DOL Seeks Comments on Proposed Changes to FMLA Forms

The Department of Labor (DOL) and its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) are seeking public comments through Oct. 4 on proposed changes to the forms used for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.

fmla-celebrates-26th-anniversaryAccording to the DOL, the goal in revising the forms is to increase compliance with the FMLA, improve customer service, and reduce the burden on the public by making the forms easier to understand and use.

WHD drafted revisions with input from the public and is seeking comment on the proposed changes, which include:

  • Fewer questions requiring written responses; replaced by statements that can be verified by simply checking a box
  • Reorganization of medical certification forms to more quickly determine if a medical condition is a serious health condition as defined by the FMLA
  • Clarifications to reduce the demand on health care providers for follow-up information
  • More information on the notification forms to better communicate specific information about leave conditions to employees
  • Changes to the qualifying exigency certification form to provide clarity to employees about what information is required
  • Changes to the military caregiver leave forms to improve consistency and ease of use
  • Layout and style changes to reduce blank space and improve readability

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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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After Steep Increases in 2019, Obamacare Premiums Poised to Moderate

An analysis of health insurer rate filings with state commissioners shows that 2020 premiums for policies sold on the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) exchanges look to rise just 0.6 percent, according to a report by Healthcare Dive.

health-care-spending-to-rise-5.5%-annuallyMany states might actually see a decrease, with Colorado showing an expected plunge of 18 percent.

The projected overall slight increase is largely the result of overpricing in 2019.

“Plans had been so overpriced last year that insurers are now required under the ACA to issue record-large rebates to consumers. Plans were overpriced because insurers over-corrected and raised premiums too high going into 2018, amid the uncertainty of ACA repeal and the loss of cost-sharing subsidy payments,” explained Cynthia Cox, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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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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No Subsidy=No Obamacare for 2.5 Million Drop-Outs

From 2016 to 2018, 2.5 million customers who failed to qualify for a subsidy dropped their coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), a 40 percent falloff, according to data released Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

cms-to-crack-down-on-Medicaid-fraud

CMS Administrator Seema Verma

“As President Trump predicted, people are fleeing the individual market. Obamacare is failing the American people, and the ongoing exodus of the unsubsidized population from the market proves that Obamacare’s sky-high premiums are unaffordable,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

The CMS  report released yesterday shows that people who do not qualify for subsidies continue to be priced out of the market. Following a decline of 1.3 million unsubsidized people in 2017, another 1.2 million unsubsidized people left the market in 2018. These enrollment declines among unsubsidized enrollees coincided with increases in average monthly premiums of 21 percent in 2017 and 26 percent in 2018.

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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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Proposed Overtime Rule Heads to White House

The Department of Labor (DOL) is sending its proposed new overtime rule to the White House today for review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) just five months after initiating the regulatory process.

Acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella

The rule, as initially proposed, would raise the overtime salary exemption threshold to $35,308 a year, up from the current level of $23,660, established in 2004.

An Obama-era ruled establishing the threshold at $47,476 a year was stopped dead in its tracks just days before it was to take effect in 2016 by a federal judge’s ruling.

That ruling was predicated on provisions in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

Blue State attorneys general (AGs) have already announced their intention to challenge the new rule in court based upon the same APA. They may argue that the DOL ignored the majority of the 116,000 public comments received that pleaded for the higher Obama-era threshold.

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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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Senate Approves EEOC Nominees

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the nomination of Sharon Fast Gustafson as general counsel and the re-nomination of Democrat Charlotte Burrows as commissioner for a second term on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Sharon Fast Gustafson

Sharon Gustafson

Both approvals came via a process known as unanimous consent, which does not require a vote.

Two days earlier, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the nominations to be sent for floor confirmation. The vote for Burrows was 23-0 and for Gustafson 13-10, with just one Democrat voting in favor.

The general counsel position has been vacant throughout the Trump administration. Gustafson is a employment lawyer practicing solo in Virginia. In her practice, she represents mostly employees in discrimination and whistleblower cases. (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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HHS to Allow Importation of Cheaper Prescription Drugs

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that HHS and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are publishing a Safe Importation Action Plan – PDF that outlines two potential pathways that would lay the foundation for the safe importation of certain drugs originally intended for foreign markets.

“President Trump has been clear: for too long American patients have been paying exorbitantly high prices for prescription drugs that are made available to other countries at lower prices. When we released the ‘President’s drug pricing blueprint’ for three-companies-to-revolutionize-health-careputting American patients first, we said we are open to all potential solutions to combat high drug prices that protect patient safety, are effective at delivering lower prices, and respect choice, innovation and access,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

“Today’s announcement outlines the pathways the Administration intends to explore to allow safe importation of certain prescription drugs to lower prices and reduce out of pocket costs for American patients. This is the next important step in the Administration’s work to end foreign freeloading and put American patients first.”

The Action Plan outlines the government’s intention to pursue two pathways to allow safe drug importation from foreign markets: (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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Anonymous Lawsuits Alleging Harassment, Discrimination on the Rise

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, more and more individuals are seeking redress anonymously, asking for court permission to file their cases with pseudonyms — John and Jane Does.

anonymous-harassment-lawsuits-on-the-riseAccording to research by Bloomberg Law, there were 52 anonymous harassment and discrimination lawsuits in 2018, up from 24 the previous year and from just 17 in 2016. So far this year, there have been 24 such anonymous filings.

Judges are generally given great discretion in granting or denying a litigant’s request to file suit anonymously. If anonymity is granted, the rationale is usually that the issues are highly sensitive, extremely personal or could result in physical harm.

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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 Issues Rule on Association Retirement Plans (ARPs)

The Department of Labor (DOL) today announced a rule to help strengthen retirement security for millions of small business employees across America.

The rule makes it easier for small businesses to offer retirement savings plans to their workers through Association Retirement Plans (ARPs), which would allow small businesses to band together to offer retirement plans to their employees.

Association Retirement Plans (AHPs) could help employers at small businesses offer retirement accounts without the costs and headache.

Enhancing workplace retirement savings is critical to the financial security of America’s workers. Approximately 38 million private-sector employees in the United States do not have access to a retirement savings plan through their employers.

Under the rule, ARPs could be offered by associations of employers in a city, county, state, or a multi-state metropolitan area, or in a particular industry nationwide. In addition to association sponsors, the plans could also be sponsored through Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs). A PEO is a human-resource company that contractually assumes certain employment responsibilities for its client employers.

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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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Google Settles Age Discrimination Lawsuit for $11 Million

Google has settled for $11 million a class action lawsuit involving 227 individuals who claim they were denied employment because of their age. After the lawyers get nearly $3 million for their part, the remaining litigants will garner about $35,000 each.

google-to-end-forced-arbitrationA judge still must approve the settlement.

Google is not alone on the age discrimination legal front.

ProPublica recently released results of an investigation into the technology industry. Among the findings was that IBM, during a reorganization and downsizing, terminated 20,000 employees in the U.S. over 40 years of age. On Monday, the same day as Google’s announced settlement, a class action lawsuit was filed against the company, alleging age discrimination.

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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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New York Enacts Historic Pay Equity Law

Going beyond the traditional “equal pay for equal work” mandates in most pay equity laws, New York State has now broadened the definition to embrace “substantially similar work.”

At the same time, it has broadened the categories of who’s affected beyond gender to include age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status or domestic violence victim status.

More specifically, the new law empowers employees to seek restitution if they do no receive equal pay for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”

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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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