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.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 528 other followers