Former Massey CEO Sentenced to Prison for Mine Safety Violation

Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws, becoming the first American executive to be imprisoned for breaking the nation’s safety laws.

The sentence, meted out by U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger, includes a $250,000 fine and comes six years and one day after Massey’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, killing 29 men. The explosion was the largest mining accident in four decades.

Blankenship was accused of knowingly allowing mine safety violations to continue, contributing to the ultimate tragedy.


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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San Francisco First to Mandate Fully Paid Parental Leave

San Francisco has piggy-backed on an existing California law allowing parents to take six weeks of 55-percent paid leave for the birth of a child by mandating their employers pay the other 45 percent.

Result: Continuation of regular pay for six weeks upon the birth of a child.

The 55 percent is currently paid from a state fund. The S.F. ordinance requires employers to make up the difference.

The benefit will be available to any employee who works at least eight hours a week and spends at least 40 percent of the workweek within San Francisco boundaries.

The new benefit is being phased in, starting with businesses with 50 or more employees on January 1, 2017.

The City and County of San Francisco is thus the first government entity in the U.S. to mandate fully paid parental leave.


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 Publishes Latest Edition of its ‘EEO Digest’

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the latest edition of its federal sector Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law, which is available online at http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/digest/index.cfm.

This edition (Fiscal Year 2016, Volume 2) features a special article titled Stating a Claim in the EEO Process: Determining One’s Status as Either an Employee or Independent Contractor.

“The article on determining the status of a complainant, as either a federal employee or contractor, is a ‘must read’ for the federal sector EEO community,” said Carlton M. Hadden, director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO). “This article is a great resource and identifies recent case law on this issue.”

The EEO Digest, a quarterly publication prepared by OFO, features a wide variety of recent commission decisions and federal court cases of interest. The Digest also includes hyperlinks so that stakeholders can easily access the full decisions that have been summarized.

This edition of the Digest contains summaries of noteworthy decisions issued by the EEOC, including cases involving: Agency Processing, Findings of the Merits, Attorney’s Fees, Class Complaints, Remedies, Compensatory Damages, Sanctions, Dismissals, Settlement Agreements, Stating a Claim, Summary Judgment and Timeliness.

The summaries are neither intended to be exhaustive or definitive as to the selected subject matter, nor are they to be given the legal weight of case law in citations. In addition to the quarterly Digest, commission federal sector decisions are available on EEOC’s website at http://eeoc.gov/federal/decisions.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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Final Rule Published on Religious Liberty Protections for Beneficiaries of Federal Programs

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with other federal agencies, today published a final rule that will provide new religious liberty protections for beneficiaries of federally funded social service programs, while also adding new protections for the ability of religious providers to compete for government funds on the same basis as any other private organization. The regulations – which are being published after public notice and comment – formally implements Executive Order 13559.

The regulations:

  • Require HHS to ensure that all decisions about federal financial assistance are based solely on merit, without regard to an organization’s religious affiliation or lack thereof, and free from political interference, or the appearance of such interference.
  • Make clear that faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in HHS’s social service programs on the same basis as any other private organization.
    Clarify what activities can and cannot be supported with direct federal financial assistance by replacing use of the term “inherently religious activities” with the term “explicitly religious activities” and providing examples of such activities.
  • Prohibit organizations that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating against beneficiaries, including denying services or benefits, based on religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice.
  • Require faith-based organizations that receive direct federal financial assistance for domestic social service programs to provide written notice of certain protections to beneficiaries or prospective beneficiaries of the program.

While these regulations become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, recipients of federal financial assistance have until 90 days after publication to satisfy the new obligations in the final regulations.


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’s Fiduciary Rule to Be Released Wednesday

According to the Wall Street Journal and other sources, the Department of Labor (DOL) on Wednesday will publish its long-awaited fiduciary rule, raising the bar from a “suitability” standard to a “best interest” standard in the marketing of retirement products.

“The DOL has effectively created a uniform fiduciary standard for all retirement advisers, including brokers and insurance agents,” said Marcia Wagner of the law firm bearing her name in Boston. “They will now effectively be subject to the same disclosure and compliance policy requirements that registered investment advisers are already subject to under securities law.”

According to the WSJ, the unveiling will be done at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

After the rule is published, there will be a 75-day public commentary period and at least one public hearing.


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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Women’s Soccer Players File Equal Pay Complaint

Alleging the U.S. women’s soccer team earned $20 million more than the men’s team in 2015 but its members were paid four times less than the men’s, five female players have filed a complaint alleging pay discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC has so far not commented on the Wednesday action by co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The U.S. Women’s National Team won the 2015 World Cup for women and was compensated $2 million, divided among the players. The men’s soccer team finished 11th in its World Cup but was compensated $9 million, according to reports by ESPN and other news organizations.

Lawyer Jeffrey Kessler of Winston & Strawn filed the complaint on behalf of the women, saying the case “fits squarely into the Equal Pay Act [EPA].”

U.S. Soccer said it was “disappointed” in the action and added that compensation was based on a mutually agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement (CBA).


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 Injury Reporting Fines Quadrupled — and More!

Under new guidelines issued this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has followed up on its new injury-illness reporting requirements of January 2015 with increased fines for noncompliance, with the amounts rising 400 percent, backed by the threat of even higher fines to achieve the “necessary deterrent effect.”

Employers must report an in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss to OSHA within 24 hours of the incident. Previously the fine for failure to comply was $1,000; under the new guidance the fine has been raised to $5,000.  The new guidelines also allow area directors to boost the fine to $7,000 as an added compliance inducement.

The 2016 guidelines — “Revised Interim Enforcement Procedures for Reporting Requirements under 29 C.F.R. 1904.39” — state the following:

  1. An Other-than-Serious citation will normally be issued for failure to report one or two in-patient hospitalizations, amputation or loss of an eye. The unadjusted penalty will be $5,000, unless superseded by a future policy revision.
  2. If the Area Director determines that it is appropriate to achieve the necessary deterrent effect, the unadjusted penalty may be $7,000, unless superseded by a future policy revision.

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 Opens Second Public Commentary Period on Revised Form I-9

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has opened a public commentary period on its revised Form I-9, which will close its 30-day window on April 27.

Many of the proposed changes to Form I-9 were designed to reduce technical errors and help customers complete the form on their computer after they have downloaded it from uscis.gov. In response to the public comments USCIS received during its earlier 60-day notice period, USCIS has made further improvements to the proposed form.

Key changes to the form include:

  • Validations on certain fields to ensure information is entered correctly
  • Additional spaces to enter multiple preparers and translators
  • Drop-down lists and calendars
  • Embedded instructions for completing each field
  • Buttons that will allow users to access the instructions electronically, print the form, and clear the form to start over
  • A dedicated area to enter additional information that employers are currently required to notate in the margins of the form
  • A quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, generates once the form is printed and can be used to streamline audit processes
  • Requiring employees to provide only other last names used in Section 1, rather than all other names used
  • Removing the requirement that aliens authorized to work must provide both their Form I-94 number and foreign passport information in Section 1
  • Separating instructions from the form, in keeping with USCIS practice
  • Adding a Supplement in cases where more than one preparer or translator is used to complete Section 1

Submit a Comment

To view the proposed form and instructions and submit a comment, go to https://www.regulations.gov/ and enter 1615-0047 in the search box. Open the docket folder to view the supporting documents, which include the proposed form and instructions. To submit a comment, include the agency name and the OMB Control Number 1615-0047 in your comment, then send the comment to the OMB USCIS Desk Officer at oira_submission@omb.eop.gov. You may also submit comments via fax at (202) 395-5806 (This is not a toll-free number).”

After the 30-Day Comment Period

After the 30-day comment period ends and public comments are considered, USCIS may make further changes to Form I-9.The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will review the information collection for approval. Once OMB approves the information collection, USCIS will post the newly revised form and form instructions on its Forms Web page and make the form available for use by the public.


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 Introduces TalentWorks Web Tool for Recruiting Job Seekers with Disabilities

The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) of the Department of Labor (DOL) has announced the launch of “TalentWorks” – a free online tool that helps employers and human resources professionals ensure accessibility in their web-based job applications and other recruiting technologies for job seekers with disabilities.

Created by ODEP’s Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology, TalentWorks provides general background on accessibility and e-Recruiting, as well as practical tip sheets for making online job applications, digital interviews, pre-employment tests and resume upload programs accessible. PEAT created the tool after its national survey of people with disabilities found 46 percent of respondents rated their last experience applying for a job online as “difficult to impossible.”

“Inaccessible technology prevents people with disabilities from applying and interviewing for jobs, and limits the talent pool for employers,” said Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers improve their recruitment and hiring processes. With resources like TalentWorks, employers can build a diverse, more inclusive workforce by ensuring their organization’s virtual door is open to everyone.”

Lu formally unveiled the new tool during his keynote address on March 22, 2016, in San Diego at the 2016 International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference hosted by California State University, Northridge.


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 Updates Requirements for PPE

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a final rule that updates requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in general industry, shipyards, longshoring, marine terminals and construction.

The final rule reflects current national consensus standards, and ensures that workers can use up-to-date eye and face protection.

The rule updates references in OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection Standards to recognize the ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010, Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices, while deleting the outdated 1986 edition of that same national consensus standard. OSHA is also retaining the 2003 and 1989 (R-1998) versions of the ANSI standard already referenced in its standard.

In addition, the final rule updates the construction standard by deleting the 1968 version of the ANSI standard that was referenced and now includes the same three ANSI standards referenced above to ensure consistency among the agency’s standards.

OSHA’s final rule becomes effective on April 25, 2016.


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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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