HUD Accuses Facebook of Housing Discrimination in Advertising

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has accused Facebook of housing discrimination by allowing advertisers to block their offerings from different categories of users.

facebook-accused-of-housing-discriminationThe HUD complaint is based on the Fair Housing Act, which it claims Facebook violated by allowing housing advertisers to use the site’s filters to exclude people with different interests, including racial, ethnic and religious interests. The filters were also used to block users by zip code.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination, including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a mouse,” Anna María Farías, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a Friday statement announcing the move. “When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face.”

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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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Lawmakers Press DOL for Joint Employer Definition

Two Congressmen have written Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Alex Acosta asking his agency to clarify a binding definition of joint employer, which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is also toiling over via the final rule route.

labor-department-offers-grants-for-veterans

Labor Secretary Acosta

But Secretary Acosta is no fan of the regulatory process, believing Congress should be responsible in these matters.

“We’re a democracy, which means that Congress should take the lead,” Acosta has said about the regulatory process. “It’s very easy for the executive branch through guidance documents to say ‘this is what we think,’ but that’s not the way democracy works. You don’t make laws through executive fiat; you make laws through the legislative process.”

Reps. Bradley Byrne (R.-Ala.) and Henry Cuellar (D.-Texas), a “Blue Dog” Democrat who sometimes sides with the GOP, are behind the Aug. 14 inquiry. They’re not alone. Several business and labor advocacy groups are also pressing for clarity.

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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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When It Comes to Short-Term Health Plans, Some States Just Say No

While the Trump administration has rolled out plans to make available short-term health plans, up from the current 90 days to 12 months in duration, some states have already said they don’t want any part.

attorneys-genera-sue-to-stop-association-health-plansSince the plans don’t have to include all the essential health benefits (EHBs) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), these states have already labeled them as “junk insurance.” (EHBs include maternity care, drug abuse recovery and other benefits that not everyone needs.)

According to a report in governing.com: “The Connecticut Department of Insurance determined last week that its state laws prohibit short-term plans. Hawaii and Maryland recently passed laws that severely limit their use, and Washington state’s insurance commissioner is reportedly in the process of rewriting rules to do the same. California’s legislature is considering an outright ban.”

Another plan by the administration to make health insurance more affordable — Association Health Plans (AHPs) — is also running into resistance by (mostly blue) states, as 12 attorneys general have filed suit against the plan, which relies upon a redefinition of “employer” in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a rule in June that expanded the definition to enable the formation of AHPs across state lines and include even the self-employed.

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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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Social Security Mismatch Letters to Be Resumed in 2019

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced it will resume sending out mismatch letters to employers in 2019, advising them that there an employee or employees whose names don’t match the social security number (SSN) they supplied when being hired. The letters are officially called “Employer Correction Requests.”

social-security-mistake-letters-to-resumeThe letters don’t necessarily indicate fraud or stolen social security numbers, the administration explains, because mismatches can be caused by typographical errors, unreported name changes, incomplete records or SSN misuse.

However, the employer must act promptly and document the steps taken in resolving the mismatch within 60 days. This is to be done using the Business Services Online (“BSO”) database, which contains the Employer Report Status where employers can learn the names and SSNs that are mismatched.

If the employer finds that the mismatch did not originate with a typographical or other recordkeeping error, he should inform the employee in writing of the discrepancy. The SSA website even supplies a letter for this purpose.


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 Awards $125 Million to Community Health Centers

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $125 million in Quality Improvement grant awards to 1,352 community health centers across all U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia.

HHS-awards-grants-to-community-health-centers

Graphic shows data about community health centers’ usage nationwide.

Funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), health centers will use these funds to continue to improve quality, efficiency, and the effectiveness of healthcare delivery in the communities they serve. This announcement comes during National Health Center Week, the annual celebration that highlights the critical role community health centers play in providing high-quality, affordable, primary healthcare.

“Community health centers provide coordinated, comprehensive, and patient-centered care to millions of Americans,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. “They have a track record of delivering quality care at significantly lower cost, and are vital partners in our movement toward a health system that delivers quality, affordable, value-based health care for all Americans.”

HRSA’s Quality Improvement grant awards promote continued community health center improvements in the following categories: Expanding access to comprehensive care, improving care quality and outcomes, increasing comprehensive care delivery in a cost-effective way, addressing health disparities, advancing the use of health information technology, and delivering patient-centered care.

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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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IRS Issues Proposed Regulations for 20 Percent Business Owner Tax Deduction

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued proposed regulations for a new provision allowing many owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, trusts and S corporations to deduct 20 percent of their qualified business income.

IRS-offers-small-business-SHOP-reliefThe new deduction — referred to as the Section 199A deduction or the deduction for qualified business income — was created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The deduction is available for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. Eligible taxpayers can claim it for the first time on the 2018 federal income tax return they file next year.

The deduction is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose 2018 taxable incomes fall below $315,000 for joint returns and $157,500 for other taxpayers. It’s generally equal to the lesser of 20 percent of their qualified business income plus 20 percent of their qualified real estate investment trust dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership income or 20 percent of taxable income minus net capital gains.

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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 Files Seven Nationwide Harassment Lawsuits

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed seven lawsuits against various employers charging them with harassment, and also announced a major resolution of a harassment lawsuit. This is the second time in two months that the EEOC has coordinated multi-state actions on harassment. This second tranche of cases demonstrates the agency’s commitment to using its enforcement powers, as necessary, to address harassment — on all bases — where it occurs, the agency says.

Victoria Lipnic

“Workplace harassment causes serious harm to women and men in all kinds of jobs across the country,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “These lawsuits allege harassment based on race, national origin and sex and involve workers at country clubs and cleaners, sports bars and airlines, in health care and grocery stores. When employers fail to protect their employees from harassment, the EEOC may bring legal action to stop the harassment and prevent future harm.”

Of the seven lawsuits filed this past week, five alleged sexual harassment, two alleged racial harassment and one also alleged harassment based on national origin. Five of the seven also included claims that the employees were retaliated against for reporting the harassment, demonstrating that the fear of reporting is real and justified.

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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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OFCCP to Audit for Equal Employment, Religious Freedom Protections

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) today announced two new policy directives focused on ensuring equal employment opportunity and protecting Americans’ religious freedom. The equal employment opportunity directive calls for more comprehensive reviews of contractor compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws, and the religious freedom directive protects the rights of religion-exercising organizations.

ofccp-issues-directivesBy law, federal contractors are required to take affirmative steps to ensure equal opportunity in their employment processes. OFCCP enforces federal laws that prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and status as a qualified individual with a disability or protected veteran.

In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or that of others, subject to certain limitations. The Agency’s directives provide guidance to OFCCP staff and federal contractors regarding enforcement and compliance policy and procedures.

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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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OSHA Extends Compliance Date for General Industry Beryllium Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued a final rule to extend the compliance date for specific ancillary requirements of the general industry beryllium standard to Dec. 12, 2018.

This extensionTrump-OSHA-extends-beryllium-deadline affects provisions for methods of compliance, beryllium work areas, regulated areas, personal protective clothing and equipment, hygiene facilities and practices, housekeeping, communication of hazards, and recordkeeping. This compliance date extension does not affect the compliance dates for other requirements of the general industry beryllium standard.

OSHA has determined that the extension will maintain essential safety and health protections for workers while the agency prepares a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to clarify certain provisions of the beryllium standard that would maintain the standard’s worker safety and health protections, and address employers’ compliance burdens.

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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 Paring, Realigning Staff through Voluntary Retirement

Today, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it will offer voluntary early retirement and voluntary separation to employees holding eligible positions in designated locations within the Agency.

nlrb-faces-budget-cutsThe agency requested and obtained both Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP) authority in order to better manage its caseload and workforce needs.

For years, the deficits caused by flat funding of the agency have been primarily addressed by voluntary personnel attrition. As a result, the NLRB has an imbalance in staffing in both headquarters and the NLRB’s regional offices.

To ensure that the agency is able to carry out its critical mission, the NLRB is utilizing the VERA and VSIP to realign staffing with office caseloads. In addition to addressing the agency’s current staffing imbalance, utilization of VERA and VSIP will enable the NLRB to reallocate its limited resources and to, among other things, provide employees with the tools they need, including training and improvements in technology. (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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