DOL Launches Apprenticeship.Gov Website

The Department of Labor (DOL) today announced the launch of Apprenticeship.gov.

Apprenticeship.gov delivers on the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion’s recommendation to “compile apprenticeship information in a single, online, centralized website.” The website will evolve into a robust one-stop platform to connect job seekers, job creators, training providers, parents, teachers, and federal and local workforce agencies with information and resources to learn more about apprenticeships, how to establish apprenticeship program, and how to access open apprenticeship opportunities, according to the DOL.

The initial launch of Apprenticeship.gov comes at the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s Executive Order Expanding Apprenticeships in America, which directed the U.S. Department of Labor to expand access to apprenticeship opportunities to help more Americans secure family-sustaining jobs. The Executive Order also created the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships. The Task Force released its final report on May 10, 2018.

Apprenticeship programs utilize a learn-while-you-earn model that provides workers with a career path that includes paid on-the-job instruction, skills development, and mentorship, while providing job creators with highly skilled workers.


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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Uptick in Harassment Complaints from #MeToo Movement Yet to Happen, EEOC Says

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week convened its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment (details here), during which Acting EEOC Chair Victoria Lipnic confirmed that the agency has seen no uptick in sexual harassment claims since the #MeToo movement began — but added that it could still happen.

She also noted that the EEOC’s new guidance on harassment in the workplace is in the hands of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where it was sent before the inauguration of President Trump, and will no doubt linger there until the Senate confirms Trump’s two new appointees to the commission.

Despite the report of no #MeToo uptick, the EEOC this week filed seven sexual harassment lawsuits across the nation.

“As the nation has seen over the past nine months, harassment at work can affect individuals for years in their careers and livelihoods,” said EEOC Acting Chair Lipnic. “There are many consequences that flow from harassment not being addressed in our nation’s workplaces. These suits filed by the EEOC around the country are a reminder that a federal enforcement action by the EEOC is potentially one of those consequences.”

She continued, “I commend our investigative and trial teams, and our Office of General Counsel, for their work on these important cases. I also commend the individuals who came forward, for bringing their stories to the EEOC in the first place.”

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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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DOL Fiduciary Rule Now Officially Dead

The scant remaining life support for the Fiduciary Rule crafted by the Obama Department of Labor (DOL) ran out yesterday as the Trump administration declined to ask the Supreme Court to review an injunction blocking the rule’s implementation.

fiduciary-rule-dies-without-an-appeal-to-SCOTUSIn March, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-to-1, vote vacated the rule, saying the DOL had overstepped its authority. In May, the same court rebuffed two appeals by the attorneys general of California, New York and Oregon, leaving a window until June 13 for the government to ask the Supreme Court to repeal the injunction.

Financial Advisor magazine reported on why there was no appeal: “A Labor Department spokesman referred questions to the Justice Department, noting that it represents the government in such cases. The Justice Department declined to comment.”

Just two weeks into his presidency, Donald Trump issued an executive order about the rule, asking the DOL “to determine whether it may adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.”

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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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EEOC Panel Focuses on Preventing Workplace Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace reconvened today to hear from expert witnesses on “Transforming #MeToo Into Harassment-Free Workplaces” at a meeting open to the public.

eeoc-meets-on-preventing-workplace-harassment“Our co-chairs’ report on harassment laid the groundwork for the launch of a renewed effort to prevent harassment,” stated Acting EEOC Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “Since last fall, the public’s demand for action has coalesced with this effort. The EEOC will continue to lead the fight against workplace harassment and to promote solutions to prevent it.”

EEOC Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum added: “Our challenge is to use this #MeToo moment well. We have a road map given the work we have done at the EEOC. We have the attention and commitment of the range of different actors in society that we need. Together, we can channel that energy to create significant and sustainable change.”

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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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NLRB Announces Internal Ethics and Recusal Review

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB( today announced that it will undertake a comprehensive review of its policies and procedures governing ethics and recusal requirements for board members.  This initiative will ensure that the NLRB’s stakeholders—and the American people generally—can have full confidence in the integrity of the Board and its recusal processes.

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John Ring, new NLRB Chair

“Recent events have raised questions about when Board Members are to be recused from particular cases and the appropriate process for securing such recusals,” said NLRB Chairman John F. Ring.  “We are going to look at how recusal determinations are made to ensure not only that we uphold the Board’s strong ethical culture, but also to ensure each Board Member’s right to participate in cases is protected in the future.  Those who rely on us to decide labor matters need to know their cases will be decided under proper procedures that ensure an appropriate Board majority.”

Chairman Ring has proposed for board consideration a review, to be conducted expeditiously, that would examine every aspect of the Board’s current recusal practices in light of the statutory, regulatory and presidential requirements governing those practices.

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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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Trump DOJ Announces It Will No Longer Defend the ACA in Court

Faced with a challenge by 20 attorneys general in a federal court in Texas, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is going to trial with no defense from the Trump administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ).

justice-department-won't-defend-the-acaThe case rests on the constitutionality — or unconstitutionality — of the health care act now that the individual mandate has been withdrawn as a penalty for those lacking insurance.

The argument is built upon the fact that the ACA survived its Supreme Court constitutionality test only after Chief Justice John Roberts concluded the mandate was really a tax and thus Congress had the power to pass the legislation. His four conservative fellow justices wholeheartedly disagreed.

While the government “does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance,” the chief justice wrote for the majority, it “does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance.”

The Trump DOJ, in announcing it would not defend the act in court, evidently agrees with those four dissenters — and not with John Roberts — because it is now calling the individual mandate unconstitutional. It filed a brief so declaring this stance with the Texas federal court where the case will be heard. The DOJ also sent a letter to the House and Senate declaring its position.

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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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OMB to Disclose Plans for Restructuring of HHS, USDA

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is expected to unveil plans this month to move several welfare-related functions from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Specifically, the restructuring would relocate the $70 billion food stamp program from Agriculture to HHS, and it would also transfer the school nutrition program over to HHS as well.

The thinking, originally developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, is that HHS is already responsible for entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid and also for the Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF) cash assistance program, so transferring the programs would be a natural fit.

“The USDA has veered off of its mission by working extensively on issues unrelated to agriculture,” Heritage wrote. “This is mostly due to the nutrition programs. By moving this welfare function to HHS, the USDA will be better able to work on agricultural issues impacting all Americans.”

The White House also desires to change the name of Health and Human Services, which used to be the Department of Health, Education and Welfare before the Department of Education was created in 1979. The new name may reincorporate the word “welfare.”

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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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HHS Creates DRIVe Initiative to End Infectious Disease Threats

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has opened a new office known as the Division for Research, Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe), which has been tasked with creating public-private partnerships to detect and battle infectious diseases before they become epidemics.

hhs-creates-drive-initiative“It takes too long to recognize when a disease, virus or biological threat has entered a community, to understand the scope of the problem, and to provide enough medicines and healthcare in the right place, at the right time, to mitigate the damage,” HHS announced in a statement.

The DRIVe office is forging a network of private partners, known as accelerators, who will help develop new technologies and treatments that can alert people when they have been infected with a bacteria or virus even before they begin to feel sick.

“This approach will help startups and other businesses shape the next generation of lifesaving technology and transform health security,” Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement.” That innovation is crucial to protecting Americans and saving lives.”

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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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Republican Cabal Keeps EEOC in Democrats’ Hands

Four Republicans, led by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, have effectively kept the Obama Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) intact by refusing to allow a vote on President Trump’s renomination of Commissioner Chai Feldblum, citing faith-based objections.

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Chai Feldblum

Since Democrats say they won’t vote on the president’s other two nominations — Janet Dhillon and Daniel Gade — unless they are packaged with Feldblum, the EEOC currently retains a 2-to-1 Democrat majority. The lone Republican, Victoria Lipnic, is chair of the commission but outnumbered and unable to set a new agenda.

Another consequence is that the sexual harassment guidance crafted by the EEOC in 2017 is on hold at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) pending approval of the two Republicans. When and if that happens, Dhillon will replace Lipnic as chair, and the GOP will have its first majority since 2008.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unwilling to devote 30 hours of floor debate on each nominee as a workaround for the stalemate. But Sen. Lee says he won’t budge, calling Feldblum a “radical” unqualified for the commission.

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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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Joint Employer Rulemaking Definitely on NLRB Agenda, Chairman Says

Responding to criticism from three liberal Senators, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chairman John Ring has affirmed that the agency will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemking (NPRM) on defining joint employer relationships “as soon as possible, but certainly by this summer.”

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John Ring, new NLRB Chair

The board’s intention to use rulemaking on the joint employer issue was first announced in its spring regulatory agenda, prompting a May 29 letter from Sens. Kristen Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders questioning the ethics of such rulemaking and accusing Ring of pre-determining the rule before public commentary is undertaken.

Ring responded yesterday with a written reply, arguing that  since “any rule developed will apply prospectively only, its application will not affect any case pending before the Board or one of its regional offices on the effective date of the final rule, and thus it will not affect any parties to pending cases.”

He also said he has “an open mind and will consider all comments we receive from interested parties,” but he “will not pretend that I am devoid of opinions on the subject.”

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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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