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.

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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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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.”

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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 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.

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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 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.”

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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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DOJ Says Web Accessibility Under the ADA Open to Interpretation

After 103 House members of both parties beseeched the Department of Justice (DOJ) to clarify website accessibility rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the nation’s top law enforcement agency essentially took a pass.

justice-responds-to-website-accessibility-rulesThe letter from House members urged the department to “provide guidance and clarity with regard to website accessibility under the … ADA” for those in the public accommodations sector. The response came back, in part:

Absent the adoption of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. Accordingly, noncompliance with a voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA.

The response also noted that, in 2010, a DOJ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) indicated that an alternative to accessible websites would be a 24/7-staffed hotline. In other words, a website can be accessible to the blind without adhering to the privately developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1.

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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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Massachusetts Restricts Non-Compete Covenants

After years in the making, a Massachusetts law curtailing non-compete agreements took effect this week (Oct. 1), reflecting a nationwide movement to restrict such covenants, which prevent departing employees from joining competing firms or using the knowledge they gained in a new venture.

massachusetts-enacts-noncompete-lawThe law contains several restrictions, including one that precludes the use of non-compete covenants on employees who fall into the non-exempt employment status (hourly workers mostly) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It also restricts the duration of such covenants to one year after the employee departs, unless there is a breach by the employee, in which case it can be extended another year.

Also excluded are undergraduate and graduate students working part-time, employees 18 and younger, and employees laid off or terminated without cause. New hires (and employees) have the right to seek an attorney’s advice before signing the agreement, and the non-compete must be tendered along with the formal employment offer letter or 10 days before commencement of work, whichever is earlier.

If a non-compete is tendered after employment has started, the law says that it must be “supported by fair and reasonable consideration independent from the continuation of employment.”

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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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California Mandates that Women Must Be on Corporate Boards

In a move that is sure to draw high-profile legal challenges, California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring all corporate boards in the state to seat at least one woman member by the end of 2019. Brown said he was signing the law despite potentially “fatal” legal problems in the measure.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown

“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” Brown wrote in a signing message.

By the end of 2021, the law ups the ante by requiring boards of five members to have at least two women and boards of six or more to have at least three female members.

One of the major legal issues facing the measure is the fact that corporations are governed by the laws of the states where they are incorporated, regardless of where they’re physically located. Some 80 percent of California’s publicly traded companies are incorporated in Delaware. And about one-quarter of all corporations in California lack female board membership.

“There have been numerous objections to this bill, and serious legal concerns have been raised,” Brown said. “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation. Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”

The measure was opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce and numerous business groups.


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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Gig Economy Shrinking, DOL Says

The percentage of Americans working in the gig economy has shrunk to 10.1 today from 10.7 in 2005, the Department of Labor (DOL) claims in an unreleased June study, according to Bloomberg Law. The report seems to contradict other assessments that put gig workers at 33 percent of the American workforce.

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Labor Secretary Acosta

The DOL report, however, does not include gig workers who held other employment and used the gig economy as a supplementary source of income.

The DOL numbers came to light after it released another assessment on Sept. 28 saying that just 1 percent of American workers earn their money outside the 9-to-5 by using smartphone apps and websites. The JPMorgan Chase Institute, however, pegs that percentage at 1.6.

Meanwhile, DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta says his agency is looking at drafting new rules for workers in the gig economy.

“The workforce is changing. How we approach work is changing, and we need to start looking at our rules and recognize that what fit 20 or 30 years ago is not going to fit for the modern workplace,” Acosta told Bloomberg Law.

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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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