OCR Hits Alaska Medicaid For $1.7M+ For HIPAA Security Breach

June 26, 2012

The Alaska State Medicaid Agency, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) will pay the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) $1,700,000 to settle possible violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security Rule.  Alaska DHSS also has agreed to take corrective action to properly safeguard the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of their Medicaid beneficiaries. 

The first HIPAA Resolution Agreement that the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has reached a state agency, the Resolution Agreement  second announced Resolution Agreement stemming from a unsecured protected health information breach report filed in response to the breach notification rules of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.  Earlier this year, OCR announced its first Resolution Agreement involving a health plan resulted from a breach notification report it had filed under the HITECH Act.  See $1.5 Million HIPAA Settlement Reached To Resolve 1st OCR Enforcement Action Prompted By HITECH Act Breach Report.

OCR opened the investigation leading to the Resolution Agreement after Alaska DHSS filed a breach report that indicated that a portable electronic storage device (USB hard drive) possibly containing ePHI was stolen from the vehicle of a DHSS employee.  Over the course of the investigation, OCR found evidence that DHSS did not have adequate policies and procedures in place to safeguard ePHI.  Further, the evidence indicated that DHSS had not completed a risk analysis, implemented sufficient risk management measures, completed security training for its workforce members, implemented device and media controls, or addressed device and media encryption as required by the HIPAA Security Rule.  Inadequacies by covered entities in safeguarding protected health information and laptops and other devices containing ePHI is a common compliance concern according to OCR statistics.

In addition to the $1,700,000 settlement, the agreement includes a corrective action plan that requires Alaska DHSS to review, revise, and maintain policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule.  A monitor will report back to OCR regularly on the state’s ongoing compliance efforts. 

OCR’s announcement highlights the need for covered entities not only to take proper steps to establish and administer appropriate policies and safeguards to protect protected health information and EHI, but also to prepare, update as needed and be prepared to produce documentation showing their oganizations actions to evaluate, monitor and maintain appropriate safeguards of ePHI and the operating systems and devices that contain this information. 

“Covered entities must perform a full and comprehensive risk assessment and have in place meaningful access controls to safeguard hardware and portable devices,” said OCR Director Leon Rodriguez.  “This is OCR’s first HIPAA enforcement action against a state agency and we expect organizations to comply with their obligations under these rules regardless of whether they are private or public entities.”

The HHS Resolution Agreement can be viewed here.

Enforcement Actions Highlight Growing HIPAA Exposures For Covered Entities

The Alaska Medicaid Resolution Agreement is the latest in a growing list of Resolutions Agreements highlighting the mounting exposures that health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghousesand their business associates face if required to file a large breach notification or otherwise charged with failing to appropriately manage their HIPAA responsibilities. See Arizona Physician Group Pays $100K To Settle HIPAA Charges; $1.5 Million HIPAA Settlement Reached To Resolve 1st OCR Enforcement Action Prompted By HITECH Act Breach Report; HIPAA Heats Up: HITECH Act Changes Take Effect & OCR Begins Posting Names, Other Details Of Unsecured PHI Breach Reports On Website.   As OCR leaders have indicated that OCR investigates all large breach notification filings made under the HITECH Act Breach Notification Rules and with more than 450 large breach notifications reported on its website, additional Resolution Agreements are expected in coming months even as covered entities and their business associates are awaiting the impending  issuance of updated HIPAA regulations.

In light of these and other developments and risks, covered entities and their business associates should move to audit and strengthen their HIPAA compliance and documentaiton and adopt  other suitable safeguards to minimize HIPAA exposures. 

In the face of rising enforcement and fines, OCR’s initiation of HIPAA audits and other recent developments, covered entities and their business associates should tighten privacy policies, breach and other monitoring, training and other practices to reduce potential HIPAA exposures in light of recently tightened requirements and new enforcement risks. 

In response to these expanding exposures, all covered entities and their business associates should review critically and carefully the adequacy of their current HIPAA Privacy and Security compliance policies, monitoring, training, breach notification and other practices taking into consideration OCR’s investigation and enforcement actions, emerging litigation and other enforcement data; their own and reports of other security and privacy breaches and near misses, and other developments to determine if additional steps are necessary or advisable. 

For more information about the PCS Resolution Agreement and HIPAA compliance and risk management tips, see here.

In response to these expanding exposures, all covered entities and their business associates should review critically and carefully the adequacy of their current HIPAA Privacy and Security compliance policies, monitoring, training, breach notification and other practices taking into consideration OCR’s investigation and enforcement actions, emerging litigation and other enforcement data; their own and reports of other security and privacy breaches and near misses, and other developments to determine if additional steps are necessary or advisable.

For Representation, Training & Other Resources

If you need assistance monitoring HIPAA and other health and health plan related regulatory policy or enforcement developments, or to review or respond to these or other health care or health IT related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer may be able to help.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit & Other Compensation Arrangements Group, Co-Chair and Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Welfare Plan Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plans Committee, Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health plan and employee benefit, insurance, financial services, employer and health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers, health plans, their business associates and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. She regularly designs and presents HIPAA and other risk management, compliance and other training for health plans, employers, health care providers, professional associations and others.

For the past two years, Ms. Stamer has served as the  scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits agency meeting with OCR.   Ms. Stamer also regularly works with OCR, FTC, USSS, FBI and state and local law enforcement on privacy, data security, health care, benefits and insurance and other matters, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and data security, health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. For instance, Ms. Stamer for the second year will serve as the appointed scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Agency meeting with OCR. Her insights on HIPAA risk management and compliance frequently appear in medical privacy related publications of a broad range of health care, health plan and other industry publications Among others, she has conducted privacy training for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, insurance and financial services, education, employer employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.

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

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

You can review other recent publications and resources and additional information about the other experience of Ms. Stamer here. Examples of some recent publications that may be of interest include:

If you need help investigating or responding to a known or suspected compliance, litigation or enforcement or other risk management concern, assistance with reviewing, updating, administering or defending a current or proposed employment, employee benefit, compensation or other management practice, wish to inquire about federal or state regulatory compliance audits, risk management or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms Stamer here or at (469) 767-8872.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to here.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.   All rights reserved.


Model Language May Aid Section 83(b) Elections Even As Executive & Other Special Compensation Carry Growing Liability Traps

June 26, 2012

Businesses wishing to accelerate their ability to deduct the value of nonqualified stock or other property transferred to an employee or contractor as compensation for services and employees and independent contractors anticipating the need to make a Section 83(b) election to minimize income tax on property to be received as compensation for service subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture which the recipient expects to grow in value may find sample language contained in Revenue Procedure 2012-29 (Revenue Procedure) helpful.  While this new tool may faciliate the cost of preparing an election, executives and others receiving property as compensation and the businesses providing that compensation should exercise care to properly understand and manage responsibilities and requirements impacting these and other compensation arrangements under Section 89 and a growing list of increasingly complicated and diverse laws, regulations and other requirements.  

The Revenue Procedure contains sample language that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says employees and independent contractors may (but are not required) to use to make the “83(b) election” that Section 83(b) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) requires the property recipient to make to accelerate income recognition as well as provides examples of the income tax consequences of making such an election.

Section 83(b) Election As Tax Planning Tool

 Code Section 83 plays a key rule in determining when:

  • When the value of property received by an employee or other service provider as compensation for the performance of services becomes taxable to the recipient;
  • The timing of the valuation of the property; and
  • The timing of the employing businesses’ deduction of this property.

Treasury Regulation Section 1.83-3(f) specifies that property is transferred in connection with the performance of services if it is transferred to an employee or independent contractor (or beneficiary thereof) in recognition of the performance of services, or refraining from performance of services.   Where Section 83 applies, the transfer of property is subject to Section 83 whether such transfer is in respect of past, present, or future services.

Code Section 83(a) generally provides that if, in connection with the performance of services, property is transferred to any person other than the person for whom such services are performed, the excess of the fair market value of the property (determined without regard to any restriction other than a restriction which by its terms will never lapse) as of the first time that the transferee’s rights in the property are transferable or are not subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture, whichever occurs earlier, over the amount (if any) paid for the property is included in the service provider’s gross income for the taxable year which includes such time.

Where the property transferred as compensation is expected to increase in value from the time of the grant until transfer restrictions or risks of forfeiture lapse, the delay in income recognition dictated by Section 83(a) generally has the effect of increasing the income tax that the recipient will pay on the property.

Assuming that the value of the property when the property is granted is adequately ascertainable, however, Section 83(b) and Section 1.83-2(a) permit the service provider to elect to include in gross income the excess (if any) of the fair market value of the property at the time of transfer over the amount (if any) paid for the property, as compensation for services by making a timely Section 83(b) election.

Under Section 83(b)(2), an election made under Section 83(b) is only effective to accelerate the recognition of taxable income from the transfer of property for services if made in accordance with the regulations and filed with the IRS no later than 30 days after the date that the property is transferred to the service provider. 

Treasury Regulation Section 1.83-2(c) provides for a service provider to make a Section 83(b) election be made under Section 83(b) is made by filing a copy of a written statement that meets the requirements of the Regulation with the IRS office with which the person who performed the service files his return and submitting a copy of that statement with his income tax return for the taxable year in which such property was transferred.  Section 1.83-2(d) requires that the person who performed the services also submit a copy of the Section 83(b) election to the person for whom the services were performed.

While the Regulations dictate the required content of the Section 83(b) election, until now the IRS had not dictated or otherwise provided model language for use in making this election.

The Revenue Procedure provides model language to aid service providers who receive substantially nonvested property in connection with the performance of services and wish to file an election under Section 83(b).

While the model language should make the completion and filing of a desired Section 83(b) election easier for those wishing to accelerate income recognition from property received as compensation for services, employees and other service providers receiving property as compensation and their employers are cautioned to consult with qualified tax counsel or advisor about the applicability and implications of making a Section 83(b) election.  Section 83 conditions the availability of the option to make a Section 83(b) election on the property having a “readily ascertainable fair market value” when transferred and timely election.  In the case of stock options and certain other property, valuation issues may disqualify the transfer for coverage by a Section 83(b) election.  

Beyond the restrictions on the use of the Section 83(b) election, parties considering making the election are cautioned to fully understand the consequences of making the election.  Under certain circumstances, making an election to minimize future taxes can have unexpected consequences.  For instance, a taxpayer that makes the election should be prepared to pay taxes on the property in the year received even though transfer or forfeiture restrictions on the property may prevent the taxpayer from selling or using the property currently.  

Because the election is irrevocable hardships also can happen if the property decreases rather than increases in value after the date of transfer.  Once made, Section 83(b) elections generally are irrevocable without the approval of the IRS, which is difficult to secure.  Consequently, a service provider that makes a Section 83(b) election also runs the risk that he may pay greater taxes by making the election if the property subsequently declines in value.  Of course where the employer conditions the grant of property on the making of the Section 83(b) election, the recipient employee or contractor may not be able to avoid this risk.  At minimum, however, the service provider should be prepared for this possibility and have arrangements in place to meet the resulting tax obligations when they arise.

Ensure Old Compensation Experience Not Rendered Obsolete By New Rules

Because of the lengthy tenure of Section 83 of the Code, many businesses and their leaders often feel comfortable that past experience makes the need to consult tax and other experts about the design and implementation of property based or other compensation arrangements.   While this may be the case in some instances, changing rules make it advisable that parties participating in these arrangements check their understanding to avoid stepping into unanticipated traps.

The longstanding provisions of Section 83 are part of a growing list of tax, securities and other rules that executives, board members, and other service providers and the businesses that receive their services may be required to successfully negotiate when seeking to use stock or other property as compensation for services.  

Ongoing changes in the law and regulations concerning executive and other compensation transactions and evolving lender, shareholder and contractual relationships makes it advisable that  parties participating in these and other compensation arrangements seek the advice of competent legal and accounting service providers with experience with these concerns. 

Beyond Section 83, executive and other compensation arrangements increasingly also be impacted by new Code provisions like the complicated rules of Code Section 409A, shareholder approval, securities and other disclosure requirements, conflict of interest and other board and organizational governance, and a host of other requirements that may have ramifications well in excess of the tax consequences that were historically the primary concern in the design of these arrangements in past decades.   For certain publically traded businesses, proper valuation, reporting and disclosure and in some instances, even shareholder approval of certain compensation arrangements may be critical.  Likewise, IRS Form 990 and other emerging tax and other rules increasingly require that nonprofit health care, education and other non-profit organizsations be prepared to defend the design, valuation, and reporting of executive and certain other compensation arrangements .  Even in closely held start ups and certain other organizations, founders and others often unintentionally incur significant liability by offering employees who do not qualify as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act or as accredited investors under securities law private placement exemptions or making other expensive compensation design missteps..  Amid these and other growing responsibilities, getting executive and other compensation arrangements right plays a critical role to the success of a business and the management of its liability.  

For Help With Risk Management, Compliance & Other Management Concerns

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

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 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 implement, 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. 

Immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefits Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits 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, and former Employee Benefits & Insurance Professor for the University of Dallas Graduate School of Management, 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.  Her experience includes extensive work advising businesses and executives on Code Section 83, 409A, 280G, and other tax, employment, securities and relates concerns  relating to nonqualified and qualified deferred compensation, incentive stock option, severance, and other compensation and benefits arrangements.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

About Solutions Law Press

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

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

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


IRS To Offer Help For U.S. Citizens Overseas With Foreign Retirement Plans, Dual Citizenship Tax Issues

June 26, 2012

 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)  is reaching out to help U.S. ex patriates and U.S. citizens with dual citizenship residing oversees to catch up on tax filings, deal with foreign retirement plan issues and help with other tax concerns

On June 26, 2012, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman announced a series of what it calls ” common-sense steps” that the IRS is taking to U.S. citizens abroad get current with their tax obligations and resolve pension issues. 

The IRS is aware that some U.S. taxpayers living abroad have failed to timely file U.S. federal income tax returns or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs).  Some of these taxpayers have recently become aware of their filing requirements and want to comply with the law.  The 2012 deadline to file these reports is fast approaching on June 30, 2012.  As part of these efforts, Shulman announced the IRS will provide a new option to help some U.S. citizens and others residing abroad who haven’t been filing tax returns and provide them a chance to catch up with their tax filing obligations if they owe little or no back taxes. The new procedure will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2012.

To help these taxpayers, the IRS offered the new procedures that will allow taxpayers who are low compliance risks to get current with their tax requirements without facing penalties or additional enforcement action. These people generally will have simple tax returns and owe $1,500 or less in tax for any of the covered years. 

The IRS also announced that the new procedures will allow resolution of certain issues related to certain foreign retirement plans (such as Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plans).  In some circumstances, tax treaties allow for income deferral under U.S. tax law, but only if an election is made on a timely basis.  The streamlined procedures will be made available to resolve low compliance risk situations even though this election was not made on a timely basis.

Taxpayers using the new procedures announced today will be required to file delinquent tax returns along with appropriate related information returns for the past three years, and to file delinquent FBARs for the past six years. Submissions from taxpayers that present higher compliance risk will be subject to a more thorough review and potentially subject to an audit, which could cover more than three tax years.

The IRS also announced its offshore voluntary disclosure programs have exceeded the $5 billion mark, released new details regarding the voluntary disclosure program announced in January and closed a loophole used by some U.S. citizens.  See IR-2012-64 for more details.

U.S. employers who employ executives or other U.S. citizens to work oversees as employees or consultants may want to share information about  the new programs and the underlying compliance obligations that they are designed to address to promote awareness of the possible relief to those who might benefit from the announced relief.  In addition, employees and other individuals who do or have recently lived, worked, or maintained accounts or other assets outside the United States also should consult with qualified tax advisors promptly about whether they have any unresolved liabilities or responsibilities and if so, concerning the advisability of using any of the newly announced programs to redress these concerns.

For Help or More Information

If you need help with labor and employment or other human resource, performance management, internal controls or compliance and risk management 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.

 

New EEOC State Discrimination Charge Data Helpful Employer Risk Assessment Tool Discrimination Exposures Grow

June 26, 2012
 Tables Present Employment Discrimination Statistics in User-Friendly Format

New employment discrimination charge statistics made available online by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in May, 2012 provide a helpful risk assessment tool for private sector employers looking to understand and decide where to deploy resources to management their employment discrimination exposures. 

In May, the EEOC put private sector workplace discrimination charge statistics for each of the nation’s 50 states and U.S. Territories for fiscal years 2009-2011 online.  These data provide a look at EEOC charge receipts, broken down by the basis of discrimination, as well as the percent of total state and national charges. The state data tables are available online at http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges_by_state.cfm.

The EEOC plans to update the state data each fiscal year.

The availability of these statistics comes at an opportune time.  Disability and other discrimination challenges are rising.   Since taking office, President Obama has made enforcement of disability and other employment discrimination laws a top priority by both pursing enforcement directly and stepping up public outreach and education efforts to promote awareness and encourage private enforcement.  These efforts have been further strengthened by statutory and regulatory amendments to disability discrimination and other discrimination laws.   As a result of these developments and a tightening job market, discrimination claims are on the rise. 

To help mitigate the expanded employment liability risks , businesses generally should act to manage their exposures.  Management should exercise caution to carefully design and implement employment discrimination and related employment policies.  They should implement exit interview, hotline and other practices  to help detect and resolve potential discrimination exposures early.  They also should carefully document legitimate disciplinary and other non-discriminatory justifications for employment related activities and conduct regular training for management and employees. 

Businesses also should consider tightening their documentation regarding their procedures and processes governing the  collection and handling records and communications that may contain information that could be helpful or hurtful in the event of a discriminatioj charge.  Businesses need to ensure that all required records and statistics are collected.  In addition, businesses also should consider strengthing record creation and retention efforts to help preserve other evidence that could be invaluable to defending charges and change the way that decisions are made and documented to position their organizations to more effectively demonstrate the defensibility of their employment and other business activities against potential nondiscrimination charges.

As part of this process, businesses also should carefully review their employment records, group health plan, family leave, disability accommodation, and other existing policies and practices to comply with, and manage exposure under the new genetic information nondiscrimination and privacy rules enacted as part of the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) signed into law by President Bush on May 21, 2008.  Effective November 21, 2009, Title VII of GINA amends the Civil Rights Act to prohibit employment discrimination based on genetic information and restricts the ability of employers and their health plans to require, collect or retain certain genetic information. Under GINA, employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees face significant liability for violating the sweeping nondiscrimination and confidentiality requirements of GINA concerning their use, maintenance and disclosure of genetic information. Employees can sue for damages and other relief like currently available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination laws.  For instance, GINA’s employment related provisions include rules that will:

  • Prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating based on genetic information in hiring, termination or referral decisions or in other decisions regarding compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment;
  • Prohibit employers and employment agencies from limiting, segregating or classifying employees so as to deny employment opportunities to an employee based on genetic information;
  • Bar labor organizations from excluding, expelling or otherwise discriminating against individuals based on genetic information;
  • Prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information of an employee or an employee’s family member except as allowed by GINA to satisfy certification requirements of family and medical leave laws, to monitor the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace or other conditions specifically allowed by GINA;
  • Prohibit employers, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees from discriminating in any decisions related to admission or employment in training or retraining programs, including apprenticeships based on genetic information;
  • Mandate that in the narrow situations where limited cases where genetic information is obtained by a covered entity, it maintain the information on separate forms in separate medical files, treat the information as a confidential medical record, and not disclosure the genetic information except in those situations specifically allowed by GINA;
  • Prohibit any person from retaliating against an individual for opposing an act or practice made unlawful by GINA; and
  • Regulate the collection, use, access and disclosure of genetic information by employer sponsored and certain other health plans.

These employment provisions of GINA are in addition to amendments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and Title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act that are effective for group health plan for plan years beginning after May 20, 2009.

If you have any questions or need help reviewing and updating your organization’s employment and/or employee practices in response to the ADAAA, GINA or other applicable laws, or if we may be of assistance with regard to any other workforce management, employee benefits or compensation matters, please do not hesitate to contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

About The Author

Management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer helps businesses, governments and associations solve problems, develop and implement strategies to manage people, processes, and regulatory exposures to achieve their business and operational objectives and manage legal, operational and other risks. Board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, with more than 20 years human resource and employee benefits experience, Ms. Stamer helps businesses manage their people-related risks and the performance of their internal and external workforce though appropriate human resources, employee benefit, worker’s compensation, insurance, outsourcing and risk management strategies domestically and internationally. Recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals and bearing the Martindale Hubble AV-Rating, Ms. Stamer also is a highly regarded author and speaker, who regularly conducts management and other training on a wide range of labor and employment, employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other related risk management matters.  Her writings frequently are published by the American Bar Association (ABA), Aspen Publishers, Bureau of National Affairs, the American Health Lawyers Association, SHRM, World At Work, Government Institutes, Inc., Atlantic Information Services, Employee Benefit News, and many others. For a listing of some of these publications and programs, see here. Her insights on human resources risk management matters also have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, various publications of The Bureau of National Affairs and Aspen Publishing, the Dallas Morning News, Spencer Publications, Health Leaders, Business Insurance, the Dallas and Houston Business Journals and a host of other publications. Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit and Other Compensation Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and the Legislative Chair of the Dallas Human Resources Management Association Government Affairs Committee, she also serves in leadership positions in many human resources, corporate compliance, and other professional and civic organizations. For more details about Ms. Stamer’s experience and other credentials, contact Ms. Stamer, information about workshops and other training, selected publications and other human resources related information, see here or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at 469.767.8872 or via e-mailto  cstamer@solutionslawyer.net

About Solutions Law Press

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

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

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 


Obama’s Reaffirms Commitment Prosecute Disability Discrimination To Mark Omlstead Anniversary

June 22, 2012

Statements of President Obama  made today (June 22, 2012) in celebration of the 13th anniversary of the June 22, 1999 Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. are a reminder that U.S. businesses face a continuing and growing need to be on guard to defend against potential disability discrimination liabilities. Coupled with the well-documented activism of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies in prosecuting disability discrimination and promoting a pro-disability enforcement agenda, businesses are encouraged to review and tighten their disability discrimination compliance procedures and documentation. 

In Olmstead, the Supreme Court ruled in that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

In marking the 13th anniversary of this decision, President Obama said, “As we mark the anniversary of this historic civil rights decision, we reaffirm our commitment to fighting discrimination, and to addressing the needs and concerns of those living with disabilities.”

In reaffirming this commitment, the Administration highlighted its past and continuing efforts to enforce disability discrimination laws, as well as other activities to support individuals with disability. 

As part of its significant commitment to disability discrimination enforcement, the Civil Rights Division at the Department has been involved in more than 40 Olmstead matters in 25 states.   Recently, in Virginia, the Department entered into a landmark settlement agreement with the Commonwealth, which will shift Virginia’s developmental disabilities system from one heavily reliant on large, state-run institutions to one focused on safe, individualized, and community-based services that promote integration, independence and full participation by people with disabilities in community life. The agreement expands and strengthens every aspect of the Commonwealth’s system of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated settings, and it does so through a number of services and supports.  The Department has a website dedicated to Olmstead enforcement, which includes links to settlements, briefs, findings letters, and other materials. The settlement agreements are a reminder that private businesses and state and local government agencies alike should exercise special care to prepare to defend their actions against potential disability or other Civil Rights discrimination challenges.  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.  The scope and applicability of disability and various other federal nondiscrimination and other laws have been expanded or modified in recent years by statutory, regulatory or enforcement changes. 

These Justice Department efforts also are reflected in the companion enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute disability discrimination by the Labor Department Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in employment, the Department of Housing & Urban Development in housing and related areas, the Department of Education in education and related fields and a host of other agencies.

While the Administration’s disability law enforcement reaches broadly, disability discrimination enforcement is particularly notable in the area of employment law.  For instance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently sued Wendy’s franchisee, CTW L.L.C., (Texas Wendy’s) for allegedly violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by denying employment to a hearing-impaired applicant.  In its suit against Texas Wendy’s, the EEOC  seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent and  correct disability discrimination as well as an award of lost wages and compensatory damages for Harrison  and punitive damages against CTW L.L.C.   An example of a growing number of disability discrimination enforcement actions taken against employers and others on behalf of hearing impaired or other persons with disabilities under the Obama Administration, the case against Texas Wendy’s highlights the growing enforcement exposures of U.S. businesses to disability discrimination claims under the Obama Administration. In the suit, the EEOC charged that the general manager of a Killeen,  Texas Wendy’s refused to hire Michael Harrison, Jr. for a cooker position,  despite his qualifications and experience, upon learning that Harrison is  hearing-impaired.

According to the EEOC, Harrison, who had previously worked for a different fast-food franchise for over two  years, was denied hire by the general manager.  Harrison said that after successfully  interviewing with the Wendy’s shift manager, he attempted to complete the  interview process by interviewing with Wendy’s general manager via Texas Relay,  a telephonic system used by people with hearing impairments. Harrison’s told  the EEOC that during the call he was told by the general manager that “there is  really no place for someone we cannot communicate with.”

Expanding Disability Discrimination Exposures

As illustrated by the suit against Texas Wendy’s, employers must exercise care when making hiring, promotion or other employment related decisions relating to persons with hearing or other conditions that could qualify as a disability under the ADA.  

The ADA generally prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make  reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities as long as  this does not pose an undue hardship.

 In recent years, amendments to the original provisions of the ADA have made it easier for plaintiffs and the EEOC to establish disabled status of an individual.  Businesses should exercise caution to carefully document legitimate business justification for their hiring, promotion and other employment related decisions about these and other individuals who might qualify as disabled.  Provisions of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) that expand the definition of “disability” under the ADA,  As signed into law on September 25, 2008, the ADAAA amended the definition of “disability” for purposes of the disability discrimination prohibitions of the ADA to make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that a person has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.  The ADAAA retains the ADA’s basic definition of “disability” as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, provisions of the ADAAA that took effect January 1, 2009 change the way that these statutory terms should be interpreted in several ways. Most significantly, the Act:

  • Directs EEOC to revise that portion of its regulations defining the term “substantially limits;”
  • Expands the definition of “major life activities” by including two non-exhaustive lists: (1) The first list includes many activities that the EEOC has recognized (e.g., walking) as well as activities that EEOC has not specifically recognized (e.g., reading, bending, and communicating); and (2) The second list includes major bodily functions (e.g., “functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions”);
  • States that mitigating measures other than “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability;
  • Clarifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active;
  • Changes the definition of “regarded as” so that it no longer requires a showing that the employer perceived the individual to be substantially limited in a major life activity, and instead says that an applicant or employee is “regarded as” disabled if he or she is subject to an action prohibited by the ADA (e.g., failure to hire or termination) based on an impairment that is not transitory and minor; and
  • Provides that individuals covered only under the “regarded as” prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodation.

The ADAAA also emphasizes that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA and generally shall not require extensive analysis.In adopting these changes, Congress expressly sought to overrule existing employer-friendly judicial precedent construing the current provisions of the ADA and to require the EEOC to update its existing guidance to confirm with the ADAAA Amendments.  Under the leadership of the Obama Administration, the EEOC and other federal agencies have embraced this charge and have sigificantly stepped up enforcement of the ADA and other federal discrimination laws.

Violations of the ADA can expose businesses to substantial liability. Violations of the ADA may be prosecuted by the EEOC or by private lawsuits.  Employees or applicants that can prove they were subjected to prohibited disability discrimination under the ADA generally can recover actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and up to $300,000 of exemplary damages (depending on the size of the employer).   

 The ADAAA amendments coupled with the Obama Administration’s emphasis on enforcement make it likely that businesses generally will face more disability claims from a broader range of employees and will possess fewer legal shields to defend themselves against these claims. These changes will make it easier for certain employees to qualify as disabled under the ADA.  Consequently, businesses should act strategically to mitigate their ADA exposures in anticipation of these changes.  

To help mitigate the expanded employment liability risks created by the ADAAA amendments, businesses generally should act cautiously when dealing with applicants or employees with actual, perceived, or claimed physical or mental impairments to decrease exposures under the ADA.  Management should exercise caution to carefully and proper the potential legal significance of physical or mental impairments or conditions that might be less significant in severity or scope, correctable through the use of eyeglasses, hearing aids, daily medications or other adaptive devices, or that otherwise have been assumed by management to fall outside the ADA’s scope. Employers should no longer assume, for instance, that a visually impaired employee won’t qualify as disabled because eyeglasses can substantially correct the employee’s visual impairment. 

Likewise, businesses should be prepared for the EEOC and the courts to treat a broader range of disabilities, including those much more limited in severity and life activity restriction, to qualify as disabling for purposes of the Act. Businesses should assume that a greater number of employees with such conditions are likely to seek to use the ADA as a basis for challenging hiring, promotion and other employment decisions.  For this reason, businesses generally should tighten job performance and other employment record keeping to enhance their ability to prove nondiscriminatory business justifications for the employment decisions made by the businesses.

Businesses also should consider tightening their documentation regarding their procedures and processes governing the  collection and handling records and communications that may contain information regarding an applicant’s physical or mental impairment, such as medical absences, worker’s compensation claims, emergency information, or other records containing health status or condition related information.  The ADA generally requires that these records be maintained in separate confidential files and disclosed only to individuals with a need to know under circumstances allowed by the ADA. 

As part of this process, businesses also should carefully review their employment records, group health plan, family leave, disability accommodation, and other existing policies and practices to comply with, and manage exposure under the new genetic information nondiscrimination and privacy rules enacted as part of the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) signed into law by President Bush on May 21, 2008.  Effective November 21, 2009, Title VII of GINA amends the Civil Rights Act to prohibit employment discrimination based on genetic information and restricts the ability of employers and their health plans to require, collect or retain certain genetic information. Under GINA, employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees face significant liability for violating the sweeping nondiscrimination and confidentiality requirements of GINA concerning their use, maintenance and disclosure of genetic information. Employees can sue for damages and other relief like currently available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination laws.  For instance, GINA’s employment related provisions include rules that will:

  • Prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating based on genetic information in hiring, termination or referral decisions or in other decisions regarding compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment;
  • Prohibit employers and employment agencies from limiting, segregating or classifying employees so as to deny employment opportunities to an employee based on genetic information;
  • Bar labor organizations from excluding, expelling or otherwise discriminating against individuals based on genetic information;
  • Prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information of an employee or an employee’s family member except as allowed by GINA to satisfy certification requirements of family and medical leave laws, to monitor the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace or other conditions specifically allowed by GINA;
  • Prohibit employers, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees from discriminating in any decisions related to admission or employment in training or retraining programs, including apprenticeships based on genetic information;
  • Mandate that in the narrow situations where limited cases where genetic information is obtained by a covered entity, it maintain the information on separate forms in separate medical files, treat the information as a confidential medical record, and not disclosure the genetic information except in those situations specifically allowed by GINA;
  • Prohibit any person from retaliating against an individual for opposing an act or practice made unlawful by GINA; and
  • Regulate the collection, use, access and disclosure of genetic information by employer sponsored and certain other health plans.

These employment provisions of GINA are in addition to amendments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and Title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act that are effective for group health plan for plan years beginning after May 20, 2009.

If you have any questions or need help reviewing and updating your organization’s employment and/or employee practices in response to the ADAAA, GINA or other applicable laws, or if we may be of assistance with regard to any other workforce management, employee benefits or compensation matters, please do not hesitate to contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

About The Author

Management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer helps businesses, governments and associations solve problems, develop and implement strategies to manage people, processes, and regulatory exposures to achieve their business and operational objectives and manage legal, operational and other risks. Board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, with more than 20 years human resource and employee benefits experience, Ms. Stamer helps businesses manage their people-related risks and the performance of their internal and external workforce though appropriate human resources, employee benefit, worker’s compensation, insurance, outsourcing and risk management strategies domestically and internationally. Recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals and bearing the Martindale Hubble AV-Rating, Ms. Stamer also is a highly regarded author and speaker, who regularly conducts management and other training on a wide range of labor and employment, employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other related risk management matters.  Her writings frequently are published by the American Bar Association (ABA), Aspen Publishers, Bureau of National Affairs, the American Health Lawyers Association, SHRM, World At Work, Government Institutes, Inc., Atlantic Information Services, Employee Benefit News, and many others. For a listing of some of these publications and programs, see here. Her insights on human resources risk management matters also have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, various publications of The Bureau of National Affairs and Aspen Publishing, the Dallas Morning News, Spencer Publications, Health Leaders, Business Insurance, the Dallas and Houston Business Journals and a host of other publications. Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit and Other Compensation Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and the Legislative Chair of the Dallas Human Resources Management Association Government Affairs Committee, she also serves in leadership positions in many human resources, corporate compliance, and other professional and civic organizations. For more details about Ms. Stamer’s experience and other credentials, contact Ms. Stamer, information about workshops and other training, selected publications and other human resources related information, see here or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at 469.767.8872 or via e-mailto  cstamer@solutionslawyer.net

About Solutions Law Press

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

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

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 


IRS Changing Individual Taxpayer ID Number Application Requirements

June 22, 2012

Interim Changes Intended To Promote Better Integrity of the ITIN Process

On June 21, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service announced interim changes to its procedures for issuing Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) from now through the end of the year.  Designed specifically for tax-administration purposes, ITINs are only issued to people who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number.  ITINs play a critical role in the tax administration process and assist with the collection of taxes from foreign nationals, non-resident aliens and others who have filing or payment obligations under U.S. law. Businesses with foreign workers or service providers, others who may be impacted by rules should encourage early action to avoid difficulties in reporting later.

During this interim period, the IRS will only issue ITINs when applications include original documentation, such as passports and birth certificates, or certified copies of these documents from the issuing agency. During this interim period, ITINs will not be issued based on applications supported by notarized copies of documents. In addition, ITINs will not be issued based on applications submitted through certifying acceptance agents unless they attach original documentation or copies of original documents certified by the issuing agency. The changes, which are effective immediately, are designed to strengthen and protect the integrity of the ITIN process while minimizing the impact on taxpayers.

The procedures apply to most applicants submitting Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.  ITINs for most individuals generally are issued during the tax filing season with the submission of a Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Because the April 17 filing deadline has passed, the IRS anticipates that a small number of taxpayers will need ITINs between now and the end of the year for these purposes.

According to today’s announcement, the IRS will issue final rules before the start of the 2013 filing season when most ITIN requests come in. The IRS will be gathering feedback and suggestions during the summer from stakeholders on what permanent procedures are appropriate as it reviews procedures for the ITIN program.  The IRS says it will look to make long-term improvements to the program while minimizing barriers to individuals reporting their income and filing their tax returns.

During this interim period, people who need ITINS to get their tax return processed can do so by submitting by mail their original documentation or certified copies of their documentation. Documentation will be accepted at IRS walk-in sites but will be forwarded to the ITIN centralized site for processing. The IRS also has an additional set of questions and answers for ITIN applicants available.

Some categories of applicants are not impacted by these interim changes, including spouses and dependents of U.S. military personnel who need ITINs. People who should follow the current procedures outlined in the Form W-7 instructions include:

  • Military spouses and dependents without an SSN who need an ITIN (Military spouses use box e on Form W-7 and dependents use box d). Exceptions to the new interim document standards will be made for military family members satisfying the documentation requirements by providing a copy of the spouse or parent’s U.S. military identification, or applying from an overseas APO/FPO address.
  • Nonresident aliens applying for ITINs for the purpose of claiming tax treaty benefits (use boxes a and h on Form W-7). Non-resident alien applicants generally need ITINs for reasons besides filing a U.S. tax return. This is necessary for nonresident aliens who may be subject to third-party withholding for various income, such as certain gaming winnings or pension income, or need an ITIN for information reporting purposes. While existing documentation standards will be maintained only for these applicants, scrutiny of the documents will be heightened.  ITIN applications of this category that are accompanied by a US tax return will be subject to the new interim document standards.

The IRS may require some taxpayers who have already filed applications to furnish additional documentation directly to the IRS. No additional action is required for people who have already filed ITIN requests unless they are contacted by the IRS.

More information about ITINs can be found at 2012 ITIN Review Frequently Asked Questions.

The changes may impact a wide range of employers and the individuals who provide service to them.  Employers dealing with service providers who may be impacted by these rules should act early to request and encourage delivery of taxpayer identification numbers from individuals that may be impacted by these requirements.

For Help or More Information

If you need help with labor and employment or other human resource, performance management, internal controls or compliance and risk management 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.

 

Insurer Group Health Inc. To Refund $500,00+ & Change Claims Practices To Settle NY AG Charges It Wrongfully Denied Coverage

June 18, 2012

Health insurer Group Health Inc. (“GHI”) must send reimbursement checks expected to approach $500,000 and change its claims handling practices to settle charges brought by the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman  that its mishandling of certain out-of-network claims wrongfully denied coverage to its members.  Schneiderman charted that GHI violated New York law by processing claims and caused patients to be billed wrongfully for covered physician services — sometimes in amounts reaching thousands of dollars — when they should have been shielded from any expense by applying standard out-patient coverage schedules even though the GHI health insurance policy was required to cover certain key medical providers who might be out-of-network — including anesthesiologists, pathologists, and radiologists — at a higher rate and with no member cost-share.

Under the terms of the agreement with GHI, the insurance company will send reimbursement checks to affected members. Because of the Attorney General’s investigation, GHI has already returned $162,000 to New York consumers and that number is expected to approach $500,000 in restitution for three years of claims. GHI will retain an auditor to ensure all eligible members are given refunds. In addition to providing reimbursement to eligible members, the agreement provides that GHI train its employees, pay a penalty, and assist consumers with resolving any debt collection activity.  See here.

GHI is part of Emblem Health, and provides insurance to consumers to 28 counties across New York State.

About Solutions Law Press

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


NLRB Moves To Promote Non-Union Employee Use of Collective Action Rights By Launching Webpage

June 18, 2012

The National Labor Relations Board is launching a new website page focused on promoting awareness and encourage the exercise of rights to employees to act together for their mutual aid and protection, even if they are not in a union, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). 

As part of its aggressive commitment to promote and support union organizing and other collective action by employees under the Obama Administration, the NLRB in recent years has stepped up investigatory and enforcement activities on behalf of non-union employees.  The right to engage in certain types of concerted activity was written into the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act’s Section 7, which states that:  “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.”

Non-union concerted activity accounts for more than 5% of the agency’s recent caseload.

The new webpage launched June 18, 2012 here seeks to promote awareness and use of these and other collective action rights under the NLRA by sharing stories of more than a dozen recent cases involving protected concerted activity.  Examples of these cases include stories of A construction crew fired after refusing to work in the rain near exposed electrical wires; a customer service representative who lost her job after discussing her wages with a coworker; an engineer at a vegetable packing plant fired after reporting safety concerns affecting other employees; a paramedic fired after posting work-related grievances on Facebook; and poultry workers fired after discussing their grievances with a newspaper reporter.  

“A right only has value when people know it exists,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce. “We think the right to engage in protected concerted activity is one of the best kept secrets of the National Labor Relations Act, and more important than ever in these difficult economic times. Our hope is that other workers will see themselves in the cases we’ve selected and understand that they do have strength in numbers.”

In addition to the new webpage, the NLRA also has undertaken efforts to promote employee awareness of NLRA rights by imposing new employer poster requirements, has attacked the use of mandatory arbibtration provisions by employers as prohibited under the NLRA, and has pursued a wide range of regulatory and enforcement policy changes that seek to strengthen the power of organized labor.  In light of this growing activism, employers should continue to strengthen their labor-management policies and practices to mitigate the growing labor exposures that result from this activist agenda.  

For Help or More Information
If you need help with labor and employment or other human resource, performance management, internal controls or compliance and risk management 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 more 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.

 

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