Emotional Injury Damages Not Recoverable In Private Rehabilitation Act or Affordable Care Act Disability Discrimination Lawsuits

May 2, 2022

Emotional distress damages are not recoverable in a private action to enforce the disability discrimination and accommodation requirements of either the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”) or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) according to the May 1, 2022 United States Supreme Court ruling in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller authored by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.

The Cummings decision resulted from a suit that sought emotional distress damages brought by filed by a deaf and legally blind woman, Jane Cummings against Premier Rehab Keller after it denied her request that it provide an American Sign Language interpreter at her physical therapy sessions.  Premier Rehab told Cummings the therapist could communicate with her through other means,  Claiming Premier Rehab’s failure to provide an ASL interpreter constituted discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Rehab Act and Section 1557 of the ACA, Cummings sued Premier Rehab seeking various damages and other relief, including emotional distress damages.

The Supreme Court took notice that Premier Rehab was subject to these laws because its receipt of Medicare and Medicaid payments qualified as federal financial assistance triggering their applicability.

The Supreme Court affirmed the previous District Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ rulings that emotional distress damages are not recoverable in a private action to enforce either the Rehab Act or the ACA.

The Supreme Court Majority based its decision on its finding that the Rehab Act and Act both are spending statutes that condition their offer of federal funding on a promise by the recipient not to discriminate creating what amounts essentially to a contract between the Government and the recipient of funds.  Following previously established Supreme Court precedent for “private spending clause actions,” the Court ruled the emotional distress or other remedy is not available unless “the funding recipient is on notice that by accepting federal funding, it exposes itself to liability of that nature.”

To decide whether emotional distress damages are available under the Spending Clause statutes in this case, the Court therefore asked if a prospective funding recipient deciding whether to accept
federal funds would have had “clear notice” regarding that liability. Because the two statutes are silent on the availability of emotional injury damages, the Supreme Court followed prior precedent by looking to whether the emotional damages sought by Cummings were the type of damages traditionally available in suits for breach of contract so as to put Premier Rehab and other defendants on notice of their exposure to such damages from actions under the Rehab Act or ACA.  While acknowledging some exceptional circumstances where punitive damages may be recovered where “the conduct constituting the breach is also a tort for which punitive damages are recoverable,” the Court found such damages “are generally not available for breach of contract.” Concluding that the recognized exception to the general rule was insufficient to give funding recipients the requisite notice that they could face such damages. the Supreme Court ruled that funding recipients under the Rehab Act and the ACA “have not, merely by accepting funds, implicitly consented to liability for punitive damages.” 

To read the full Majority opinion and related consenting and dissenting opinions, see here. 

While the Supreme Court’s ruling means private litigants cannot recover emotional injury damages in discrimination actions brought to enforce the Rehabilitation Act or the ACA, health industry and other organizations remain subject to other substantial liability risks for improper discrimination in violation of those laws.  Beyond recoveries for actual damages, attorneys’ fees and costs recoverable by private litigants, covered organizations also can face substantial civil monetary penalties, program disqualification, in some instances even False Claims Act liability for billing in violation of program conditions of participation and other risks.  As federal agencies continue to make enforcement of these sanctions a priority, organization covered by either of these laws should use care to maintain appropriate compliance and risk management to ensure their ability to defend against any potential charges.  

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.

About the Author

Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel repeatedly recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law and among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of advising, representing and defending domestic and international public, closely held and government organizations on workforce, employee benefits, internal controls and governance, and other risk management, compliance and government relations concerns as well as her coaching, scholarship, training and legislative and public affairs advocacy on these and related areas.

Ms. Stamer helps health industry and other organizations and their management manage. Ms. Stamer’s legal and management consulting work throughout her nearly 30+ year career has focused on helping organizations and their management use the law and process to manage people, process, compliance, operations and risk. Highly valued for her rare ability to find pragmatic client-centric solutions by combining her detailed legal and operational knowledge and experience with her talent for creative problem-solving, Ms. Stamer helps public and private, domestic and international businesses, governments, and other organizations and their leaders manage their employees, vendors and suppliers, and other workforce members, customers and other’ performance, compliance, compensation and benefits, operations, risks and liabilities, as well as to prevent, stabilize and cleanup workforce and other legal and operational crises large and small that arise in the course of operations.

Ms. Stamer works with businesses and their management, employee benefit plans, governments and other organizations deal with all aspects of human resources and workforce management operations and compliance. She supports her clients both on a real time, “on demand” basis and with longer term basis to deal with daily performance management and operations, emerging crises, strategic planning, process improvement and change management, investigations, defending litigation, audits, investigations or other enforcement challenges, government affairs and public policy. Well known for her extensive work with health care, insurance and other highly regulated entities on corporate compliance, internal controls and risk management, her clients range from highly regulated entities like employers, contractors and their employee benefit plans, their sponsors, management, administrators, insurers, fiduciaries and advisors, technology and data service providers, health care, managed care and insurance, financial services, government contractors and government entities, as well as retail, manufacturing, construction, consulting and a host of other domestic and international businesses of all types and sizes. Common engagements include internal and external workforce hiring, management, training, performance management, compliance and administration, discipline and termination, and other aspects of workforce management including employment and outsourced services contracting and enforcement, sentencing guidelines and other compliance plan, policy and program development, administration, and defense, performance management, wage and hour and other compensation and benefits, reengineering and other change management, internal controls, compliance and risk management, communications and training, worker classification, tax and payroll, investigations, crisis preparedness and response, government relations, safety, government contracting and audits, litigation and other enforcement, and other concerns. She also represents and defends clients in investigations, audits, enforcement actions and other dealings with the the Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and a multitude of federal, state, and locate agencies, state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies, public and private credentialing, licensing and accreditation bodies, as well as conducts and counsels clients on private litigation, employment and other services disputes, regulatory and public policy advocacy, training and discipline, enforcement  and other strategic and operational concerns.

Ms. Stamer uses her deep and highly specialized health, insurance, labor and employment and other knowledge and experience to help employers and other employee benefit plan sponsors; health, pension and other employee benefit plans, their fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers, and others design legally compliant, effective compensation, health and other welfare benefit and insurance, severance, pension and deferred compensation, private exchanges, cafeteria plan and other employee benefit, fringe benefit, salary and hourly compensation, bonus and other incentive compensation and related programs, products and arrangements. She is particularly recognized for her leading edge work, thought leadership and knowledgeable advice and representation on the design, documentation, administration, regulation and defense of a diverse range of self-insured and insured health and welfare benefit plans including private exchange and other health benefit choices, health care reimbursement and other “defined contribution” limited benefit, 24-hour and other occupational and non-occupational injury and accident, expat and medical tourism, onsite medical, wellness and other medical plans and insurance benefit programs as well as a diverse range of other qualified and nonqualified retirement and deferred compensation, severance and other employee benefits and compensation, insurance and savings plans, programs, products, services and activities. As a key element of this work, Ms. Stamer works closely with employer and other plan sponsors, insurance and financial services companies, plan fiduciaries, administrators, and vendors and others to design, administer and defend effective legally defensible employee benefits and compensation practices, programs, products and technology. She also continuously helps employers, insurers, administrative and other service providers, their officers, directors and others to manage fiduciary and other risks of sponsorship or involvement with these and other benefit and compensation arrangements and to defend and mitigate liability and other risks from benefit and liability claims including fiduciary, benefit and other claims, audits, and litigation brought by the Labor Department, IRS, HHS, participants and beneficiaries, service providers, and others. She also assists debtors, creditors, bankruptcy trustees and others assess, manage and resolve labor and employment, employee benefits and insurance, payroll and other compensation related concerns arising from reductions in force or other terminations, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and other business transactions including extensive experience with multiple, high-profile large scale bankruptcies resulting in ERISA, tax, corporate and securities and other litigation or enforcement actions.

Ms. Stamer also is deeply involved in helping to influence workforce, health care, pension, social security, insurance and other policies critical to the workforce, benefits, and compensation practices and other key aspects of a broad range of businesses and their operations. She both helps her clients respond to and resolve emerging regulations and laws, government investigations and enforcement actions and helps them shape the rules through dealings with Congress and other legislatures, regulators and government officials domestically and internationally. A former lead consultant to the Government of Bolivia on its Social Security reform law and most recognized for her leadership on U.S. health and pension, wage and hour, tax, education and immigration policy reform, Ms. Stamer works with U.S. and foreign businesses, governments, trade associations, and others on workforce, social security and severance, health care, immigration, privacy and data security, tax, ethics and other laws and regulations. Founder and Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Healthcare Policy and its PROJECT COPE: the Coalition on Patient Empowerment and a Fellow in the American Bar Foundation and State Bar of Texas, Ms. Stamer annually leads the Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) HHS Office of Civil Rights agency meeting and other JCEB agency meetings. She also works as a policy advisor and advocate to many business, professional and civic organizations.

Author of the thousands of publications and workshops these and other employment, employee benefits, health care, insurance, workforce and other management matters, Ms. Stamer also is a highly sought out speaker and industry thought leader known for empowering audiences and readers. Ms. Stamer’s insights on employee benefits, insurance, health care and workforce matters in Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), InsuranceThoughtLeaders.com, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Texas CEO Magazine, HealthLeaders, Modern Healthcare, Business Insurance, Employee Benefits News, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other publications. She also has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for human resources, employee benefit and other management focused publications of BNA, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com and many other prominent publications. Ms. Stamer also regularly serves on the faculty and planning committees for symposia of LexisNexis, the American Bar Association, ALIABA, the Society of Employee Benefits Administrators, the American Law Institute, ISSA, HIMMs, and many other prominent educational and training organizations and conducts training and speaks on these and other management, compliance and public policy concerns.

Ms. Stamer also shares her leadership through her extensive involvement in many professional, community and civic organizations. Currently, she serves as Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR and a representative for its Annual Agency Meeting with the EEOC, Chair of the ABA Intellectual Property Section Law Practice Management Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, Chair-Elect of the ABA Tort & Insurance Section (TIPS) Medicine and Law Committee, RPTE Section Employee Benefits Committee Welfare Plan Chair, and in various other projects and capacities. She also previously has served as an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, the Society for Human Resources Management Region IV Board Chair and National Consultant’s Board Member; am Editorial Advisory Board Member and author for HR.com, Insurance ThoughtLeaders, BNA CD-Rolm, and Employee Benefits News; the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence Board President, Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, on the North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, as a Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas and many others.

Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. These include hundreds of highly regarded articles and workshops on health and other benefits, workforce, health care and insurance concerns.

For more information about these requirements, Ms. Stamer or her experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, 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, Inc.™ resources available here.

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

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 your profile here.

NOTICE:   These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.  Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.  Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department 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. 

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Businesses Face New Federal CROWN Act Hair Discrimination Prohibitions That Became Law Just Days Before Oscar Night Hair Joke Incident

March 31, 2022

U.S. businesses should use caution not to allow the widespread sympathy and limited media and public criticism that comedian Chris Rock currently enjoys after Will Smith inappropriately responded to Rock’s hair shaming of Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, to overlook their organization’s growing legal responsibility and risks to prevent hair shaming in their operations.

The March 27 Oscar Night incident where Will Smith responded to Rock making a “GI Jane” joke of Pinkett-Smith’s shortly cropped hair occurred only five days after new federal protections against hair shaming under the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2021 (“CROWN Act”) became law.  

CROWN Act & Various State Laws Prohibit Hair Discrimination

In recent years many states have enacted laws that prohibit or regulate discrimination or regulation of hair styles in the workplace and other business dealings.  This month, Congress got on the bandwagon by enacting the CROWN Act.

Signed into law on March 22, 2022 the CROWN Act prohibits discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin in federally assisted programs, housing programs, public accommodations, and employment. 

In its discussion of its Congressional Purpose, the CROWN Act states that while discrimination on the basis of natural or protective hairstyles that people of African descent are commonly adorned with can be a type of racial or national origin discrimination that violates federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.), section 1977 of the Revised Statutes (42 U.S.C. 1981), and the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.), some Federal courts have misinterpreted Federal civil rights law by narrowly interpreting the meaning of race or national origin to allow employers to discriminate against people of African descent who wear natural or protective hairstyles even though the employment policies involved are not related to workers’ ability to perform their jobs. 

The CROWN Act seeks to protect people of African descent from hair-style based race or national origin discrimination by making discrimination against any individual based on the person’s hair texture or hairstyle, if that hair texture or that hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin (including a hairstyle in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros):

  • Prohibited race and national origin discrimination under 42 U.S.C. 1981;
  • An unlawful employment practice for an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining (including on-the-job training programs) under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • A prohibited discriminatory housing practice under the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.);
  • Prohibited discrimination in any public accommodation under sections 201, 202, or 203 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.SC. 2000a et seq.).

Although not expressly addressed in the CROWN Act, the manner in which it adds its hair discrimination prohibitions to these federal discrimination laws makes it highly likely that its hair discrimination prohibitions will be interpreted as including the harassment and hostile work environment protections afforded under these laws for other types of race or national origin discrimination. 

Although Pinkett-Smith prior to the Oscar Night episode explained hormonal imbalance related alopecia (hair loss) influenced her current closely cropped hairstyle choice, shortly cropped hairstyles are not uncommon natural hairstyles among black or other women. It bears mentioning that none of the federal discrimination laws amended by the CROWN Act includes any exemption for comedians or other “jokes.”

Businesses Should Act To Comply

Given the newness of the federal CROWN Act, it remains to be seen whether Pinkett-Smith’s or other similar hairstyles will fall within the protection of the CROWN Act.  As most businesses will not want to incur the cost and negative publicity of testing these limits, businesses should review their existing practices for policies and practices that could present exposure risks, consider adjusting policies, practices, and communications that might create unnecessary exposures, establish appropriate practices to monitor complaints or other actions that might prompt charges or other exposures and monitor regulatory guidance, lawsuits and governmental enforcement actions. Businesses also should consider establishing and communicating appropriate procedures for individuals that believe their rights under the CROWN Act or other similar laws have or are being violated to report their concerns and for timely investigation and resolution of those complaints like those used to maintain and monitor compliance with other discrimination laws.   In conducting their assessments and risk mitigation actions, businesses should keep in mind that discrimination exposures could arise from impressions or expectations created by pre-enactment policies, discipline, feedback or other actions which make it advisable to take revise and republish policies, update training or take other action to resolve.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.

About the Author

Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel repeatedly recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law and among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of advising, representing and defending domestic and international public, closely held and government organizations on workforce, employee benefits, internal controls and governance, and other risk management, compliance and government relations concerns as well as her coaching, scholarship, training and legislative and public affairs advocacy on these and related areas.

Ms. Stamer helps management manage. Ms. Stamer’s legal and management consulting work throughout her nearly 30+ year career has focused on helping organizations and their management use the law and process to manage people, process, compliance, operations and risk. Highly valued for her rare ability to find pragmatic client-centric solutions by combining her detailed legal and operational knowledge and experience with her talent for creative problem-solving, Ms. Stamer helps public and private, domestic and international businesses, governments, and other organizations and their leaders manage their employees, vendors and suppliers, and other workforce members, customers and other’ performance, compliance, compensation and benefits, operations, risks and liabilities, as well as to prevent, stabilize and cleanup workforce and other legal and operational crises large and small that arise in the course of operations.

Ms. Stamer works with businesses and their management, employee benefit plans, governments and other organizations deal with all aspects of human resources and workforce management operations and compliance. She supports her clients both on a real time, “on demand” basis and with longer term basis to deal with daily performance management and operations, emerging crises, strategic planning, process improvement and change management, investigations, defending litigation, audits, investigations or other enforcement challenges, government affairs and public policy. Well known for her extensive work with health care, insurance and other highly regulated entities on corporate compliance, internal controls and risk management, her clients range from highly regulated entities like employers, contractors and their employee benefit plans, their sponsors, management, administrators, insurers, fiduciaries and advisors, technology and data service providers, health care, managed care and insurance, financial services, government contractors and government entities, as well as retail, manufacturing, construction, consulting and a host of other domestic and international businesses of all types and sizes. Common engagements include internal and external workforce hiring, management, training, performance management, compliance and administration, discipline and termination, and other aspects of workforce management including employment and outsourced services contracting and enforcement, sentencing guidelines and other compliance plan, policy and program development, administration, and defense, performance management, wage and hour and other compensation and benefits, reengineering and other change management, internal controls, compliance and risk management, communications and training, worker classification, tax and payroll, investigations, crisis preparedness and response, government relations, safety, government contracting and audits, litigation and other enforcement, and other concerns. She also represents and defends clients in investigations, audits, enforcement actions and other dealings with the the Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and a multitude of federal, state, and locate agencies, state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies, public and private credentialing, licensing and accreditation bodies, as well as conducts and counsels clients on private litigation, employment and other services disputes, regulatory and public policy advocacy, training and discipline, enforcement  and other strategic and operational concerns.

Ms. Stamer uses her deep and highly specialized health, insurance, labor and employment and other knowledge and experience to help employers and other employee benefit plan sponsors; health, pension and other employee benefit plans, their fiduciaries, administrators and service providers, insurers, and others design legally compliant, effective compensation, health and other welfare benefit and insurance, severance, pension and deferred compensation, private exchanges, cafeteria plan and other employee benefit, fringe benefit, salary and hourly compensation, bonus and other incentive compensation and related programs, products and arrangements. She is particularly recognized for her leading edge work, thought leadership and knowledgeable advice and representation on the design, documentation, administration, regulation and defense of a diverse range of self-insured and insured health and welfare benefit plans including private exchange and other health benefit choices, health care reimbursement and other “defined contribution” limited benefit, 24-hour and other occupational and non-occupational injury and accident, expat and medical tourism, onsite medical, wellness and other medical plans and insurance benefit programs as well as a diverse range of other qualified and nonqualified retirement and deferred compensation, severance and other employee benefits and compensation, insurance and savings plans, programs, products, services and activities. As a key element of this work, Ms. Stamer works closely with employer and other plan sponsors, insurance and financial services companies, plan fiduciaries, administrators, and vendors and others to design, administer and defend effective legally defensible employee benefits and compensation practices, programs, products and technology. She also continuously helps employers, insurers, administrative and other service providers, their officers, directors and others to manage fiduciary and other risks of sponsorship or involvement with these and other benefit and compensation arrangements and to defend and mitigate liability and other risks from benefit and liability claims including fiduciary, benefit and other claims, audits, and litigation brought by the Labor Department, IRS, HHS, participants and beneficiaries, service providers, and others. She also assists debtors, creditors, bankruptcy trustees and others assess, manage and resolve labor and employment, employee benefits and insurance, payroll and other compensation related concerns arising from reductions in force or other terminations, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and other business transactions including extensive experience with multiple, high-profile large scale bankruptcies resulting in ERISA, tax, corporate and securities and other litigation or enforcement actions.

Ms. Stamer also is deeply involved in helping to influence workforce, health care, pension, social security, insurance and other policies critical to the workforce, benefits, and compensation practices and other key aspects of a broad range of businesses and their operations. She both helps her clients respond to and resolve emerging regulations and laws, government investigations and enforcement actions and helps them shape the rules through dealings with Congress and other legislatures, regulators and government officials domestically and internationally. A former lead consultant to the Government of Bolivia on its Social Security reform law and most recognized for her leadership on U.S. health and pension, wage and hour, tax, education and immigration policy reform, Ms. Stamer works with U.S. and foreign businesses, governments, trade associations, and others on workforce, social security and severance, health care, immigration, privacy and data security, tax, ethics and other laws and regulations. Founder and Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Healthcare Policy and its PROJECT COPE: the Coalition on Patient Empowerment and a Fellow in the American Bar Foundation and State Bar of Texas, Ms. Stamer annually leads the Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) HHS Office of Civil Rights agency meeting and other JCEB agency meetings. She also works as a policy advisor and advocate to many business, professional and civic organizations.

Author of the thousands of publications and workshops these and other employment, employee benefits, health care, insurance, workforce and other management matters, Ms. Stamer also is a highly sought out speaker and industry thought leader known for empowering audiences and readers. Ms. Stamer’s insights on employee benefits, insurance, health care and workforce matters in Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), InsuranceThoughtLeaders.com, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Texas CEO Magazine, HealthLeaders, Modern Healthcare, Business Insurance, Employee Benefits News, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other publications. She also has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for human resources, employee benefit and other management focused publications of BNA, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com and many other prominent publications. Ms. Stamer also regularly serves on the faculty and planning committees for symposia of LexisNexis, the American Bar Association, ALIABA, the Society of Employee Benefits Administrators, the American Law Institute, ISSA, HIMMs, and many other prominent educational and training organizations and conducts training and speaks on these and other management, compliance and public policy concerns.

Ms. Stamer also shares her leadership through her extensive involvement in many professional, community and civic organizations. Currently, she serves as Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR and a representative for its Annual Agency Meeting with the EEOC, Chair of the ABA Intellectual Property Section Law Practice Management Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, Chair-Elect of the ABA Tort & Insurance Section (TIPS) Medicine and Law Committee, RPTE Section Employee Benefits Committee Welfare Plan Chair, and in various other projects and capacities. She also previously has served as an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, the Society for Human Resources Management Region IV Board Chair and National Consultant’s Board Member; am Editorial Advisory Board Member and author for HR.com, Insurance ThoughtLeaders, BNA CD-Rolm, and Employee Benefits News; the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence Board President, Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, on the North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, as a Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas and many others.

Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. These include hundreds of highly regarded articles and workshops on health and other benefits, workforce, health care and insurance concerns.

For more information about these requirements, Ms. Stamer or her experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, 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, Inc.™ resources available here.

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION

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 your profile here.

NOTICE:   These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.  Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.  Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department 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. 

©2022 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Justice Department Sues Texas Bus Company For Illegal Discrimination Against Citizens When Hiring H-2B Program Workers

August 6, 2013

A federal lawsuit against Houston-based bus company Autobuses Ejecutivos LLC, d/b/a Omnibus Express, reminds U.S employers hiring foreign workers under the H-2B or other special worker visa programs to use care to ensure that they can prove that their need for foreign workers is not the result of recruitment and hiring practices that illegally discriminate against work-eligible members of the U.S. workforce already in the United States.

The Justice Department announced on August 6, 2013 that it and the Executive Office of Immigration Review’s Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) are suing Omnibus Express for allegedly violating the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provisions by preferring to hire for bus driver positions temporary nonimmigrant visa holders on H-2B visas over work-eligible U.S. citizens, certain lawful permanent residents and other protected individuals.

H-2B Program Hiring Prohibited If Need Based On Illegal Discrimination

The H-2B program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs only when there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing or qualified to do the temporary work.  While H-2B program hiring can be invaluable when a legitimate need exists, businesses contemplating or using the program need to be prepared to show their need to hire workers on H-2B visas is not the result of discriminatory hiring practices prohibited by the INA or other federal employment discrimination laws.

The INA generally protects work-eligible individuals in the United States, such as U.S. citizens, certain lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, from unlawful discrimination in hiring based on their citizenship status prohibiting employers from discriminating in hiring against these protected work-eligible workers based on their citizenship status.

Accordingly, while the H-2B program provides a valid opportunity to hire foreign workers consistent with the H-2B visa program requirements when in fact there are insufficient work-eligible, qualified applicants already in the U.S. to fill the position, employers hiring workers under the H-2B or other visa programs need to ensure that they are not inappropriately discriminating against U.S. citizens, permanent residents or other work-eligible individuals already in the U.S. in their recruitment and hiring practices when taking advantage of the H-2B program to hire workers.

In addition to the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA, hiring practices that discriminate in favor of hiring workers over other qualified applicants based on the respective citizenship, national origin, race or other protected status of the respective applicants or workers also can expose a business to liability under various other laws. In addition to suits brought by the Justice Department, prohibited discrimination by an employer under these other employment discrimination laws may expose a business to liability to actions brought by private litigants, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) or other agencies, or both.

Omnibus Express Suit Highlights Risks Of H-2B Visa Hiring Need Based On Illegal Discrimination

The Justice Department complaint charges that Omnibus Express failed to fulfill this obligation.  It claims that Omnibus Express violated the INA by actively discouraging or failing to consider the applications of many qualified U.S. citizens and other protected individuals between September 2012 to February 2013 while at the same time petitioning the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permission to hire up to 50 foreign workers on H-2B visas.    The Justice Department alleges that Omnibus Express violated the INA by hiring 42 H-2B workers during this period based on its representation to the DOL and USCIS that there were not enough qualified workers in the United States to fill the 50 bus driver positions when in fact, its practices illegally discriminated against work-eligible U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and other INA-protected individuals who could have filled the positions.

The Justice Department asks the court to redress these alleged violations of the INA by ordering Omnibus Express to pay back pay for injured parties and civil penalties prohibiting future discrimination by Omnibus Express, and ordering other injunctive relief.

INA Discrimination Prosecution Part Of Obama Administration’s Emphasis on Enforcing Discrimination Laws

Businesses also should keep in mind that the Justice Department’s prosecution of Omnibus Express for alleged illegal citizenship discrimination also is part of the Obama Administration’s larger agenda prioritizing the expansion of non-discrimination safeguards for protected classes and the enforcement of these non-discrimination laws.

Since Mr. Obama took office, the Administration has sought regulatory and statutory changes that expand the federal employment and other anti-discrimination for a broad range of groups. The Administration also continues to proactively seek to expand the individuals protected by these and other Federal anti-discrimination laws even as the Departments of Justice, Labor, Health & Human Services, Education, Housing & Urban Development and other federal agencies have expanded their investigation, prosecution and public outreach of these laws.

In light of these developments, businesses should recognize that this proactive anti-discrimination agenda makes it wise for private businesses and state and local government agencies to take greater care to prevent and position their organizations to defend against potential discrimination and retaliation claims under the INA and a broad range of other employment and other anti-discrimination laws.

While this activist agenda in the anti-discrimination law area merits tighter compliance and risk management for all organizations, government contractors or subcontractors particularly face heightened risk as a result of recent expansions to the reach and requirements of nondiscrimination requirements.

Act To Mitigate Citizenship, National Origin & Other Employment Discrimination Exposures

Accordingly, while the Omnibus Express particularly highlights the importance for businesses subject to U.S. law to use care before hiring foreign workers on H-2B or other special visas to ensure that they can demonstration the need for foreign workers does not stem from recruitment and hiring practices that illegally discriminate against applicants already in and eligible to work in the U.S. who would be qualified to fill those positions.

Furthermore, businesses should use care not to underestimate their exposure to liability from charges of illegal discrimination in violation of the INA or other federal employment discrimination laws.  Prohibited discrimination against workers based on citizenship, national origin or other prohibited grounds exposes employers to private lawsuits by workers seeking damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and other remedies.  In addition to these private exposures, the suit against Omnibus Express shows that the readiness of the Justice Department to enforce the INA so that work-authorized individuals have equal access to employment in the United States free from prohibited discrimination based on citizenship.

Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division affirmed this commitment in the announcement of the Justice Department suit against Omnibus Express, stating “We are committed to enforcing the INA so that work-authorized individuals have equal access to employment in the United States.”

Accordingly, all businesses should make the tightened risk management of their INA anti-discrimination risks part of a broader emphasis on the prevention and management of their organization’s discrimination exposures generally.

As part of these risk management efforts, organizations should:

  • Review and update their understanding of current anti-discrimination rules under the INA and other laws;
  • Evaluate the adequacy of and tighten existing practices and documentation to mitigate exposures with discrimination and other laws;
  • Update and tighten management controls, investigation and other procedures to promote compliance with anti-discrimination policies and identify and mitigate exposures arising in the course of operations;
  • Conduct well-documented periodic training on these and other anti-discrimination compliance and risk management practices; and take other actions to monitor and enforce compliance by staff, contractors and others with whom they do business.

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, 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 25 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 against employment and other anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation, union-management relations, wage and hour, and other labor and employment laws, other regulatory requirements, 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, a member of the HR.com editorial advisory board, a past National Consultants Board Member and Region IV Chair for SHRM, past 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 workforce and risk 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.

You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.  For information about engaging Ms. Stamer for representation, training or other assistance, contact Ms. Stamer directly at (469) 767-8872.

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 including:

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©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Nonexclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.  All other rights reserved