Tax Bill Offers Credit for Paid FMLA Leave

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” legislation signed this morning by President Trump includes the first federal venture into paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as it offers a tax credit for companies that provide their employees with paid FMLA leave.

tax-act-includes-credit-for-paid-PMLA-leaveThe provision, encoded in tax law as “Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave,” does not require employers to offer paid leave, but those who choose to do so will be eligible for the new tax credit.

The credit begins at 12.5 percent and rises in one-quarter percentage increments until it reaches 25 percent. The scale reflects how much of the employee’s normal wages are being paid by the employer during the leave period. If the employee is being paid 50 percent of normal pay, then the 12.5 percent credit applies; when the percentage of pay reaches 100, the 25 percent credit kicks in.

Some qualifiers apply. The company must offer all its employees, both full- and part-time, paid FMLA leave privileges (no other type of leave qualifies). For the tax credit to apply, the employee’s leave must be at least two weeks in duration, rising to the full 12 weeks allowed under the FMLA. A “qualifying employee” must have worked at the company for at least a year, and must be paid no more than $72,000 annually. Also, the tax credit applies only to calendar years 2018 and 2019, after which it ends. (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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ACA Sign-Ups Reach 8.8 Million on HealthCare.Gov

Despite an open enrollment period only half as long as 2016’s and a reduction in advertising and promotion funds by 90 percent, 8.8 million people signed up for health insurance policies on HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last year 9.2 million signed up, but they had until Jan. 31 instead of Dec. 15 to do so.

aca-sign-ups-reach-8.8-millionState exchanges and the District of Columbia, which report results separately, are still open, some closing tomorrow and others between then and Jan. 31, 2018.

Residents in areas ravaged by hurricanes and high winds have been given an extended window until Dec. 31 to sign up for policies taking effect Jan. 1, 2018.

The special enrollment period applies to 53 counties in Texas, as well as all of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

According to the site ACASignups.net, about 161 million people, or nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population, still have time to sign up using the nine state and D.C. exchanges and on HealthCare.gov for those in the special enrollment areas.

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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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Permanent CHIP Funding On Hold Until 2018

BREAKING NEWS: A continuing budget resolution introduced in the House of Representatives today includes $2.85 billion in CHIP funding through March 2018. It was approved by the Senate shortly thereafter and send to the president for signature.

Though Congress authorized partial funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as part of a temporary budget measure, that measure — and the CHIP funding — expire tomorrow, Dec. 22, and even if the House and Senate agree on another temporary budget extension, CHIP funding will not be included.

childrens-health-insurance-programThe program, initiated in 1997 for children who otherwise would not be covered by health insurance, expired at the end of the government’s last fiscal year on Sept. 30. Conflicting funding measures have come out of Senate and House committees, but only the House measure has passed (with opposition from Democrats over a Medicare fee increase included in the bill). Nationwide, CHIP serves 8.9 million children.

Now, CHIP funding — $75 billion over five years — will hinge on Congressional budget discussions in January.

In a statement released Wednesday, Senators Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.) and Susan Collins (R.-Maine) explained: “Rather than considering a broad year-end funding agreement as we expected, it has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs.” The statement also said that the Senate would consider an omnibus spending bill, CHIP and funding for community health centers after the first of the year.

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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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Individual Mandate Repeal Stirs Worries over Obamacare’s Viability

Congress this morning passed its tax reform legislation and sent it to the president’s desk for signing. The inclusion of a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) individual mandate has caused concern that a shrinking pool of young people on the Obamacare exchanges will result in higher premiums for older, sicker individuals forced to buy coverage for their pre-conditions.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates ending penalties for not having insurance will lead to 13 million additional people being uninsured and premiums growing by about 10 percent.

NOTE: The repeal of the tax penalty for not having health insurance does not kick in until Jan. 1, 2019.

obamacare-individual-mandate-repealed

Obamacare open enrollment has ended, but so has the individual mandate for 2018.

“We are deeply concerned the Senate plan to repeal the ACA’s individual mandate would jeopardize ongoing coverage for those who need it most by pricing them out of the marketplace. As they drop out of coverage, and as others choose not to enroll, uncompensated care costs will rise at hospitals already struggling to meet their mission,” Bruce Siegel, MD, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, said in a statement.

The American Hospital Association (AHA), while praising the inclusion of medical expense deductions (initially targeted for elimination), largely agreed, stating “…we are concerned about the inclusion of the individual mandate repeal and the consequences that this would pose to our patients. It is unfortunate that the important task of overhauling the tax code will erode health coverage for many.”

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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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Reappointment of Feldblum to EEOC Could Face Senate Opposition

Following President Trump’s surprise reappointment of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation is urging Senate Republicans to block the liberal workers’ advocate’s new term, which would run through 2022.

chai-feldblum-renominated-for-eeoc

Chai Feldblum

When Trump a week ago announced Feldblum’s reappointment, not a few conservative eyebrows were raised, given her advocacy of LGBT rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which the Trump Department of Justice has since disavowed. Feldblum was also a leading force behind the EEO-1 pay data reporting requirement, which is now on hold.

Heritage CEO Michael A. Needham wrote:

The Trump administration’s efforts to sneak through the appointment of a leading LGBT activist to the EEOC in the middle of the holiday season are extremely disturbing. Advocates of religious liberty in the U.S. Senate should not allow the radical left-wing LGBT agenda, spearheaded by Chai Feldblum, to hijack the legitimate purposes of the EEOC. The Senate HELP committee must reject Chai Feldblum and let her time expire.

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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 Announces Increase in Workplace Fatalities

osha-reports-fatalities-at-work-are-on-the-rise

OSHA reports fatal overdoses related to work have risen 32 percent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of 2016 Fatal Occupational Injuries reports there were 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016, a 7-percent increase from 2015. The fatal injury rate also increased from 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2015 to 3.6 in 2016.

More workers lost their lives in transportation incidents than any other event in 2016, accounting for about one out of every four fatal injuries. Workplace violence injuries increased by 23 percent, making it the second most common cause of workplace fatality. Today’s report also shows the number of overdoses on the job increased by 32 percent in 2016, and the number of fatalities has increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012.

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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 to Accept Form 300A Electronic Data Through Dec. 31 for 2016

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will continue accepting 2016 OSHA Form 300A data through the Injury Tracking Application (ITA) until midnight on Dec. 31, 2017. OSHA will not take enforcement action against those employers who submit their reports after the December 15, 2017, deadline but before Dec. 31, 2017, final entry date. Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the ITA will no longer accept the 2016 data.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.


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 Begins Implementing Rule to Allow Foreign Entrepreneurs U.S. Entry

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it is taking steps to implement the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), in accordance with a recent court decision.

USCIS-implements-entrepreneur-entry-ruleAlthough the IER was published during the previous administration with an effective date of July 17, 2017, it did not take effect because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule on July 11, 2017, delaying the IER’s effective date until March 14, 2018.  This delay rule was meant to give USCIS time to review the IER and, if necessary, to issue a rule proposing to remove the IER program regulations.

However, a Dec. 1, 2017, ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in National Venture Capital Association v. Duke vacated the USCIS final rule to delay the effective date. The Dec. 1, 2017, court decision is a result of litigation filed in district court on Sept. 19, 2017, which challenged the delay rule.

The IER was published during the previous administration to provide an unlimited number of international entrepreneurs a new avenue to apply for parole, enter the U.S., and use American investments to establish and grow start-up businesses.

Implementation of the rule will force USCIS to revise its Form I-9 to include a category for arriving entrepreneurs. The form has been revised frequently, and the most recent version is dated 7/17/2017.

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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 Restores Pre-Obama Joint Employer Standard

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has turned back the clock on the Obama-era standard of what constitutes a joint employer and now maintains that joint employers must have “direct and immediate” control over employees, a standard that held for decades previously.

NLRB-restores-previous-joint-employer-standardThe case in question is Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Ltd. and Brandt Construction Co. Though the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the case relied on the Obama-era standard of “reserved” joint control, or “limited and routine” control, upon review the NLRB voted 3-2 to overturn that standard and return to “direct and immediate.” Nevertheless, the board agreed with the judge’s decision that the two entities were joint employers and jointly liable.

What this means in practical terms is that, for instance, McDonald’s will not be responsible if a franchisee violates labor laws because it does not have “direct and immediate” control over the franchisee’s employees. The case review thus overturns the decision in Browning-Ferris that established the looser standard that would’ve held McDonald’s, as an example, responsible for a franchisee’s transgressions.

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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 — Under Pressure — Extends Tip Pooling Comment Period

The Department of Labor (DOL) has extended the commentary period on its proposed new tip pooling regulation by 30 days, from Jan. 4 to Feb. 3, 2018.

dol-extends-commentary-period-on-tip-poolingThe announcement on Tuesday came after 46 Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives wrote in a letter to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta that repealing the rule would affect 1.3 million workers, and the 30-day comment period it proposed was too short.

The original announcement, on Dec. 4, noted that:

The department’s proposal only applies where employers pay a full minimum wage and do not take a tip credit and allows sharing tips through a tip pool with employees who do not traditionally receive direct tips – such as restaurant cooks and dish washers. These ‘back of the house’ employees contribute to the overall customer experience, but may receive less compensation than their traditionally tipped co-workers.  The proposal would not affect current rules applicable to employers that claim a tip credit under the FLSA.

Advocacy groups and Congressional Democrats, among others, are concerned that the proposed rule — which would allow restaurant owners to collect all tips and share (or not share) them as they see fit — could lead to wage theft.

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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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