DOL Releases New Opinion Letters Regarding FLSA, FMLA

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) today announced it has issued six new opinion letters, which it says “demonstrates the agency’s continued commitment to providing meaningful compliance assistance to help employees understand their rights and ensure that employers have the information they need to comply with federal labor laws.” The letters address compliance issues under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

whd-releases-new-opinion-letters“Opinion letters help provide greater clarity for American job creators and employees,” said WHD Deputy Administrator Bryan Jarrett. “The opinion letters issued today show the ongoing efforts of the Department to provide the tools employers need to comply with the law and protect workers.”

These opinion letters address the following issues:

  • Organ donors’ qualification for FMLA leave
  • Compensability of time spent voluntarily attending benefit fairs and certain wellness activities
  • Application of the movie theater overtime exemption to a movie theater that also offers dining services
  • Application of the commissioned sales employee overtime exemption to a company that sells an internet payment software platform
  • Volunteer status of nonprofit members serving as credentialing examination graders
  • “No-fault” attendance policies and roll-off of attendance points under the FMLA

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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 to Hold Listening Sessions on Revamp to Overtime Rule

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that in the upcoming weeks it will hold public listening sessions to gather views on the Part 541 white collar exemption regulations, often referred to as the “Overtime Rule.”

dol-schedules-overtime-rule-public-sessionsIssued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), these regulations implement exemptions from overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative, professional, and certain other employees. The department plans to update the Overtime Rule and is interested in hearing the views and ideas of participants on possible revisions to the regulations.

Upcoming sessions are free, but you must register to attend. The schedule:

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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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Kentucky Fails to Get Medicaid Work Requirement Restored

A federal judge in the state capital of Frankfort has dismissed a lawsuit by the governor of Kentucky seeking to restore the Medicaid work requirement that a Washington, D.C. judge threw out earlier this summer.

Kentucky State Capitol

Gov. Matt Bevin had sued the same 16 individuals whose lawsuit against the newly instituted work requirement for Medicaid eligibility had resulted in the D.C. judge’s verdict, but this time, the local judge said the governor’s lawsuit failed to show what injury needed to be redressed.

“Not all disputes are capable of federal judicial review,” U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove wrote. “Federal courts are limited in their jurisdiction, and they can only hear cases where the plaintiff can establish jurisdiction. Here, the commonwealth failed to do so.”

Kentucky was the first state to institute a requirement that the able-bodied who wish to use Medicaid must either work, volunteer civically or attend job training. Indiana followed shortly thereafter. The two states were taking advantage of a new rule by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that allowed for such a requirement.

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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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Three Nevada Chambers of Commerce Join to Launch AHP

Three chambers of commerce in southern Nevada are taking advantage of an Association Health Plan (AHP) rule issued in June by the Department of Labor (DOL) to form the Clark County Health Plan Association, which intends to offer a choice of ten different policies from two UnitedHealthcare affiliates.

The three organizing units are the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, and the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce.

“Aligning with other organizations certainly made the process a bit more difficult because you’re trying to balance different interests with these other chambers,” said Henderson Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Scott Muelrath. “I think what was so unique for us was being able to take the time for a collaborative approach to creating an umbrella so that some of our smaller chamber brethren could also participate.”

Practically speaking, this means that members of the other two chambers will have to nominally join the Henderson Chamber to participate.

“We didn’t want the other chambers to feel like we were taking their members, so they can stay with their parent chamber and then spend $200 with us to allow for access to the association health plan,” said Muelrath.

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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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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 a plan to make available short-term health insurance policies, up from the current 90 days to 12 months in duration, some states have already said they don’t want any part of it.

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 are 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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