EEOC Files Seven Nationwide Harassment Lawsuits

Watch Personnel Concepts’ video on Workplace Harassment Investigations.

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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Labor and Justice Departments to Crack Down on Visa Abuse by Employers

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have expanded their collaboration to better protect U.S. workers from discrimination by employers who prefer to hire temporary visa workers over qualified U.S. workers.

justice-and-labor-departments-to-fight-visa-abuseThis new partnership, finalized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), establishes protocols for the agencies to share information, refer matters between them, and train each other’s employees, with the goal of better protecting U.S. workers. This partnership will enhance the Civil Rights Division’s efforts to stop companies from discriminating against U.S. workers and assist the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) in identifying noncompliance with its foreign labor certification process.

In 2017, the Civil Rights Division launched the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement measures against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers. Under this Initiative, the Civil Rights Division has opened dozens of investigations, filed one lawsuit, and reached settlement agreements with three employers. Since the Initiative’s inception, employers have agreed to pay or have distributed over $285,000 in back pay to affected U.S. workers. The ETA has assisted the division’s efforts under this Initiative and the new partnership expands and formalizes that relationship.

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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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Sen. Rubio Introduces Ivanka Trump’s Paid Family Leave Law

Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) this week introduced legislation to create a paid family leave option nationwide that would use social security funds to pay for the leave in a tit-for-tat sort of way: you take two months family leave, social security pays for it, and then your social security start date is offset by two months.

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Sen. Marco Rubio

This is essentially the same plan that First Daughter Ivanka Trump has been pushing and managed to have a Senate hearing on in July.

“This is important legislation. It is also unique,” Rubio said at a news conference at the Capitol. “This is a dramatic readjustment of the way we deal with economic insecurity in the modern era.”

Democrats in the Senate — not surprisingly given the author of the bill — have already lined up solidly against the proposal.

As for author Ivanka, she downplayed the chances of the legislation’s being passed before the midterm elections:

“This was not exactly part of the Republican lexicon when we arrived in D.C. in January 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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Maine Receives Waiver to Establish ACA Reinsurance Plan

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has issued a Section 1332 Waiver to Maine to allow the state to set up a reinsurance plan to help pay the medical costs of residents with certain qualifying conditions, thus helping lower the health insurance premiums of all consumers in Maine.

maine-sets-up-reinsurance-program

Maine State House

Gov. Paul LePage has subsequently given the green light for the establishment of the non-profit Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association.

Section 1332 Waivers, which first became available on Jan. 1, 2017, allow states to innovate with provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Maine thus becomes the sixth state to set up a reinsurance program, but other states have taken up other innovations as well, according to tabulations by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Before the debut of the ACA in 2014, Maine ran a similar reinsurance program, but it was shut down in favor of a federal program that ran briefly under provisions of Obamacare.

The fund will cover the insurance costs of high-risk patients with one of eight conditions. It will pay 90 percent of claims between $47,000 and $77,000 and 100 percent of claims above that threshold, up to a maximum of $1 million. For more expensive claims, the program will cover any amount not picked up by a federal program.

Funding will come from reinsurance premiums, savings from already existing federal funds, and a $4 monthly assessment on individual, group and other plans.


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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Short-Term Health Plans to Be Offered Beginning in October

The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (DOL) and the Treasury (DOT) today issued a final rule allowing for the sale and renewal of short-term, limited-duration health plans that cover longer periods than the previous maximum period of less than three months. Such coverage can now cover an initial period of less than 12 months, and, taking into account any extensions, a maximum duration of no longer than 36 months in total. Sales begin in October.

alex-azar-announces-short-term-health-plans

HHS Secretary Alex Azar

This action will help increase choices for Americans faced with escalating premiums and dwindling options in the individual insurance market, according to spokespersons.

“Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans have seen insurance premiums rise and choices dwindle,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “President Trump is bringing more affordable insurance options back to the market, including through allowing the renewal of short-term plans. These plans aren’t for everyone, but they can provide a much more affordable option for millions of the forgotten men and women left out by the current system.”

In a recent release of three reports on the current state of the individual insurance market, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data reveal serious problems. While enrollment data show stable enrollment for subsidized exchange coverage, the number of people enrolled in the individual market without subsidies declined by an alarming 20 percent nationally in 2017, while at the same time premiums rose by 21 percent. Many state markets experienced far more dramatic declines, with unsubsidized enrollment dropping by more than 40 percent in six states, including a 73 percent decline in Arizona.

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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 Leads Attorney General Coalition Fighting AHPs

Twelve “blue state” attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, are taking the Trump administration to court over its final rule allowing the creation of newly invigorated Association Health Plans (AHPs).

attorneys-genera-sue-to-stop-association-health-plansThe coalition is targeting a final rule issued by the Department of Labor (DOL), which loosens and expands the definition of employer in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which in turn enables the creation of multi-employer, multi-state association health plans (AHPs). In the past, AHPs could function within state boundaries but with strict inclusionary policies, but most were forced out by the essential health benefits (EHBs) standard of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).

The new rule allows even the self-employed to join an AHP.

“The Trump administration’s AHP Rule is nothing more than an unlawful end run around the consumer protections enshrined in the Affordable Care Act — part of President Trump’s continued efforts to sabotage our health care system,” Underwood said in a statement about the suit.

“Our lawsuit today seeks to safeguard federal protections under the ACA that help guarantee access to quality, affordable health 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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OSHA Proposes Reduction in Injury/Illness Reporting for Large Employers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which it says will “better protect” personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular individual by removing provisions of the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule. OSHA believes this proposal maintains safety and health protections for workers, protects privacy and reduces the burdens of complying with the current rule.

Trump-OSHA-cancels-some-online-reportsThe proposed rule eliminates the requirement to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) for establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to maintain injury and illness records. These establishments would be required to electronically submit information only from OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses).

Under the current recordkeeping rule, the deadline for electronic submission of Calendar Year (CY) 2017 information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301 was July 1, 2018. In subsequent years, the deadline is March 2. OSHA is not currently accepting the Form 300 or 301 data and will not enforce the deadlines for these two forms without further notice while this rulemaking is underway. The electronic portal collecting Form 300A data is accepting CY 2017 data, although submissions after July 1, 2018, will be marked late.

The NPRM is subject to public commentary through Sept. 28, 2018.


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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