Comment Deadline 1/31 On HHS Plan To Let States Define ACA “Essential Benefits” That Concerns Many

December 29, 2011

 January 31, 201 is the deadline for employers, insurers, and others with concerns about the proposal of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to delegate authority to individual states to decide the definition of essential benefits for purposes of the state exchange and other requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) on a state-by-state.

As part of its sweeping health care reforms, the Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance plans offered in the individual and small group markets, both inside and outside of the Affordable Insurance Exchanges (Exchanges), offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as “essential health benefits.” The definition of “essential health benefits” also has significant implications on employers. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers that fail to provide health coverage through an insured or self-insured group health plan that provides the required package of essential health benefits will be required to make payments to help subsidize the cost for their employees to purchase qualifying health care coverage through one of the health care exchanges established pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.

HHS announced its proposal for state determination of the meaning of essential benefits in an Essential Health Benefits Bulletinc (Bulletin) published December 16, 2011. The Bulletin only addresses the services and items covered as “essential benefits” by a health plan, not the cost sharing, such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.  HHS says it will address the cost-sharing features in future bulletins and cost-sharing rules will determine the actuarial value of the plan.  

While HHS touts its proposal for allowing flexibility to the states, many employers, insurers, union and employer-sponsored health plans and others are concerned.  Organizations and individuals concerned about the proposal or its implications should act quickly to prepare and submit comments reflecting their concerns by the January 31, 2012 comment deadline.

HHS Proposal Allows State-By-State Essential Benefit Definition

As proposed in the Bulletin, HHS would give states the flexibility to decide the items and services included in the essential health benefits package required within their states in accordance with the guidance outlined in the Bulletin.

Within the limits established by HHS, states would decide the package of benefits required to be offered as “essential benefits” within their state by selecting a benchmark plan for to set the essential benefit definition for their states.  In choosing the benchmark plan that will decide the required essential benefits for their state, states would be required to choose from one of four allowable health insurance plan options set by HHS:

  • One of the three largest small group plans in the state;
  • One of the three largest state employee health plans;
  • One of the three largest federal employee health plan options; or
  • The largest HMO plan offered in the state’s commercial market. 

The benefits and services included in the health insurance plan selected by the state would be the essential health benefits package. 

When picking a benchmark plan, HHS intends to continue to require that the states make sure their essential health benefits package at least covers items and services in at least ten categories of care specifically listed as in the Affordable Care Act as included in the definition of essential benefits. These categories are:

Essential health benefits must include items and services within at least the following 10 categories:

  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

Consequently, if a state selects a plan that does not cover all ten categories of care, HHS intends to require the state to examine other benchmark insurance plans, including the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, to determine the type of benefits that will be included in the essential health benefits package.

Proposal Prompts Many Questions & Concerns

HHS says that its proposed approach to allowing states to decide the definition of essential benefits “would give states the flexibility to select a plan that would be equal in scope to the services covered by a typical employer plan in their state” while allowing states and insurers to keep the flexibility to evolve the benefits package with the market as innovative plan designs emerge. However the proposal is drawing criticism from many.

When Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act, supporters touted it as ensuring that all Americans would have access to a uniform set of core benefits that the Act refers to as “essential benefits” while promoting efficiency by providing a uniform set of mandate benefits to be provided by all group health plans, health insurers and health insurance exchanges.

The proposal has raised many questions among employers and unions that sponsor self-insured group heath plans for employees and those involved in their design and administration. Since 1974, the preemptive provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA) generally have exempted single employer self-insured group health plans and their insurers from the administrative and cost burdens of complying with state insurance laws and regulations. 

Among other things, critics complain that the proposal to forgo a uniform national definition will:

  • Drive up costs by requiring states to use as a benchmark plan programs that are much richer and most costly than the insured or self-insured benefit plans offered by most employers;
  • Undermine cost savings that would have resulted from the use of a uniform national definition of essential benefits;
  • Subject insurers, health plans, and employers and unions to conflicting regulatory obligations, create disparities;

Proposal Prompts Many Questions & Concerns

Organizations and individuals concerned about the proposal in the Bulletin will need to move quickly to share their concerns with HHS. Comments are due by January 31, 2012.  Parties wishing to comment can send their comments to:EssentialHealthBenefits@cms.hhs.gov.


Stamer Dallas Bar Journal Article Cautions Employers Must Take Holistic Approach To Address Worker Misclassification Risks

December 27, 2011

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer’s cautions that before taking advantage of a new Internal Revenue Service program offering employers the opportunity to resolve potential payroll tax liabilities arising from the misclassification of workers, employers should consider and develop a risk management their overall worker misclassification liability exposures. 

Ms. Stamer discusses the need for employers to take a holistic approach to assessing and addressing worker classification risks in her article, “New IRS Worker Classification Settlement Program and its Risks,” in the January, 2011 issue of the Dallas Bar Journal To read her article, see page 8 of the January, 2012 Dallas Bar Journal here.

U.S employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors, as exempt for payroll or other tax, wage and hour, immigration, and a wide range of other legal purposes or otherwise increasingly risk investigation and enforcement from federal and state agencies targeting perceived misclassification abuses.  While U.S. employers should review and correct as needed worker misclassifications that could result in violations  laws in light of the growing enforcement emphasis and interagency coordination targeting employers that violate federal or state tax, labor and other laws by misclassifying workers, employers should evaluate and address these concerns on a holistic, rather than peice meal basis.The Obama Administration is targeting employers that misclassify workers for enforcement.

Agency officials and members of Congress have sent numerous messages to U.S. employers to clean up their worker classification practices.  For instance, Labor Department enforcement actions increasingly show its employer misclassification audit and enforcement emphasis.  See, e.g.Employer Charged With Misclassifying & Underpaying Workers To Pay $754,578 FLSA Backpay Settlement; $1 Million + FLSA Overtime Settlement Shows Employers Should Tighten On-Call, Other Wage & Hour Practices;   New IRS Voluntary IRS Settlement Program Offers New Option For Resolving Payroll Tax Risks Of Misclassification But Employers Also Must Manage Other Legal Risks; Medical Resident Stipend Ruling Shows Health Care, Other Employers Should Review Payroll Practices; Employment Tax Takes Center Stage as IRS Begins National Research Project , Executive Compensation Audits;  

While these and other agencies continue to keep the heat up on employers that misclassify workers, Congress also continues to hear testimony and consider legislation that would further clarify and tighten worker classification rules.  See e.g., Review & Strengthen Defensibility of Existing Worker Classification Practices In Light of Rising Congressional & Regulatory Scrutiny; New IRS Worker Classification Settlement Program and Its RisksAgency officials arefueling and responding to Congressional worker classification concerns by highlighting issues in Congressional testimony and other communications.  In her November 3, 2011 testimony to the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Committee on Education and the Workforce, for instance, U.S. Labor Department Wage & Hour Division (WHD) Deputy Administrator (WHD) Nancy Leppink  testified that “employee misclassification is a serious and, according to all available evidence, growing problem” that the Obama Administration is “committed to working to end.”  See Testimony of Nancy J. Leppink, Deputy Wage and Hour Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives (November 3, 2011).

Her testimony also makes clear that interagency coöperation and sharing of information among agencies is an increasingly valuable tool to this effort. Ms. Leppink told the Subcommittee that the Labor Department is a part of a multi-agency Misclassification Initiative that seeks to strengthen and coördinate Federal and State efforts to enforce violations of the law that result from employee misclassification.

According to Ms. Leppink, the WHD’s exchange of information about investigations with other law enforcement agencies is as “particularly important with respect to our efforts to combat the violations of our laws that occur because of employees who are misclassified as independent contractors or other non-employees.” On September 19, 2011 the Labor Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to share information about investigations with each other.  The MOU helps the IRS investigate if employers the Labor Department has found in violation of federal labor laws have paid the proper employment taxes. Similarly, the WHD also entered into MOUs with several state labor agencies that allow the Labor Department to share information about its investigations and coordinate misclassification enforcement when appropriate.

“These agreements mean that all levels of government are working together to solve this critical problem,” she said.

Employers Urged To Audit & Strengthen Worker Classification Practices

As Federal and state regulators take aim at misclassification abuses, U.S. employers need to review each arrangement where their business receives services that the business treats as not employed by their business, as well as any employees of their business that the business treats as exempt employees keeping in mind that they generally will bear the burden of proving the appropriateness of that characterization for most purposes of law.  The coordination and interrelationship of issues that Ms. Leppink testified about in her November 3 Subscommittee testimony shows that employers need to take a holistic approach in evaluating and addressing their worker classification exposures.

To guard against these and other growing risks of worker classification, employers receiving services from workers who are not considered employees for purposes of income or payroll should review within the scope of attorney-client privilege the defensibility of their existing worker classification, employee benefit, fringe benefit, employment, wage and hour, and other workforce policies and consult with qualified legal counsel about the advisability to adjust these practices to mitigate exposures to potential IRS, Labor Department or other penalties associated with worker misclassification.

For Help or More Information
If you need help with worker classification or other human resources or internal controls matters, please contact the author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Board Certified in Labor & employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization,management attorney, author and consultant  Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers carry out, audit, manage and defend worker classification,union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions. 
Widely published on worker classification and other workforce risk management and compliance concerns, the immediate past-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Plan Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Section Employee Benefits Committee,  a Council Representative of 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 management, worker classification, re-engineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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.

 

Employers Urged To Strengthen Worker Classification Defenses As Obama Administration Targets Employers Misclassifying Workers

December 26, 2011

U.S employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors, as exempt for wage and hour law purposes or otherwise increasingly risk investigation and enforcement from federal and state agencies targeting perceived misclassification abuses.

U.S. employers should review and correct as needed worker misclassifications that could result in violations of federal wage and hour or other employment, tax or other laws in light of the growing enforcement emphasis and interagency coordination targeting employers that violate federal or state tax, labor and other laws by misclassifying workers.  Testimony of a top Labor Department official confirms that the Obama Administration has employers that misclassify workers in its sights and is ready to take swift action to punish their noncompliance. 

Review and management of these issues is particularly timely in light of the opening by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of a new settlement program for resolving payroll tax issues resulting from misclassification.  Given broader labor and other risks, however, before taking advantage of a new Internal Revenue Service program offering employers the opportunity to resolve potential payroll tax liabilities arising from the misclassification of workers, employers should consider and develop a risk management their overall worker misclassification liability exposures.  See “New IRS Worker Classification Settlement Program and its Risks,” in the January, 2011 issue of the Dallas Bar Journal To read her article, see page 8 of the January, 2012 Dallas Bar Journal here.

Aggressive Employer Worker Classification Practices Under Seige

U.S employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors, as exempt for wage and hour law purposes or otherwise increasingly risk investigation and enforcement from federal and state agencies targeting perceived misclassification abuses.

The Obama Administration is targeting employers that misclassify workers for enforcement.

Agency officials and members of Congress have sent numerous messages to U.S. employers to clean up their worker classification practices.  For instance, Labor Department enforcement actions increasingly show its employer misclassification audit and enforcement emphasis.  See, e.g.Employer Charged With Misclassifying & Underpaying Workers To Pay $754,578 FLSA Backpay Settlement; $1 Million + FLSA Overtime Settlement Shows Employers Should Tighten On-Call, Other Wage & Hour Practices.

Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to conduct worker classification audits while encouraging employers to self correct existing payroll tax misclassifications by participating in a new Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program (“Settlement Program”) announced in September. However the limited scope of the relief provided makes use of the program challenging for most employers. See New IRS Voluntary IRS Settlement Program Offers New Option For Resolving Payroll Tax Risks Of Misclassification But Employers Also Must Manage Other Legal Risks; Medical Resident Stipend Ruling Shows Health Care, Other Employers Should Review Payroll Practices; Employment Tax Takes Center Stage as IRS Begins National Research Project , Executive Compensation Audits.  

While these and other agencies continue to keep the heat up on employers that misclassify workers, Congress also continues to consider legislation that would further clarify and tighten worker classification rules.  See e.g., Review & Strengthen Defensibility of Existing Worker Classification Practices In Light of Rising Congressional & Regulatory Scrutiny; New IRS Worker Classification Settlement Program and Its Risks.

In her November 3, 2011 testimony to the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. Labor Department Wage & Hour Division (WHD) Deputy Administrator (WHD) Nancy Leppink confirmed that the Labor Department is joining a growing list of federal and state agencies that are making ending employee misclassification an audit and enforcement priority.  testified that “employee misclassification is a serious and, according to all available evidence, growing problem” that the Obama Administration is “committed to working to end.”  See Testimony of Nancy J. Leppink, Deputy Wage and Hour Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives (November 3, 2011).

Her testimony also makes clear that interagency coöperation and sharing of information among agencies is an increasingly valuable tool to this effort. Ms. Leppink told the Subcommittee that the Labor Department is a part of a multi-agency Misclassification Initiative that seeks to strengthen and coördinate Federal and State efforts to enforce violations of the law that result from employee misclassification.

According to Ms. Leppink, the WHD’s exchange of information about investigations with other law enforcement agencies is as “particularly important with respect to our efforts to combat the violations of our laws that occur because of employees who are misclassified as independent contractors or other non-employees.” On September 19, 2011 the Labor Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to share information about investigations with each other.  The MOU helps the IRS investigate if employers the Labor Department has found in violation of federal labor laws have paid the proper employment taxes. Similarly, the WHD also entered into MOUs with several state labor agencies that allow the Labor Department to share information about its investigations and coordinate misclassification enforcement when appropriate.

“These agreements mean that all levels of government are working together to solve this critical problem,” she said.

Employers Urged To Audit & Strengthen Worker Classification Practices

As Federal and state regulators take aim at misclassification abuses, U.S. employers need to review each arrangement where their business receives services that the business treats as not employed by their business, as well as any employees of their business that the business treats as exempt employees keeping in mind that they generally will bear the burden of proving the appropriateness of that characterization for most purposes of law.  

To guard against these and other growing risks of worker classification, employers receiving services from workers who are not considered employees for purposes of income or payroll should review within the scope of attorney-client privilege the defensibility of their existing worker classification, employee benefit, fringe benefit, employment, wage and hour, and other workforce policies and consult with qualified legal counsel about the advisability to adjust these practices to mitigate exposures to potential IRS, Labor Department or other penalties associated with worker misclassification.

For Help or More Information
If you need help with worker classification or other human resources or internal controls matters, please contact the author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Board Certified in Labor & employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization,management attorney, author and consultant  Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers carry out, audit, manage and defend worker classification,union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions. 
Widely published on worker classification and other workforce risk management and compliance concerns, the immediate past-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Plan Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Section Employee Benefits Committee,  a Council Representative of 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 management, worker classification, re-engineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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.

 

2/27 Deadline For Employers To Comment On DOL Proposed Rule Changes Extending Minimum Wage & Overtime Rules To More Home Caregiver Workers

December 25, 2011

February  27, 2012 will be the deadline for interested employers to comment on changes that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) proposes to make to its rules on when its minimum wage and overtime protections apply to workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirm. The proposal will revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act to more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion, and to limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services. In addition, the Department proposes that third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

If adopted as proposed, the proposed rules will  significantly expand the number of home health care and other home care workers covered by minimum wage and overtime requirements.  As proposed, the proposed regulation will revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • To more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion;
  • To limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services; and
  • To provide that third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

When Congress expanded protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, it exempted casual babysitters and companions for the aged and inform from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the FLSA and exempted live-in domestic workers from the overtime pay requirement only. While WHD has left regulations governing this exemption substantially unchanged since first issued in 1975, it now believes the in-home care service industry. workers employed by in-home care staffing agencies are not the workers that Congress envisioned in enacting the companionship exemption (i.e., neighbors performing elder sitting).

As a result of these determines, WHD is moving to modify its existing rules to broaden protections for professionally employed home care workers as well as outreaching to inform employers and workers about the requirements that it perceives employers of these workers must meet.  

The proposed tightening of regulations for home health workers follows a general toughening by WHD of its regulation and enforcement of wage and hour laws in the health care industry.  See, e.g. Home health care company in Dallas agrees to pay 80 nurses more than $92,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation; US Department of Labor secures nearly $62,000 in back overtime wages for 21 health care employees in Pine Bluff, Ark.; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward increasing FLSA compliance in New York’s health care industry; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward residential health care industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island to increase FLSA compliance; Partners HealthCare Systems agrees to pay 700 employees more than $2.7 million in overtime back wages to resolve U.S. Labor Department lawsuit; US Labor Department sues Kentucky home health care provider to obtain more than $512,000 in back wages and damages for 22 employees; and Buffalo, Minn.-based home health care provider agrees to pay more than $150,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation.

Coupled with these and other enforcement efforts against health industry employers, WHD’s announcement of plans to tighten rules for home care givers.  In connection with its announcement of the planned regulatory changes, for instance, WHD highlighted the following guidance about the wage and hour rules that employers of home care workers can anticipate being required to meet when employing these workers:

Violation of wage and hour laws exposes an employer to significant back pay awards, substantial civil penalties and, if the violation is found to be willful, even potential criminal liability.  

In light of the proposed regulatory changes and demonstrated willingness of WHD and private plaintiffs to bring actions against employers violating these rules, health care and others employing home care workers should take well-documented steps to manage their risks.  These employers should both confirm the adequacy of their practices under existing rules, as well as evaluate and begin preparing to respond to the proposed modifications to these rules.  In both cases, employers of home care or other health care workers are encouraged to critically evaluate their classification or workers, both with respect to their status as employees versus contractor or leased employees, as well as their characterization as exempt versus non-exempt for wage and hour law purposes.  In addition, given the nature of the scheduled frequently worked by home care givers, their employers also generally should pay particular attention to the adequacy of practices for recordkeeping.

This notice of proposed rulemaking will be available for comment beginning December 27, 2011 at www.regulations.gov. The comment period will close on February 27, 2012.

For Help With Compliance & Risk Management and Defense

If you need help in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions under these or other laws, 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 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline 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 management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register.


NLRB Changes Certification Election Case Procedures

December 25, 2011

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has adopted a final rule amending its election case procedures.  The final rule published in the Federal Register on December 22, 2011primarily focuses on procedures followed by the NLRB in the minority of cases in which parties can’t agree on issues such as whether the employees covered by the election petition are an appropriate voting group. In such cases, the matter goes to a hearing in a regional office and the NLRB Regional Director decides the question and sets the election.

Scheduled to take effect April 30, 2012, the new final rule Final Rule on Election Procedures seeks to reduce litigation.  Among other things, the Final Rule:

  • Amends § 102.64 to expressly construe Section 9(c) of the Act and to state that the statutory purpose of a pre-election hearing is to determine if a question of representation exists;
  • Amends § 102.66(a) and eliminate § 101.20(c) (along with all of Part 101, Subpart C) to ensure that hearing officers presiding over pre-election hearings have the authority to limit the presentation of evidence to that which supports a party’s contentions and is relevant to the existence of a question concerning representation;
  • Amends § 102.66(d) to afford hearing officers presiding over pre-election hearings discretion over the filing of post-hearing briefs, including over the subjects to be addressed and the time for filing;
  • Amends §§ 102.67 and 102.69 to eliminate the parties’ right to file a pre-election request for review of a regional director’s decision and direction of election, and instead to defer all requests for Board review until after the election, when any such request can be consolidated with a request for review of any post-election rulings;
  • Eliminates the recommendation in § 101.21(d) (as stated, along with all of Part 101, Subpart C) that the regional director should ordinarily not schedule an election sooner than 25 days after the decision and direction of election in order to give the Board an opportunity to rule on a pre-election request for review;
  • Amends § 102.65 to make explicit and narrow the circumstances under which a request for special permission to appeal to the Board will be granted;
  • Amends §§ 102.62(b) and 102.69 to create a uniform procedure for resolving election objections and potentially outcome-determinative challenges in stipulated and directed election cases and to provide that Board review of regional directors’ resolution of such disputes is discretionary; and
  • Eliminates part 101, subpart C of Board regulations and makes other conforming amendments.

According to the NLRB, the changes in the Final Rule will ensure that going forward, the regional hearings will be expressly limited to issues relevant to the question of whether an election should be conducted. The hearing officer will have the authority to limit testimony to relevant issues, and to decide whether or not to accept post-hearing briefs.

Also, all appeals of regional director decisions to the Board will be consolidated into a single post-election request for review. Parties can currently appeal regional director decisions to the Board at multiple stages in the process.

In addition, the rule makes all Board review of Regional Directors’ decisions discretionary, leaving more final decisions in the hands of career civil servants with long experience supervising elections.

Click here to read the Final Rule.

The Final Rule annoucnement was followed by the NLRB’s announcement that it is delaying the deadline for employers to comply with its employee rights notice-posting rule until April 30, 2012.  However the extension does little to relieve employers from the wave of added regulatory and enforcement guidance including new social networking guidance issued coincident with the extension announcement.

While the poster requirement is delayed, the NLRB continues to pursue an active regulatory and enforcement agenda.  See, e.g., Employers Face New Labor-Management Exposures Under Activist National Labor Relations Board.  Employers should continue to strengthen their labor-management policies and practices to mitigate the growing labor exposures that result from this activist agenda.  In fact, the NLRB accompanied its extension anouncement by sharing new guidance about its position on labor law restrictions on employer regulation of social networking and other communications.
For Help or More Information
If you need help with labor managmeent relations or other human resources or internal controls matters, please contact the author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.
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 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline 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 management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register.


NLRB Delays Deadline For Employee Labor Rights Poster Requirement To April 30

December 25, 2011
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is delaying the deadline for employers to comply with its employee rights notice-posting rule until April 30, 2012.  However the extension does little to relieve employers from the wave of added regulatory and enforcement guidance including new social networking guidance issued coincident with the extension announcement.
The NLRB rule will require that most private sector employers will be required to post the 11-by-17-inch notice on the new implementation date of April 30. The notice is available at no cost from the NLRB through its website, which has additional information on posting requirements and NLRB jurisdiction.
Facing litigation challenging the rule, the NLRB announced on December 23, 2011 that it would delay the deadline to comply with the rule to comply with he request of the federal court in Washington, DC hearing the llegal challenge.  Following the announcement, the new implementation date is April 30, 2012.
While the poster requirement is delayed, the NLRB continues to pursue an active regulatory and enforcement agenda.  See, e.g., Employers Face New Labor-Management Exposures Under Activist National Labor Relations Board.  Employers should continue to strengthen their labor-management policies and practices to mitigate the growing labor exposures that result from this activist agenda.  In fact, the NLRB accompanied its extension anouncement by sharing new guidance about its position on labor law restrictions on employer regulation of social networking and other communications.
For Help or More Information
If you need help with labor managmeent relations or other human resources or internal controls matters, please contact the author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.
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 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline 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 management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register.


New Labor Department Retaliation Guidance Reminder Of Retailiation Risks

December 23, 2011

U.S. employers should exercise care to guard against potential retaliation claims brought by current or former employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) and other federal employment laws.

Retaliation claims have emerged as a leading source of liability for U.S. employers.  Most U.S. labor and employment laws, as well as many other statutes prohibit companies from retaliating against employees for exercising protected rights under the law’s provisions.  Challenges and risks in managing this growing source of liability has been further fueled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Crawford v. Metropolitan Gov’t of Nashville and Davidson County, No. 06-1595, that the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII extend to employees who take part in investigations even if that employee does not file a complaint of retaliation. See Supreme Court Decision May Open Doors To More Retaliation Claims

In light of these risks, U.S. employers should tighten employee discipline and other practices and documentation to guard against retaliation claims.  

In undertaking these risk management efforts, employers should take advantage of the insights given from three new fact sheets addressing retaliation published by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on December 23, 2011:

  • Fact Sheet #77A, Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), provides general information concerning the FLSA’s prohibition of retaliating against any employee who has filed a complaint or cooperated in an investigation and is available on the WHD website at here;
  • Fact Sheet #77B, Protection for Individuals under the FMLA, provides general information concerning the Family and Medical Leave Act’s (FMLA) prohibition of retaliating against an individual for exercising his or her rights or participating in matters protected under the FMLA and is available on the WHD website at here; and
  • Fact Sheet #77C, Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), provides general information concerning MSPA’s prohibition of discrimination against a migrant or seasonal agricultural worker who has filed a complaint or participated in any proceeding under or related to MSPA and is available on the WHD website at here.

The guidance comes as the WHD is proposing to adopt new rules that would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly two million workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirm.  WHD’s focus on home health workers is an extension of its expanded regulation and enforcement efforts targeting a broad range of health care industry employers.  See Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

The proposed tightening of regulations for home health workers follows a general toughening by WHD of its regulation and enforcement of wage and hour laws in the health care and many other industries.  See, e.g. Home health care company in Dallas agrees to pay 80 nurses more than $92,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation; US Department of Labor secures nearly $62,000 in back overtime wages for 21 health care employees in Pine Bluff, Ark.; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward increasing FLSA compliance in New York’s health care industry; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward residential health care industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island to increase FLSA compliance; Partners HealthCare Systems agrees to pay 700 employees more than $2.7 million in overtime back wages to resolve U.S. Labor Department lawsuit; US Labor Department sues Kentucky home health care provider to obtain more than $512,000 in back wages and damages for 22 employees; and Buffalo, Minn.-based home health care provider agrees to pay more than $150,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation.

Employers should take steps to manage compliance and other exposures under these and other federal laws, including those for engaging in prohibited retaliation.  Employers should both confirm the adequacy of their practices under existing rules, as well as take steps to decrease exposures to retaliation claims.

For Help With Compliance & Risk Management and Defense

If you need help in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions under these or other laws, 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 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline 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 management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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.

*WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register.


HR Key Player In Managing Countrywide & Other US Discrimination Exposures

December 23, 2011

This week’s announcement by the U.S. Justice Department of the  largest residential fair lending settlement in history on December 21, 2011 highlights the widening scope of exposures that U.S. businesses face under a broad range of federal Civil Rights and other discrimination laws.   The settlement shows that discrimination risks are rising and that employment discrimination is only part of the problem. In addition to managing employment discrimination exposures in their employment practices, many businesses and business leaders also need to take steps to adequately recognize and provide policies, management controls and training to maintain compliance with federal disability and other discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled or other customers or others with whom they do business. 

Human resources and other management leaders should move quickly to help their organizations manage these risks and responsibilities.

Countrywide Settlement

This week’s Justice Department settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries (Countrywide) provides for payment of $335 million in compensation to the more than 200,000 qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers that Federal officials allege were victims of the widespread pattern or practice of illegal discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers by Countrywide while Countrywide served as one of the nation’s largest single-family mortgage lenders and originated more than 4 million residential mortgage loans.  Bank of America now owns Countrywide.

Federal officials charged Countrywide engaged in discriminatory mortgage lending practices against more than 200,000 qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers from 2004 through 2008.  The Justice Department claimed it uncovered a pattern or practice of discrimination involving victims in more than 180 geographic markets across 41 states and the District of Columbia. These discriminatory acts allegedly included widespread violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and resulted in African-American and Hispanic borrowers being charged higher rates for mortgage loans – solely because of their race or national origin.

According to Attorney General Eric Holder, today’s settlement will compensate the more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were victims of discriminatory conduct, including more than 10,000 African-American or Hispanic borrowers who – despite the fact that they qualified for prime loans – were steered into subprime loans. Subprime borrowers pay higher penalties and higher interest rates, have a greater likelihood of default and foreclosure than with prime loans, and other damages.

When announcing the settlement, Attorney General Holder reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s commitment to finding and prosecuting businesses that engage in illegal discriminatory practices.  To read Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks, click here.

Discrimination Obama Administration Priority

Enforcing disability discrimination laws is a high priority of the Obama Administration Business leaders increasingly recognize the need to tighten procedures to manage disability discrimination risks.  

Human resources and other business leaders often recognize human resource related discrimination risks as requiring management.  The heightened emphasis of the Obama Administration on disability regulation and enforcement clearly is raising business responsibilities and exposures under these employment laws.  In order to manage these exposures effectively, however, it is important that businesses and their human resources leaders do not take for granted the adequacy of their current compliance and risk management efforts in light of the Obama Administration’s aggressive regulatory and enforcement agenda in this area.  See e.g.,  Affordable Care Act To Require Health Plans Cover Contraception & Other Women’s Health Procedures In 2012; EEOC Finalizes Updates To Disability Regulations In Response to ADA Amendments Act; Update Employment Practices To Manage Genetic Info Discrimination Risks Under New EEOC Final GINA Regulations; EEOC Attacks Medical Leave Denials As Prohibited Disability Discrimination; Labor Secretary Comments Highlight Federal Protections & Resources To Support Veteran’s Employment Rights

Employment discrimination risks are not the only discrimination exposures that U.S. organizations need to be concerned about, however.  The Countrywide settlement joins a lengthy list of settlements and other actions by the Obama Administration against businesses and government entities for alleged violations of U.S. civil rights and other nondiscrimination laws.  See, e.g. Businesses Face Rising Disability Discrimination Enforcement RisksNew Obama Administration Affirmative Action Guidance Highlights Organization’s Need To Tighten Nondiscrimination Practices; OFCCP Proposed Increased Disability Hiring Targets, Other Tougher Government Contractor Rules another Sign Of Rising Employment Discrimination RisksIncentives To Get Employee Into Wellness Education Requires Legal Risk Management; New School Racial Accommodation Guidance Gives Important Insights For Schools & Other Organizations On Obama Administration Affirmative Action Enforcement; Justice Department Landlord Suit Shows Businesses Face Rising Disability Discrimination Enforcement Risks; Big Penalty for Lender Shows Risks of Violating Military Service or Vets Rights; OCR Requires Rhode Island DHS To Provide Translation, Other Services For Limited English, Other Language Impaired Accommodations.

These regulatory, audit, enforcement and other actions show that private businesses and state and local government agencies alike should exercise special care to prepare to defend their employment and other business practices  against potential disability or other Civil Rights discrimination challenges on a broad range of fronts. 

HR Key Player

Human resources professionals are key players to efforts to effectively manage their organization’s overall discrimination risks and responsibilities by managing compliance throughout the organization.

All organizations, whether public or private need to make sure both that their organizations, their policies, and people in form and in action understand and comply with current disability and other nondiscrimination laws.  When reviewing these responsibilities, many state and local governments and private businesses may need to update their understanding of current requirements.  

Federal nondiscrimination and other laws have been expanded or modified in recent years by statutory, regulatory or enforcement changes, risk management efforts should begin with an assessment of the adequacy of existing policies and practices in light of the latest rules and enforcement actions.  Based on this assessment, business and governmental organizations should update policies and procedures as required, tighten documentation, and conduct ongoing, well-documented audits and training to mitigate exposures.

Human resources and other management leaders should position their organizations to guard against rising enforcement of these laws by updating policies, oversight and training to ensure that their workers and business partners recognize and know how to conduct themselves properly to fulfill responsibilities to persons with disabilities or others with whom the business deals who may be protected under Federal or state disability discrimination laws.  In addition to adopting and training workers on policies requiring compliance with these laws, businesses should include contractual provisions requiring compliance with these laws in leases and other relevant business contracts.  Most businesses also may want to provide and post information about processes that customers or others who may have a concern about the needs of persons with these special needs to position the business to address concerns that otherwise might go unnoticed until they arise to the level of an agency or other legal  complaint.

If you need assistance in conducting a risk assessment of or responding to a challenge to your organization’s existing policies or practices for dealing with the issues addressed in these publications or other compliance, labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, internal controls or other management practices, contact attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

For Help With Compliance, Risk Management & Defense

If you need help in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s 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.  If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available at www.cynthiastamer.com.

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 24 years of work helping employers and other management; 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 carry out, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline 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 management, re-engineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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 more information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to get access to other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

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


Senator Tells IRS To Fix Proposed Health Care Exchange Premium Tax Credit Regulations

December 16, 2011

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, says the premium subsidy provisions of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care act (Affordable Care Act) does not authorize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to allow individuals purchasing coverage through a federal health insurance exchange to receive the tax credits and subsidies authorized under new Internal Revenue Code § 36B to offset the cost of being mandated to buy health insurance created under Affordable Care Act Section 1311.  

As created under the Affordable Care Act, Internal Revenue Code (Code) § 36B grates a refundable tax credit for certain individuals purchasing qualifying health insurance coverage from a qualified health plan.  According to Senator Hatch, IRS proposed regulations here to implement Code § 36B would violate its provisions by allowing individuals that buy coverage through federal exchanges to claim premium tax credits because the express language of the statute only calls for amounts paid for coverage from “State” exchanges to count when calculating the amount of the credit.  Read more details here.

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker 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, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at ww.solutionslawpress.com

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.


Labor Department Proposes Changing Minimum Wage& Overtime Rules For Home Caregivers, Keeps Heat On Health Care Employers

December 15, 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) plans to propose new rules that would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly two million workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirm.  WHD’s focus on home health workers is an extension of its expanded regulation and enforcement efforts targeting a broad range of health care industry employers.

On December 15, 2011 the WHD announced that it will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking[1] (NPRM) to revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • To more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion;
  • To limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services; and
  • To provide that third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

When Congress expanded protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, it exempted casual babysitters and companions for the aged and inform from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the FLSA and exempted live-in domestic workers from the overtime pay requirement only. While WHD has left regulations governing this exemption substantially unchanged since first issued in 1975, it now believes the in-home care service industry. workers employed by in-home care staffing agencies are not the workers that Congress envisioned in enacting the companionship exemption (i.e., neighbors performing elder sitting).

As a result of these determines, WHD is moving to modify its existing rules to broaden protections for professionally employed home care workers as well as outreaching to inform employers and workers about the requirements that it perceives employers of these workers must meet.  

The proposed tightening of regulations for home health workers follows a general toughening by WHD of its regulation and enforcement of wage and hour laws in the health care industry.  See, e.g. Home health care company in Dallas agrees to pay 80 nurses more than $92,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation; US Department of Labor secures nearly $62,000 in back overtime wages for 21 health care employees in Pine Bluff, Ark.; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward increasing FLSA compliance in New York’s health care industry; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward residential health care industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island to increase FLSA compliance; Partners HealthCare Systems agrees to pay 700 employees more than $2.7 million in overtime back wages to resolve U.S. Labor Department lawsuit; US Labor Department sues Kentucky home health care provider to obtain more than $512,000 in back wages and damages for 22 employees; and Buffalo, Minn.-based home health care provider agrees to pay more than $150,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation.

Coupled with these and other enforcement efforts against health industry employers, WHD’s announcement of plans to tighten rules for home care givers.  In connection with its announcement of the planned regulatory changes, for instance, WHD highlighted the following guidance about the wage and hour rules that employers of home care workers can anticipate being required to meet when employing these workers:

Violation of wage and hour laws exposes an employer to significant back pay awards, substantial civil penalties and, if the violation is found to be willful, even potential criminal liability.  

In light of the proposed regulatory changes and demonstrated willingness of WHD and private plaintiffs to bring actions against employers violating these rules, health care and others employing home care workers should take well-documented steps to manage their risks.  These employers should both confirm the adequacy of their practices under existing rules, as well as evaluate and begin preparing to respond to the proposed modifications to these rules.  In both cases, employers of home care or other health care workers are encouraged to critically evaluate their classification or workers, both with respect to their status as employees versus contractor or leased employees, as well as their characterization as exempt versus non-exempt for wage and hour law purposes.  In addition, given the nature of the scheduled frequently worked by home care givers, their employers also generally should pay particular attention to the adequacy of practices for recordkeeping.

For Help With Compliance & Risk Management and Defense

If you need help in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions under these or other laws, 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 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline 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 management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, 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.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register.


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