DOL Launches New Online Compliance Resources

The Department of Labor (DOL) today announced the launch of the New and Small Business Assistance and the Compliance Assistance Toolkits webpages. These new online tools assist American small businesses and workers with simple, straightforward resources that provide critical Wage and Hour Division (WHD) information, as well as links to other resources, according to the announcement of the launch.

dol-launches-compliance-tools-onlineThe webpages were established in response to feedback received from new and small business stakeholders voicing their need for a centralized location to secure the tools and information they need to comply with federal labor laws. These new webpages provide the most relevant publications and answer the questions most frequently asked by new and small business owners. These tools, in conjunction with worker.gov and employer.gov, ensure greater understanding of federal requirements and provide tools to help employers find resources offered by other regulatory agencies.

“The Wage and Hour Division has long understood that the majority of employers want to do the right thing and comply with the law, but they need to know how,” said the Wage and Hour Division’s Acting Administrator Bryan Jarrett. “These new webpages demonstrate our ongoing commitment to proactively help employers comply with the law and provide them the tools they need to understand their responsibilities. We encourage all employers to visit these new webpages and reach out to us for assistance at any time.”

(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.
GoTo top Top

Proposed New Overtime Rules Now Due in March

The Department of Labor (DOL) initially said it expected to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on overtime in January, but in its just-released fall regulatory agenda, that date has been pushed back until March.

The agenda says the NPRM “will propose an updated salary level for exemption and seek the public’s view on the salary level and related issues.”

dol-to-issue-new-overtime-rules

Secretary Acosta meets with DOL employees

The current overtime rules on the books date to 2004 and the George W. Bush administration, and those were an update from the previous rules, which were issued in 1975.

The Barack Obama administration took a stab at rewriting the rules, which included a provision raising the salary threshold for overtime pay exemption to $47,476 a year (currently $23,660). But a federal district judge in Texas, just days before the Dec. 1, 2016 start date of the new rules, issued a nationwide injunction, questioning among other things if the DOL had the authority to use salary as a determinant.

When the Trump administration took over in 2017, that judge’s injunction was up for review by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, but Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) chose not to defend the appeal initiated under Obama. However, it later asked the court for clarification on whether using a salary threshold is permissible.

(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.
GoTo top Top

Anthem On the Hook for $16M to U.S., $115M to Consumers

As a result of a single data breach of protected health information (PHI), albeit one affecting 79 million consumers, Anthem Inc. is now being fined $16 million by the government and owes an additional $115 million to those affected, who won a class action lawsuit that was approved by a judge this past August.

anthem-fined-$16-million-for-hipaa-breachThe $16 million HIPAA violation fine is the largest ever. The $16 million settlement eclipses the previous high of $5.55 million paid to the regulatory agency, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in 2016. OCR is the branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that monitors and regulates companies governed by the HIPAA privacy and security rules.

The $115 million to consumers will cover any expenses suffered from the breach and will also provide two free years of credit monitoring and identity theft protection for all 79 million. (Those who can show they already pay for such services will receive a cash reimbursement.)

On March 13, 2015, Anthem filed a breach report with OCR detailing that, on Jan. 29, 2015, the company discovered cyber-attackers had gained access to its IT system via an undetected continuous and targeted cyberattack for the apparent purpose of extracting data, otherwise known as an advanced persistent threat attack.

After filing its breach report, Anthem discovered cyber-attackers had infiltrated its system through spear phishing emails sent to an Anthem subsidiary after at least one employee responded to the malicious email and opened the door to further attacks. OCR’s investigation revealed that between Dec. 2, 2014 and Jan. 27, 2015, the cyber-attackers stole the PHI of almost 79 million individuals, including names, social security numbers, medical identification numbers, addresses, dates of birth, email addresses, and employment information.

(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.
GoTo top Top

11th Circuit Court Reins In OSHA

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguably the most liberal in the land, handed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) a setback when it ruled recently that the agency couldn’t expand a single-incident investigation into a wall-to-wall, search-everything investigation based solely on records in the company’s OSHA Log 300.

mar-jac-poultry-wins-OSHA-caseEven if these injury-illness records are filled with incidents, the court said, such “logs on their own fail to establish reasonable suspicion of … violations.”

The case, involving Mar-Jac Poultry in Georgia, began when an employee was hospitalized from an electrical panel accident. The company informed OSHA, which sent out an inspector to investigate. The inspector, citing Mar-Jac’s inclusion in a Regional Emphasis Program (REP), then obtained a warrant for a comprehensive inspection. Company officials, however, rejected the warrant and agreed only to the single-incident investigation.

Mar-Jac appealed to the magistrate who issued the warrant, and he then withdrew it. A federal district court was the next stop, and there too Mar-Jac prevailed, the court ruling that being part of a Regional Emphasis Program was not sufficient to warrant a total facility inspection.

(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.
GoTo top Top

Amazon Treads Where Others Fear: $15 an Hour

In a couple of weeks, employees at Amazon — even seasonal workers — will see their wages jump to $15 an hour, up from $11 currently.

Amazon-raises-minimum-wage-to-$15-an-hourThe Nov. 1 move is sure to send ripples throughout the retail industry. Other retail giants, prior to Amazon’s decision, had already announced hourly hikes. Target raised its rate from $11 to $12 an hour with the goal of reaching $15 by 2020. In January, Walmart raised its minimum from $9 to $11 an hour.

The new Amazon minimum wage, which more than doubles the federally mandated rate of $7.25 an hour, comes at a price: Employees will no longer be given a stock purchase option and bonuses will be ended as well.

(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.
GoTo top Top

Premiums to Drop on ACA Exchanges, CMS Says

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that the average premium for second lowest cost silver plans (SLCSP) for the 2019 coverage year will drop by 1.5 percent, the first time average premiums have dropped since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014. Tennessee’s decrease is the largest with a 26.2 percent reduction. These premium reductions along with increased issuer participation strongly suggest that the numerous actions taken by the Trump administration to stabilize the market are working.

aca-premiums-to-drop-for-2019“President Trump’s Administration took action to address the skyrocketing price of health insurance, and now we are starting to see the results,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

“Despite predictions that our actions would increase rates and destabilize the markets, the opposite has happened. The drop in benchmark plan premiums for plan year 2019 and the increased choices for Americans seeking insurance on the exchanges is proof positive that our actions are working. While we are encouraged by this progress, we aren’t satisfied. Even with this reduction, average rates are still too high. If we are going to truly offer affordable, high quality healthcare, ultimately the law needs to change.” (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.
GoTo top Top

Latest ‘Digest of Equal Employment Law’ Released

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the latest edition of its federal sector “Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law” (EEO Digest), which is available on the EEOC’s website.

“The Digest of EEO Law is a great resource for the federal sector EEO community,” said Carlton Hadden, director of the Office of Federal Operations (OFO). “We welcome your comments or suggestions for future topics by emailing us at federalsectorEEO@eeoc.gov.”

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 which have been summarized. This edition of the EEO Digest contains summaries of noteworthy decisions issued by EEOC, including cases involving Compensatory Damages, Complaint Processing, Dismissals, Findings on the Merits, Mixed Motive, Remedies, Sanctions, Settlement Agreements, Stating a Claim, Summary Judgment, and Timeliness.

The summaries are intended neither 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 the EEOC’s website.


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.
GoTo top Top

Second Tuesday in October is Celebrated as Ada Lovelace Day

RELATED: Forbes issues inaugural ‘Top Women in Tech’ list in honor of Ada Lovelace Day.

The second Tuesday in October is traditionally celebrated as Ada Lovelace Day.

ada-lovelace-day-celebrated

World’s first programming language

In 1833 Ada Lovelace developed what was arguably the world’s first programming language, or algorithm, for mathematician and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage, who was working on two prototype computers called the Difference Engine and the Analytics Engine.

Lovelace later described her dream of a computerized world in the book Taylor’s Scientific Memoirs, regarded as one of the most visionary documents in the history of science, published in 1843. In it, Ada related the possibility of machines that can perform such abstract tasks as composing music, regardless of the complexity of the piece.

For her work, Babbage christened Lovelace “The Enchantress of Numbers.”

(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.
GoTo top Top

EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Rise More Than 50 Percent

Be sure to watch our exclusive YouTube video on “Workplace Harassment Investigations.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), fueled by awareness created by the #MeToo movement, has seen a more than 50 percent spike in sexual harassment lawsuits over fiscal year 2017, according to a report released this past week.

eeoc-sexual-harassment-lawsuits-on-the-riseThe report, What You Should Know: EEOC Leads the Way in Preventing Workplace Harassment, recognizes key milestones of the agency to actively enforce the law, to educate and train workers and employers, and to share its expertise on new solutions to reduce harassing conduct in the workplace.

“I am so proud of the EEOC staff who stepped up to the heightened demand of the #MeToo movement to make clear that workplace harassment is not only unlawful, it is simply not acceptable,” said Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “As the agency with expertise, as the enforcer of the law, and as an educator, the EEOC has continued to lead the way to achieve the goal of reducing the level of harassment and to promote harassment-free workplaces.”

Based on preliminary data, in FY 2018:

  • The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment. That reflects more than a 50 percent increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over fiscal year 2017.
  • In addition, charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from fiscal year 2017.
  • Overall, the EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.

(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.
GoTo top Top

DOL Offers Compliance Assistance for Association Health Plans

The Department of Labor (DOL) has added compliance assistance materials on Association Health Plans (AHPs) to its new Employer.gov website that will help job creators and plan sponsors understand their Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) obligations when setting up and managing AHPs.

employer-dot-gov-offers-association-health-plan-assistanceA recent final rule published by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) makes it easier for employers, especially small businesses, to pool resources to create AHP health insurance plans for their employees, and will help increase access to health coverage for workers and business-owners, including sole-proprietors, who previously faced challenges in securing employer-sponsored health coverage, according to a DOL announcement.

Employer.gov is a new compliance assistance website that covers various topics and labor laws enforced by federal agencies. This resource, which continues the goal of the department’s recently announced Office of Compliance Initiatives (OCI), encourages and facilitates compliance evaluations.

“This addition to Employer.gov includes links to an array of compliance assistance resources covering the various aspects of establishing and managing an AHP, and will help employers get the information they need to understand the rules of the road when setting up and managing new AHPs,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Preston Rutledge. “Expanding access to AHPs creates a path to affordable health coverage for millions of American workers and their families.”

(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.
GoTo top Top