwhile, premiums in Arizona are rising a whopping 112 percent, while nationwide the increase averages 25 percent.

Not to worry, say spokespersons for the Obama administration. Federal subsidies will cover the increases for most folk.

“This year, the vast majority of consumers will qualify for tax credits that help keep coverage affordable, and it’s easier than ever to shop around and compare options,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement.

Premium increases are largely due to an enrollment flood of older and sicker consumers, many with diabetes, coupled with a dearth of younger and healthier enrollees, who would just as soon pay the tax penalty as buy health insurance they don’t think they need. An ACA program called risk corridors has also failed to raise enough revenue to cover the insurers’ losses.

As a result, insurance giants Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield have abandoned unsustainable markets and raised premiums in others. Other insurers are adjusting accordingly.

Because of the resulting cancelation of policies in counties being abandoned, ACA administrators have extended the enrollment period for those with canceled policies until Dec. 31 for policies kicking in on Jan. 1, 2017. The deadline for start-of-year coverage for everyone else is Dec. 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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With Joint Employer Cases Pending, McDonald’s Settles with Franchisee Employees

For the first time, McDonald’s has ceased fighting a joint employer legal action and agreed to a $3.75 million settlement with franchisee employees over a wage dispute.

The burger corporation was facing a lawsuit in San Francisco and a battle with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the issue of whether it was a joint employer responsible for the actions of its franchisees, but it blinked. Now some 800 McDonald’s workers in San Francisco will split $1.75 million, while the lawyers arguing their case will pocket $2 million.

The San Francisco area workers alleged in their lawsuit that they believed they worked for the head corporation because their paychecks and uniforms all bore the McDonald’s logo.

Still pending is another wage lawsuit filed by 1,200 employees, also in San Francisco, where a federal judge is expected to rule on the suit’s class action status in December.

In the past few years, McDonald’s has beat back similar joint employer legal actions. Being a joint employer means the corporate franchisers would be responsible jointly with the franchisees for legal issues.


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 Forges Partnerships to Promote Obamacare Open Enrollment

Ahead of the fourth Open Enrollment period, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a commitment from seventeen companies to support enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace. These companies will connect freelance professionals, entrepreneurs and customers with information and resources to encourage enrollment in affordable coverage throughout the Open Enrollment period beginning Nov. 1 and ending on Jan.31, according to HHS.

These companies issued the following joint statement: “Our companies alongside the Affordable Care Act, are helping to build a new, innovative American economy. It’s an economy where people can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with affordable health coverage no matter where they work. Our businesses represent over 15 million professionals and reach over 8.5 million people with our products and services. During Open Enrollment, we are committed to providing information that helps people understand their coverage options.”

During Open Enrollment, HHS will collaborate with these innovation economy companies as well as companies supporting freelance workers, entrepreneurs and start-ups. The 15 partner companies are:

  • Care.com
  • DoorDash
  • Fiverr
  • FlexJobs
  • Freelancers Union
  • Glamsquad
  • Handy
  • Intuit QuickBooks Self- Employed
  • Lyft
  • Matter
  • Rock Health
  • Stride Health
  • TaskRabbit
  • Thumbtack
  • Uber
  • Upwork
  • WeWork

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 Launches Distracted Driving (Texting) Campaign

Following an executive order on the issue by President Obama, which covered federal employees and their driving, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching its own “initiative” on distracted driving — generally, texting while driving — to cover all employers.

The agency’s District Driving Initiative states:

OSHA will first focus on texting while driving.  Employers should prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving.  Texting while driving greatly increases the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash. Prohibiting texting while driving is the subject of the Executive Order (PDF) signed by President Obama last year for federal employees, and the subject of rulemaking by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

OSHA is also launching a multi-pronged initiative that will include the following:

  • An education campaign to employers, launched during Drive Safely Work Week, calling on employers to prevent occupationally related distracted driving—with a special focus on prohibiting texting while driving;
  • A website which carries a video message and an open letter to employers from Assistant Secretary Michaels….We will showcase model employer policies and team up with employer and labor associations to communicate our message;
  • We will forge alliances with the National Safety Council and other key organizations to help us reach out to employers, especially small employers, to combat distracted driving and prohibit texting while driving;
  • We will place a special emphasis on reaching young workers—working with other Labor Department agencies, as well as our alliance partners and stakeholders; and
  • When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or who organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, we will investigate and where necessary issue citations and penalties to end this practice.

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 Judges Blocks Provisions of Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Rules

A day before they were to take effect, a U.S. District Judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction against the disclosure and arbitration agreement provisions of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Rules (Executive Order 13673) that took effect Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The disclosure rule required any company applying for a federal contract to disclose any prior labor law violations, and the arbitration agreement clause prohibited the use of such agreements in many circumstances.

The rules taking effect today apply to firms seeking government contracts of $50 million or more. On April 25, 2017, that threshold will be lowered to contracts of $500,000 or more.

The ruling left intact the pay transparency requirements scheduled to kick in on Jan. 1, 2017.


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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AARP Sues EEOC to Block Wellness Program Rule

AARP, the nation’s premier senior advocacy group, has filed action in the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the company wellness program rule issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which allows monetary incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost of a health insurance policy for employees to reveal personal health information, not only is invasive of personal privacy but also can lead to an atmosphere of coercion.

The lawsuit alleges that by offering such deep discounts to “self-only” health coverage, wellness programs can become coercive, and further can lead to workplace discrimination based on sensitive health data obtained through the wellness program by biometric screening, health risk assessments and other means.

At particular risk, according to the AARP, are seniors at work who often possess “less-visible conditions and disabilities that are at risk of disclosure through compulsory medical inquiries and exams,” including conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

“The EEOC’s new rules enable employers to use wellness programs to pressure individuals to reveal their health information using heavy financial penalties,” said Dara Smith, a lawyer with the AARP Foundation. “These coercive programs invade workers’ privacy and leave workers vulnerable to employment discrimination based on disability or genetic information.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect in 2017.


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 Premiums Rise 25 Percent as Insurers Flee the Market

Open enrollment in Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance policies sold on government marketplaces begins Nov. 1, but consumers will face a 25-percent jump in premiums on the popular silver plans at HealthCare.gov, the Wall Street Journal reports in today’s edition.

Administration officials caution, however, that up to three-quarters of enrollees will qualify for federal subsidies, lowering their monthly premiums below $100 from the projected $302 average.

The rise in premiums comes as health insurers flee the government market due to exploding costs as the older and sicker flock to the policies while the younger and healthier stay home — and uninsured.

As a result, one in five consumers in the 39 states covered by HealthCare.gov will find a choice of just one insurer in their area, reflecting the loss of participant companies.

Because some 2016 policies are lapsing due to insurer flight, consumers who need to find replacement  policies will have until Dec. 31 to enroll for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Those without canceled policies must enroll by Dec. 15 for Jan. 1 coverage.

Those with lapsing Obamacare policies overall will have until March 1 to find a replacement policy, according to guidelines issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), which administers the marketplaces. Others will have only until Jan. 31.

However, enrolling after Dec. 31 to replace a canceled policy will result in a lapse in coverage.


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 Clarifies Injury, Illness Reporting Requirements and Violations

A Department of Labor (DOL) memorandum issued on Oct. 19 to all regional administrators of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) clarifies both an employer’s obligation to facilitate injury and illness reporting by employees and also an employer’s obligation not to retaliate for such reporting through disciplinary action, incentive programs or drug testing, even if inadvertent.

The memorandum, called “Interpretation of 1904.35(b)(1)(i) and (iv),” was issued as a follow-up to an OSHA final rule published on May 12 of this year.

As noted, the subject of the memorandum is twofold: to address the process by which employers manage injury-illness reporting, and to elaborate on how discipline, incentives and drug testing can become retaliatory and discourage injury-illness reporting.

(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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