Spectrum Healthcare NLRB Charge Settlement Highlights Need To Defend Against Possible Unfair Labor Practices & Other Union Exposures

May 20, 2011

The National Labor Regulations Board (NLRB)’s announcement of a settlement against a Connecticut nursing home operator this week in conjunction with a series of other enforcement actions highlight the need for businesses to tighten defenses and exercise other caution to minimize their organization’s exposure to potential NLRB charges or investigation.    As reflected by many of these enforcement acts, the exposures arise both from active efforts by businesses to suppress union organizing or contracting activities, as well as the failure to identify and manage hidden labor law exposures in the design and administration of more ordinary human resources, compliance, business operations and other policies and practices.

On May 17, 2011, the NLRB announced here  that Connecticut nursing home operator Spectrum Healthcare has agreed to settle a NLRB case involving multiple allegations of unlawful suspensions, discharges and unilateral changes in violation of the National Labor Relations Act and other federal labor laws by offering reinstatement and back pay to all discharged and striking workers and signing a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with its employees’ union, New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU.

Along with the contract and reinstatement of all employees, the company agreed to pay $545,000 in back pay and pension benefits to employees who were harmed by the unfair labor practices, and to expunge any disciplinary records related to the case. As a result, all NLRB charges against the company have been withdrawn. Spectrum admits to no wrongdoing in the settlement.

The settlement, reached midway through a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge in Connecticut and approved by the judge yesterday, ends a long-running dispute which grew into a strike by almost 400 employees at four nursing homes in Connecticut operated by Spectrum Healthcare, LLC.  Complaints issued by the NLRB Regional Office in Hartford alleged that, beginning in the fall of 2009, several months after the prior collective bargaining agreement expired, Spectrum discharged seven employees and suspended three others to retaliate against their union activities and to discourage other employees from supporting the union. In addition, one employee was discharged and seven others were suspended after the employer unilaterally changed its tardiness discipline policy without first bargaining with the union.

The complaints further alleged that in April 2010, employees at the four nursing homes — in Derby, Ansonia, Winsted, and Hartford — went on strike to protest the unfair labor practices. When the strikers offered unconditionally to return to work in late August, the employer refused to take them back. Under federal labor law, if a strike is called because of an unfair labor practice, employees are entitled to reinstatement after an unconditional offer to return to work.

The reinstated employees are due to return to the facilities this week.

The Spectrum Healthcare settlement is reflective of the growing number of NLRB enforcement orders against employers generally and health care providers specifically under the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration has close ties and has expressed its strong and open support for union and union organizing activities.  The adoption of a series of union friendly labor law reforms was one of the key campaign promises of President Obama during his election campaign.  While other legislative priorities and the change in the leadership of the House of Representatives appears to have slowed efforts to push through this agenda, it has not slowed the Administration’s efforts to support unions with strong enforcement activities.  Empowered by a difficult economic and job situation and an awareness of the Obama Administration’s strong support for union organizing and other activities, unions are stepping up organizing efforts and more aggressively challenging employers actions.

Over the past few months, public awareness of the Obama Administration’s aggressive enforcement agenda on behalf of unions has drawn new attention as a result of the widespread media coverage of NLRB actions challenging Boeings planned relocation of certain manufacturing jobs intervention in a planned relocation of certain manufacturing operations.  See, e.g., Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon releases statement on Boeing complaint; National Labor Relations Board issues complaint against Boeing Company for unlawfully transferring work to a non-union facilityHowever, the Boeing and Spectrum Healthcare actions represent only the tip of the iceberg of the rising number of NLRB enforcement activities, most of which take place with little media or public attention.

Along side the Spectrum Healthcare and Boeing actions, in recent weeks, the NLRB also has been busy with several other enforcement activities.  For instance:

  • On May 9 2011, the NLRB issued a complaint against Hispanics United of Buffalo (HUB), a nonprofit that provides social services to low-income clients, that alleges that HUB unlawfully discharged five employees after they took to Facebook to criticize working conditions, including work load and staffing issues. The case involves an employee who, in advance of a meeting with management about working conditions, posted to her Facebook ; and
  • On May 17, the NLRB secured a temporary injunction from a U.S. District Court in San Jose California against San Jose area waste hauling company OS Transport LLC,   charged with engaging in unfair labor practices including the termination of a lead organizer and another Union supporter, retaliation against Union efforts in the form of unfavorable assignments, threats to Union supporters, and promises of improved treatment of employees who disavow the Union for the alleged purpose of defeating a union. o offer reinstatement to two drivers and restore full assignments to other drivers who had expressed support for a union during an organizing campaign. More Details here.,

In addition, in recent weeks, the NLRB also has:

 Amid this difficult enforcement environment, business leaders should exercise special care to prepare to defend their actions against both potential organizing efforts, to understand the types of actions and activities that may help fuel charges, and take steps to manage these and other union organization and other labor risks.  

For Help With Labor & Employment, Employee Benefits Or Other Risk Management and Defense

If you need assistance in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your labor and employment, employee benefits, compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 23 years of work helping employers; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; and others design, administer and defend innovative workforce, compensation, employee benefit  and management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend wage and hour and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions.  The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on wage and hour, worker classification and other human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and related matters.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

 

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here .

 ©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


IRS Releases Health Savings Account, High Deductible Health Plan 2012 Indexed Amounts

May 18, 2011

The Department of Treasury released the  inflation adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) applicable for purposes of § 223 of the Internal Revenue Code for 2012.

Under Revenue Procedure 2011-32,  for 2012 the following inflation adjusted amounts will apply for purposes of applying the HSA limits during 2012:

Annual Contribution Limitation

For calendar year 2012, the annual limitation on deductions under § 223(b)(2)(A) is:

  • For an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,100.
  • For an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $6,250.

 

High Deductible Health Plan

For calendar year 2012, Revenue Procedure 2011-32 leaves the minimum deductible allowable for an arrangement to qualify as a “high deductible health plan”  unchanged from the amounts implemented for 2011.  This means that  in 2012 a “high deductible health plan” will continue to be defined under § 223(c)(2)(A) as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than:

  • $1,200 for self-only coverage or
  • $2,400  for family coverage, and the annual out-of pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,050 for self-only coverage or $12,100 for family coverage.

HSA sponsors and administrators will want to ensure that their HSA plan documents, communications are timely and properly updated to reflect the adjusted numbers well in advance to the 2012 enrollment period.  At the same time, high deductible health plan and HSA plan sponsors and administrators also should verify that their programs, as well as any health care flexible spending arrangements are updated for changes such as new rules conditioning reimbursement of over-the-counter medical expenses by HSAs and health care flexible spending accounts on the fulfillment of prescription requirements enacted as part of health care reform as well as other updates. 

For Help or More Information

If you have questions or need help understanding or responding to the Regulations, with other health benefit design, administration or operations concerns, or with other employee benefits, compensation, labor or employment or other workforce management concerns, please contact the author of this update, Board Certified Labor and Employment attorney and management consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit and Other Compensation Committee, and a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Ms. Stamer is nationally recognized for her more than 23 years pragmatic and innovative health program work.

Board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization with extensive leading edge health plan experience, Ms. Stamer has worked continuously throughout her career helping health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, insurers and others design, administer and defend health and other employee benefit and insurance programs domestically and internationally. She is widely recognized for her experience helping design and implement legally compliant self-insured and insured health reimbursement, mini-med, high-deductible health plans, limited benefit plans, 24-hour and occupational medicine, ex-pat and medical tourism, deductible reimbursement and other creative health benefit programs to solve a wide range of financial and other challenges while coping with changing regulatory and market realities. Her work includes both working with clients to design, document, implement and administer these and other arrangements, as well as the development of wellness and disease management, claims administration and appeals, eligibility, and other administrative services, processes and technologies.  She also works with plan fiduciaries, plan sponsors, insurers, administrators, brokers and advisors, bankruptcy trustees, creditors, debtors, service providers and their officers and directors about the prevention, investigation, mitigation and resolutions of civil and criminal liability arising from suspected or known benefit administration claims, breaches of fiduciary duty, privacy and data security breach, vendor disputes and other disputes arising in relation to employee benefit and insurance arrangements.  As a continuing part of this representation, Ms. Stamer regularly represents and defends plan sponsors, fiduciaries, third party administrators and other service providers and management officials in dealings with the Department of Labor, Department of Justice, Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Defense, Securities and Exchange Commission, state insurance regulators, state attorneys general and other federal and state regulators and prosecutors and private plaintiffs in connection with investigations, prosecutions, audits and other actions arising from employee benefit, insurance and related arrangements and products.

Recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals and bearing the Martindale Hubble Premier AV-Rating, Ms. Stamer also is a highly regarded author and speaker, who regularly conducts management and other training on a wide range of labor and employment, employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other related risk management matters.  Her writings frequently are published by the American Bar Association (ABA), Aspen Publishers, Bureau of National Affairs, the American Health Lawyers Association, SHRM, World At Work, Government Institutes, Inc., Atlantic Information Services, Employee Benefit News, and many others. For a listing of some of these publications and programs, see here. Her insights on human resources risk management matters also have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, various publications of The Bureau of National Affairs and Aspen Publishing, the Dallas Morning News, Spencer Publications, Health Leaders, Business Insurance, the Dallas and Houston Business Journals and a host of other publications. In addition to her many ABA leadership involvements, she also serves in leadership positions in numerous human resources, corporate compliance, and other professional and civic organizations. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, World At Work, the ICEBS, SHRM and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information here.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


OCR’s McAndrew Speaks At 5/16 JCEB HIPAA Teleconference; OCR/NIST To Share Other HIPAA Training On Line

May 10, 2011

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) are making presentations from the 4th annual conference on “Safeguarding Health Information: Building Assurance through HIPAA Security” co-hosted in Washington, D.C. on May 10 & 11, 2011 available on line for review.  The training is part of a series of continuing efforts by the agencies to outreach to various parties on the Privacy and Security Rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996, as amended (HIPAA).  Meanwhile, OCR’s Susan McAndrew is scheduled to share insights on OCR’s HIPAA regulatory and enforcement agenda at a teleconference to be hosted by the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits at Noon Central on May 16, 2011. 

 The Security Rule sets federal standards to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information by requiring HIPAA covered entities and their business associates to implement and maintain administrative, physical and technical safeguards. Presentations cover a variety of current topics including updates on HHS health information privacy and security initiatives, OCR’s enforcement of health information privacy and security activities, integrating security safeguards into health IT and security automation, insider threat trends and safeguards, and more.

The conference is designed to explore the current health information technology security landscape and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule, the agencies share their practical strategies, tips and techniques for implementing the HIPAA Security Rule. 

For details about reviewing the May 10-11 presentations, see the 2011 HIPAA Conference website here.  For details about the May 16 teleconference, see here.

For Help With Monitoring Developments, Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance monitoring federal health reform, policy or enforcement developments, or to review or respond to these or other health care or health IT related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, can help.  Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers, health plans, their business associates and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. She regularly designs and presents HIPAA and other risk management, compliance and other training for health plans, employers, health care providers, professional associations and others.   

Ms. Stamer also regularly works with OCR and other agencies, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and data security, health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns.  Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.   For instance, On May 3, 2011, Ms. Stamer served as the appointed scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Agency meeting with OCR and will moderate a teleconference featuring comments by OCR’s Susan McAndrew for the Joint Committee on Employee Benefits scheduled for May 16.  Her insights on the required “culture of compliance” with HIPAA also recently were quoted in medical privacy related publications of the Atlantic Information Service.  Among others, she has conducted privacy training for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.

You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here.

If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


May 18 NTHCPA Meeting On HIPAA Legal Issues

May 10, 2011

NORTH TEXAS HEALTHCARE COMPLIANCE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION

Invites Members and Guests to Join In The May BYO Brown Bag Luncheon

“Selected Legal Issues in HIPAA Compliance”

May 18, 2011
Noon-2:00 p.m.
Dallas Ft Worth Hospital Council

250 Decker Drive, Irving, TX 75062-2706

 

North Texas Healthcare Compliance Professional Association (NTHCPA) invites members and other interested health care compliance professionals to join other NTHCPA members and guests on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 from Noon to 2:00 p.m. as DFW attorney Scott Chase leads a program on “Selected Legal Issues in HIPAA Compliance.”  During the program, Mr. Chase will review selected current legal problems in complying with the security and privacy audit requirements, notification of breaches of security and responses to subpoenas under the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.  Participants also will enjoy ample opportunity to network with each other and dialogue on these and other HIPAA related challenges. 

Scott Chase is a solo practitioner who has represented small business owners (primarily physician groups) for almost 30 years.  Prior to his solo practice, he served as General Counsel for 2 public companies, including a large hospital management company.  He has chaired the Corporate Counsel Section of the Dallas Bar Association and its Health Law Section and, in 2002, he was among the first 28 Texas lawyers to be Board Certified in Health Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

The meeting will be held at the offices of the Dallas Ft Worth Hospital Council, 250 Decker Drive, Irving, TX 75062-2706.  Under the new brown bag luncheon format, members and guests are encouraged to bring along a lunch of their choosing and participate in this skill building and networking event.

NTHCPA meetings are open to all NTHCPA members and other interested health care compliance professionals. Participation in the meeting is complimentary. Participants are responsible for any parking charges incurred. 

Save The Date For June 15 Meeting

Save the date and plan to attend the June meeting featuring a program and dialogue on “Current Government Enforcement Initiatives” to be lead by Jones Day attorney Frank Sheeder at the Dallas Ft Worth Hospital Council offices on June 15, 2011 from Noon to 2 p.m.

RSVP & Register For Invites & Updates

To help us to notify you about upcoming meetings and to arrange for adequate space for this and other meetings, interested persons are encouraged to forward their current contact information including e-mail to Vice-President Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or by e-mail here.  Stay on top of information about upcoming meetings and share and dialogue with other NTHCPA members about health care compliance challenges and developments by joining our Linked In Group here.  Please feel free to share this invitation with others who may be interested. 

About the NTHCPA

NTHCPA exists to champion ethical practice and compliance standards and to provide the necessary resources for ethics and compliance Professionals and others in North Texas who share these principles.  The vision of NTHCPA is to be a pre-eminent compliance and ethics group promoting lasting success and integrity of organizations within North Texas.  To register or update your registration or to receive notice of future meetings, e-mail here.  

Would you like to get more involved?  We encourage persons interested in serving on the steering committee, sponsoring refreshments for an upcoming meeting, wish to suggesting topics or speakers, or seeking more information about membership or involvement with the NTHCPA to contact:

NTHCPA President Erma Lee at (817) 927-1232 or by e-mail here or

Vice-President Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or by e-mail here

This communication may be considered a marketing communication for certain purposes.  If you wish to update your e-mail for purposes of or would prefer not to receive future e-mail concerning meetings or other activities of the North Texas Healthcare Compliance Professionals Association or other marketing and promotional mailings from it, please send an email with the word “unsubscribe” in its subject heading here.


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