Labor Department Final Rule Defines Recreation Vehicle For Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

January 10, 2012
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has issued a final rule implementing the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusion for recreational vessel workers. The rule defines what constitutes a “recreational vessel” when applying the exclusion.

The LHWCA provides workers (or their survivors in the case of death) compensation for injuries related to maritime employment on the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining areas. 

Before 2009, the LHWCA excluded workers who repaired or dismantled recreational vessels fewer than 65 feet in length from coverage if they were covered by a state workers’ compensation program. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded this exclusion by eliminating the 65-foot limitation.  Now, workers who repair recreational vessels of any length or dismantle them for repair are excluded from LHWCA coverage if they are covered under a state workers’ compensation law.

The final rule generally uses the U.S. Coast Guard’s standards for defining a recreational vessel. However, it adds two provisions the Labor Department intends to make it easier to apply these standards in the LHWCA context. First, a manufacturer or builder may determine whether a vessel is recreational within the meaning of the regulation based on the vessel’s design rather than on its end use. Second, noncommercial vessels that are recreational by design and owned or chartered by the federal or a state government fall within the recreational vessel definition.

Read the final rule here.

For Help or More Information
If you need help with worker classification or other human resources or internal controls matters, please contact the author of this article, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Board Certified in Labor & employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization,management attorney, author and consultant  Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers carry out, audit, manage and defend worker classification,union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions. 
Widely published on worker classification and other workforce risk management and compliance concerns, the immediate past-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Plan Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Section Employee Benefits Committee,  a Council Representative of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on management, worker classification, re-engineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, and related matters.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Other Resources

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

About Solutions Law Press

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

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

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

 

OSHA Updates Safety Resources To Prevent Construction, Other “Top 10” Exposures

December 5, 2011

Construction Exposures OSHA Exposure For Most Businesses Including Those In Construction

Construction industry as well as other employers need to watch key construction safety risks. 

Construction industry employers get high scrutiny of their safety and injury experience and practices because of high injury incidents coming from these risks.  However, you don’t have to be in the construction industry to be exposed to construction and building related risks that are common source of workplace injury and OSHA citations.

While continuing to keep the heat up on enforcement, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) recently released new and updated educational brochures and a series of new QuickCards it intends to promote worker safety in these and other areas. 

With construction and related activities continuing to be a lead source of injuries, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) is taking steps to promote better safety compliance in relation to construction and other common accident sources as well as continuing to zealously enforce OSHA citations and other remedies against businesses breaching these and other safety responsibilities.  As virtually all employers, including but not limited to those in construction or similar industries have workers performing construction related tasks, all employers should check the updated and existing safety requirements involving these actions and take other steps to manage these and other highlighted exposures. 

Construction, Other Safety Education & Resources Updated

Focusing on worker safety in the construction, general and maritime industries, OSHA recently released new and updated educational brochures and a series of new QuickCards on worker safety.  These materials available here include workers’ rights, employer rights and responsibilities following an OSHA inspection, construction industry digest, small entity compliance guide for respiratory protection standard and laboratory safety guidance.  These new resources are part of a broad range of worker health and safety guides, standards and related materials published by OSHA covering a broad range of industries.

The emphasis on these industries is based in part on the high injury incidence in these businesses.  OSHA statistics show that of 4,070 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2010, one-fifth (751 or 18.5%) were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were: falls, electrocution, struck by object, and caught–in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for nearly three out of five (57%) construction worker deaths in 2010:

  • Falls – 260 out of 751 total deaths in construction in CY 2010 (35%)
  • Electrocutions – 76 (10%)
  • Struck by Object – 63 (8%)
  • Caught-in/between – 32 (4%)

Employers of workers involved in construction, general and maritime industries also frequently are found to have committed violations that fall within the Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in FY2010:

  • Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  • Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  • Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  • Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
  • Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
  • Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
  • Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305)
  • Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
  • Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303)
  • Machines, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212)

Construction industry and other employers should review safety practices and compliance for compliance with these and all other standards and to address other potential safety risks to minimize OSHA and other occupational injury related liabilities.   and ensure their documentation of these efforts meets OSHA requirements and also positions the employer to defend against potential sanctions in the event of an employee injury or OSHA audit.

Because of the heavy use of subcontractors in these industries, employers also should be aware of potential exposures that can result from other businesses and workers on site.

In addition, employers should take care to ensure that all required documentation of safety practices and notifications dictated by OSHA are maintained and properly preserved.  

In the event of an accident or other safety hazard event, employers also should engage counsel and other needed experts to timely investigate, provide notification and redress and manage resulting exposures under OSHA, worker’s compensation and other laws.

For Help With These Or Other Matters

If you would like help reviewing or defending your organization’s occupational health and safety or other employment or risk management concerns or wish to discuss arranging for Ms. Stamer to conduct training or speak for your organization, please contact Ms Stamer here

Immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee and past Vic e-Chair of its Worker’s Compensation Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on health and other employee benefit and related workforce, insurance and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with employment, health and safety, employee benefits, compensation and other internal controls and workforce matters. She has 24 plus years experience helping employer and other clients develop and operate legally defensible programs, practices and policies that promote the client’s human resources, employee benefits and  other management goals.  Ms. Stamer also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these and other human resources matters who is active in many other employee benefits, human resources and other management focused organizations. 

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 important information concerning this communication click here.

About Solutions Law Press

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


OSHA Updates Safety Resources To Prevent Construction, Other “Top 10” Exposures

December 5, 2011

OSHA Updated Worker Safety Cards Available As Safety Enforcement Continues

While continuing to keep the heat up on enforcement, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) recently released new and updated educational brochures and a series of new QuickCards it intends to promote worker safety.

Construction, Other Safety Education & Resources Updated

Focusing on worker safety in the construction, general and maritime industries, the recently released brochure topics available here include workers’ rights, employer rights and responsibilities following an OSHA inspection, construction industry digest, small entity compliance guide for respiratory protection standard and laboratory safety guidance.  These new resources are part of a broad range of worker health and safety guides, standards and related materials published by OSHA covering a broad range of industries.

The emphasis on these industries is based in part on the high injury incidence in these businesses.  OSHA statistics show that of 4,070 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2010, one-fifth (751 or 18.5%) were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were: falls, electrocution, struck by object, and caught–in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for nearly three out of five (57%) construction worker deaths in 2010:

  • Falls – 260 out of 751 total deaths in construction in CY 2010 (35%)
  • Electrocutions – 76 (10%)
  • Struck by Object – 63 (8%)
  • Caught-in/between – 32 (4%)

Employers of workers involved in construction, general and maritime industries also frequently are found to have committed violations that fall within the Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in FY2010:

  • Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  • Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  • Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  • Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
  • Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
  • Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
  • Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305)
  • Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
  • Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303)
  • Machines, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212)

Construction industry and other employers should review safety practices and compliance for compliance with these and all other standards and to address other potential safety risks to minimize OSHA and other occupational injury related liabilities.   and ensure their documentation of these efforts meets OSHA requirements and also positions the employer to defend against potential sanctions in the event of an employee injury or OSHA audit.

Because of the heavy use of subcontractors in these industries, employers also should be cognizant of potential exposures that can result from other businesses and workers on site.

In addition, employers should take care to ensure that all required documentation of safety practices and notifications dictated by OSHA are maintained and properly preserved.  

In the event of an accident or other safety hazard event, employers also should engage counsel and other needed experts to timely investigate, provide notification and redress and manage resulting exposures under OSHA, worker’s compensation and other laws.

For Help With These Or Other Matters

If you would like help reviewing or defending your organization’s occupational health and safety or other employment or risk management concerns or wish to discuss arranging for Ms. Stamer to conduct training or speak for your organization, please contact Ms Stamer here

Immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee and past Vic e-Chair of its Worker’s Compensation Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on health and other employee benefit and related workforce, insurance and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with employment, health and safety, employee benefits, compensation and other internal controls and workforce matters. She has 24 plus years experience helping employer and other clients develop and operate legally defensible programs, practices and policies that promote the client’s human resources, employee benefits and  other management goals.  Ms. Stamer also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these and other human resources matters who is active in many other employee benefits, human resources and other management focused organizations. 

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 important information concerning this communication click here.

About Solutions Law Press

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


Labor Department To Expand Employee Benefits, Wage & Hour, OSHA & Other Reporting & Disclosure Requirements & To Implement Other New Employee Benefit Regulations

December 8, 2009

 By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

The U.S. Department of Labor (Labor Department) plans to implement a host of new employee benefit and employment regulations seeking to strengthen employee benefit, wage and hour, safety and other protections with greater transparency and disclosure, the Labor Department announced yesterday.

Employee Benefits, Wage & Hour, OSHA & Other Rules Seek To Protect Workers With Transparency

Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) plans to implement a host of new rules designed to strengthen retirement security by expanding the private employee benefit plan disclosure requirements and enhancing the availability of information to pension plan participants and beneficiaries and employers, according to the Department of Labor (DOL) 2009 Regulatory Agenda (the “Regulatory Agenda”) announced yesterday.

According to the Regulatory Agenda, EBSA plans to promote these goals through the implementation of a host of new rules including: 

  • Fiduciary Requirements for Disclosure in Participant-Directed Individual Account Plans, which would increase transparency between individual account pension plans and their participants and beneficiaries by ensuring that participants and beneficiaries are provided the information they need, including information about fees and expenses, to make informed investment decisions.
  • Amendment of Standards Applicable to General Statutory Exemption for Services, which would require service providers to disclose to plan fiduciaries services, fees, compensation and conflicts of interest information.
  • Annual Funding Notice for Defined Benefit Plans, which would require defined benefit plan administrators to provide all participants, beneficiaries and other parties with detailed information regarding their plan’s funding status.
  • Periodic Pension Benefits Statements, which would require pension plans to provide participants and certain beneficiaries with periodic benefit statements. 
  • Multiemployer Plan Information Made Available on Request, which would require pension plan administrators to provide copies of financial and actuarial reports to participants and beneficiaries, unions and contributing employers on request.

The 2009 Regulatory Agenda highlights the most noteworthy and significant regulatory projects that the Labor Department has established for the EBSA, the Employment Standards Administration (ESA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Employment and Training Administration (ETA) for the upcoming year.  In addition to the transparency rules planned for EBSA, the 2009 Regulatory Agenda also indicates that employers can expect new Labor Department regulations targeting transparency in other areas.  These include:

  • The MSHA to propose a rule on Notification of Legal Identity, which would require mine operators to provide increased identification information, would allow the agency to better target the most egregious and persistent violators and deter future violations.
  • The Office of Labor-Management Standards’ to propose regulations on Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws, which would implement Executive Order 13496 and require all Government contracting agencies to include a contract clause requiring contractors to inform workers of their rights under Federal labor laws.
  • The Wage and Hour Division to update its regulations about Records to be Kept by Employers Under the Fair Labor Standards Act to enhance the transparency and disclosure to workers as to how their wages are computed and to allow for new workplace practices such as telework and flexiplace arrangements.
  • OSHA to modify its Hazard Communication Standard to require standardized labeling requirements and order of information for safety data sheets and to update its Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements rule, which would propose the collection of additional data to help employers and workers track injuries at individual workplaces, improve the Nation’s occupational injury and illness information data, and assist the agency in its enforcement of the safety and health workplace requirements.

Other Employee Benefit Regulations Planned

Beyond its planned EBSA transparency initiative, the 2009 Regulatory Agenda reflects that other EBSA regulatory priorities for the year ahead include:

  • Issue guidance implementing the group health plan Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) amendments to ERISA which generally prohibit group health plans from discriminating in health coverage based on genetic information and from collecting genetic information.  This will be a joint rulemaking action with the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury. 
  • Provide guidance regarding the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) amendments to ERISA.  MHPAEA creates parity for mental health and substance use disorder benefits under group health plans by mandating that any financial requirements and treatment limitations applicable to mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits to be no more restrictive than predominant requirements or limitations applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by a plan. 
  • Issue guidance clarifying the circumstances under which health care arrangements established or maintained by state or local governments for the benefit of non-governmental employees do not constitute an employee welfare benefit plan for purposes of ERISA.
  • Propose amendments to its regulations to clarify the circumstances under which a person will be considered a fiduciary when providing investment advice to employee benefit plans and their participants and beneficiaries of such plans.
  • Explore steps it can take by regulation, or otherwise, to encourage the offering of lifetime annuities or similar lifetime benefits distribution options for participants and beneficiaries of defined contribution plans. 

Employers and employee benefit plan sponsors, fiduciaries, and service providers should take into account these planned regulatory changes for budgeting and program design purposes and keep alert for announcements of proposed or final regulations or other guidance in these and other areas.

If your organization needs assistance with monitoring, assessing, managing or defending these or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and a nationally recognized author and speaker, Ms. Stamer is experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, risk management  and internal controls matters. Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment laws, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. She has counseled and represented employers on these and other workforce matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Examples of other recent updates you may have missed include:

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 here.

 ©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


DOL Shares 2010 Regulatory Plans Monday, December 7; Get A Sneak Peek on Its Plans

December 5, 2009

Get a peek at the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) regulatory plans for 2010 on Monday, December 10, 2009.

On Monday, Dec. 7, the DOL will release its annual regulatory agenda for the upcoming year.  The same day, it also will video cast remarks by Secretary Hilda L. Solis outlining the department’s regulatory agenda beginning at 10 a.m. EST.  From 2 to 3 p.m. EST Ssecretary Solis alsowill host a live Web chat open to the public to discuss the contents of the agenda. Questions may be submitted in advance of the chat following the video presentation. Register to join the chat on Monday here.

If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and a nationally recognized author and speaker, Ms. Stamer is experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, risk management  and internal controls matters. Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment laws, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. She has counseled and represented employers on these and other workforce matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Examples of other recent updates you may have missed include:

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 here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Preventive HR Strategies to Minimize Post Holiday Celebration Legal Hangovers

November 30, 2009

As the 2009 Holiday Season moves into full swing, your company may want to take some common sense precautions to minimize the risk of waking up with a post-Holiday Season business liability hangover. The music, food, game playing, toasting with alcohol and other aspects of the celebratory atmosphere at holiday parties and in the workplace during the Holiday Season heighten the risk that certain employees or other business associates will engage in, or be subject to, risky or other inappropriate behavior that can create liability exposures or other business concerns for your business.

Discrimination & Sexual Harassment

Whether company-sponsored or not, holiday parties and other celebrations where employees celebrate with other employees or clients tend to fuel bad behavior by inviting fraternization, lowering inhibitions and obscuring the line between appropriate and inappropriate social and business behavior.

The relaxation of the environment heightens the risk that certain employees or clients will make unwelcome sexual advances, make sexually suggestive or other inappropriate statements, or engage in other actions that expose the business to sexual harassment or other employment discrimination liability. To minimize these exposures, businesses should take steps to communicate and reinforce company policies and expectations about sexual harassment, discrimination, fraternization and other conduct viewed as inappropriate by the company.  The company should caution employees that the company continues to expect employees and business partners to adhere to company rules against sexual harassment and other inappropriate discrimination at company sponsored and other gatherings involving other employees or business associates.  To enhance the effectiveness of these reminders, a company should consider providing specific guidance about specific holiday-associated activities that create heightened risks.  For instance, a business that anticipates its employees will participate in white elephant or other gift exchanges involving other employees or business associates may wish to specifically include a reminder to exercise care to avoid selecting a gift that may be sexually suggestive or otherwise offensive.  Businesses also may want to remind employees that the company does not expect or require that employees submit to unwelcome sexual or other inappropriate harassment when participating in parties or other social engagements with customers or other business partners. 

Businesses also should use care to manage other discrimination exposures in the planning of holiday festivities, gift exchanges, and other activities.  Exercise care to ensure that business connected holiday parties, communications, gifts and other December festivities reflect appropriate sensitivity to religious diversity.  Businesses also should be vigilant in watching for signs of inappropriate patterns of discrimination in the selection of employees invited to participate in company-connected social events as well as off-duty holiday gatherings sponsored by managers and supervisors.

Alcohol Consumption

The prevalence of alcohol consumption during the Holiday Season also can create a range of business concerns.  Most businesses recognize that accidents caused by alcohol intoxication at work or work-related functions create substantial liability exposures both to workers and any third parties injured by a drunken employee.  Businesses also may face “dram shop” claims from family members or other guests attending company sponsored functions injured or injure others after being allowed to over-imbibe.  To minimize these risks at company-sponsored events, many companies elect not to serve or limit the alcohol served to guests at company sponsored events.  To support the effectiveness of these efforts, many businesses also choose to prohibit or restrict the consumption of guest provided alcohol at company events.

Businesses concerned with these liability exposures should take steps to manage the potential risks that commonly arise when employees or clients consume alcohol at company sponsored events or while attending other business associated festivities. Businesses that elect to serve alcohol at company functions or anticipate that employees will attend other business functions where alcohol will be served need to consider the potential liability risks that may result if the alcohol impaired judgment of an employee or other guest causes him to injure himself or someone else.  Any company that expects that an employee might consume alcohol at a company sponsored or other business associated event should communicate clearly its expectation that employees not over-imbibe and abstain from driving under the influence.  Many businesses also find it beneficial to redistribute information about employee assistance programs (EAPs) along with this information.  You can find other tips for planning workplace parties to minimize alcohol related risks on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website here.

When addressing business related alcohol consumption, many businesses will want to consider not only alcohol consumption at business related events as well as potential costs that may arise from off-duty excess alcohol consumption. Whether resulting from on or off duty consumption, businesses are likely to incur significant health and disability related benefit costs if an employee is injured in an alcohol-related accident.  Furthermore, even when no injury results, productivity losses attributable to excess alcohol consumption, whether on or off duty, can prove expensive to business.  Accordingly, virtually all businesses can benefit from encouraging employees to be responsible when consuming alcohol in both business and non-business functions.

Businesses also may want to review their existing health and other benefit programs, liability insurance coverage and employment policies to determine to ensure that they adequately protect and promote the company’s risk management objectives.  Many health and disability plans incorporate special provisions affecting injuries arising from inappropriate alcohol use as well as mental health and alcohol and drug treatment programs.  Similarly, many businesses increasingly qualify for special discounts on automobile and general liability policies based upon representations that the business has in effect certain alcohol and drug use policies.  Businesses can experience unfortunate surprises if they don’t anticipate the implications of these provisions on their health benefit programs or liability insurance coverage. Reviewing these policies now to become familiar with any of these requirements and conditions also can be invaluable in helping a business to respond effectively if an employee or guest is injured in an alcohol-related accident during the Holiday Season.

Concerned employers may want to listen in on the “Plan Safe Office Parties this Holiday Season” seminar that the National Safety  Council plans to host on December 9, 2009 from 10:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m. Central Time. For more information or to register call (800) 621-7619 or see here.

Gift Giving & Gratuities

The exchange of gifts during the Holiday Season also can raise various concerns. As a starting point, businesses generally need to confirm that any applicable tax implications arising from the giving or receiving of gifts are appropriately characterized and reported in accordance with applicable tax and other laws.  Government contractors, health industry organizations, government officials and other entities also frequently may be required to comply with specific statutory, regulatory, contractual or ethical requirements affecting the giving or receiving of gifts or other preferences.  In addition to these externally imposed legal mandates, many businesses also voluntarily have established conflict of interest, gift giving or other policies to minimize the risk that employee loyalty or judgment will be comprised by gifts offered or received from business partners or other outsiders.   Businesses concerned about these and other issues may want to review the adequacy of current business policies affecting gifting and adopt and communicate any necessary refinements to these policies.  To promote compliance, businesses also should consider communicating reminders about these policies to employees and business associates during the Holiday Season. Even a simple e-mail reminder to employees that the company expects them to be familiar with and comply with these policies can help promote compliance and provide helpful evidence in the event that an employee engages in an unauthorized violation of these rules.

Performance, Attendance & Time Off

Businesses also commonly face a range of attendance and productivity concerns during December.  The winter cold and flu season and other post-celebration illnesses, vacations, and winter weather inevitably combine to fuel a rise in absenteeism in December. Managing staffing needs around the legitimate requests for excused time off by employees presents real challenges for many businesses.  Further complications can arise when dealing with employees suspected of mischaracterizing the reason for their absence or otherwise gaming the company’s time off policies.  Meanwhile, performance and productivity concerns also become more prevalent as workers allow holiday shopping, personal holiday preparations, and other personal distractions to distract their performance.  Businesses concerned with these challenges ideally will have in place well-designed policies concerning attendance, time off and productivity that comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act and other laws. Businesses should exercise care when addressing productivity and attendance concerns to investigate and document adequately their investigation before imposing discipline. Businesses also should ensure that their policies are appropriately and even-handedly administered.  They also should exercise care to follow company policies, to maintain time records for non-exempt workers, to avoid inappropriately docking exempt worker pay, and to provide all required notifications and other legally mandated rights to employees taking medical, military or other legally protected leaves. In the event it becomes necessary to terminate an employee during December, careful documentation can help the business to defend this decision.  Furthermore, businesses should be careful to ensure that all required COBRA notifications, certificates of creditable coverage, pension and profit-sharing notice and distribution forms, and other required employment and employee benefit processes are timely fulfilled.

Timely Investigation & Notification

Businesses faced with allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment or other misconduct also should act promptly to investigate any concerns and if necessary, take appropriate corrective action.  Delay in investigation or redress of discrimination or other improprieties can increase the liability exposure of a business presented with a valid complaint and complicate the ability to defend charges that may arise against the business.  Additionally, delay also increases the likelihood that a complaining party will seek the assistance of governmental officials, plaintiff’s lawyers or others outside the corporation in the redress of his concern.

If a report of an accident, act of discrimination or sexual harassment or other liability related event arises, remember to consider as part of your response whether you need to report the event to any insurers or agencies.  Injuries occurring at company related functions often qualify as occupational injuries subject to worker’s compensation and occupational safety laws.  Likewise, automobile, employment practices liability, and general liability policies often require covered parties to notify the carrier promptly upon receipt of notice of an event or claim that may give rise to coverage, even though the carrier at that time may not be obligated to tender a defense or coverage at that time.

If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending these or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and a nationally recognized author and speaker, Ms. Stamer is experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, risk management  and internal controls matters. Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment laws, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. She has counseled and represented employers on these and other workforce matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Examples of other recent updates you may have missed include:

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 here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Democrats Introduce Health Care Reform Legislation, Work To Fast Track Enactment

June 11, 2009

Coalition For Responsible Health Care Reform Founded To Help Concerned Americans Respond

Americans concerned about plans of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to enact comprehensive health care reform this year must speak up now.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday (June 9, 2009) circulated a 625 page proposal to radically reform the U.S. health care system.  The latest draft of the “Affordable Health Choices Act” (the “Act”) details the comprehensive health care reforms that President Obama and Democrats in Congress propose to enact before year end. 

President Obama and key Congressional Democrats are moving quickly to enact their vision for “comprehensive health reform” this year.   The Act circulated yesterday by Senator Kennedy would radically change the U.S. health care system in enacted as currently proposed. 

Consistent with announced plans by President Obama and key Congressional Democrats to enact “comprehensive health care reform” this year, Democratic leaders in Congress are rushing to enact this legislation well before year end.  In furtherance of plans to fast track enactment of the Act, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) chaired by Senator Kennedy will hold a hearing on the Act this week in anticipation of meetings to mark up of the Act on Tuesday, June 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Russell 325. 

The Act, as proposed, would make sweeping changes to the U.S. health care system and radically expand the involvement of government in the delivery and financing of health care.  Among other things, the Act as proposed would:

  • Establish government provided “Gateway” health care coverage programs to provide coverage for Americans not insured under qualifying employer or other privately run “qualified health plan” to be financed in part through surcharges on private health plans and health insurers and other taxes and assessments and in part through premiums on enrolled individuals
  • Require that Americans participating in the Gateway health care coverage programs be offered the opportunity to enroll in at least one “public health insurance option”  
  • Require Americans to chose either to enroll in a government run Gateway health program or enroll in qualifying coverage under a privately run qualified health plan
  • Impose sweeping new mandates on employer and union-sponsored group health plans and insurers
  • Impose newly created taxes on individuals that fail to maintain enrollment in health coverage under either a Gateway health program or a private qualified health plan
  • Tax and/or eliminate the deductibility of health coverage premiums and certain other amounts paid by certain employers and employees
  • Impose new federal mandates for health care providers, health plans and health insurers relating to the quality standards, the use of health care technology and other matters
  • Grant federal regulators sweeping authority to define what qualifies as appropriate health care and health care coverage, the health care services that qualify for health care coverage and the payment and delivery of health care services.

You can review a copy of currently proposed provisions of the 615 page Act here

Individuals concerned about these and other proposed health care reforms must act immediately to become familiar and share their input on the proposals.

Assistance Monitoring & Responding To Health Care Reform Proposals

If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about health care reform proposals and other related legislative, regulatory, and enforcement developments, please:

  • Register for this resource at the link above;
  • Join the Coalition for Responsible Health Policy group at linkedin.com to share information and input;
  • Share your input by communicating with key members of Congress on committees responsible for this legislation and your elected officials directly and by actively participating in and contributing to other like-minded groups; and
  • Be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here

You can register to receive future updates on legislative and regulatory health care reform proposals and other related information by registering for this resource or access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources here.

Long-time health policy advocate and advisor Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has more than 22 years of experience advising and assisting clients to evaluate and respond to health care reform proposals and other proposed or adopted changes in federal or state health care, employee benefit, employment, tax and other federal and state laws.  Former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Managed Care & Insurance Section, Ms. Stamer is highly regarded legal advisor, policy advocate, author and speaker recognized both nationally and internationally for her more than 20 years of work assisting U.S. public and private employers, health care providers, health insurers, and a broad range of other clients to respond to these and other health care, employee benefit and workforce public policy, regulatory and compliance and risk management concerns within the U.S. as well as internationally.  Her work includes extensive involvement providing input and assistance about health care, workforce, pensions and social security and other reforms domestically and internationally.  In addition to her continuous involvement in U.S. health care, pensions and savings, and workforce policy matters, Ms. Stamer has served as an advisor on these matters internationally.  As part of this work, she served as a lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its social security reform as well as has provided input on ethics, medical tourism, workforce and other reforms internationally.

Ms. Stamer is a widely published author and popular speaker on health plan and other human resources, employee benefits and internal controls issues.   Her work has been featured and published by the American Bar Association, BNA, SHRM, World At Work, Employee Benefit News and the American Health Lawyers Association.  Her insights on human resources risk management matters have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, Managed Care Executive, HealthLeaders, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News and the Dallas Morning News.

Ms. Stamer also serves in a number of professional leadership roles including the leadership council of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Vice Chair of the ABA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section and Employee Benefits & Compensation Group.

If your organization needs assistance with monitoring, assessing, or responding to these or other health care, employee benefit or human resources reforms,  please contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here, or by calling (214) 270-2402.  For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here

Additional Resources & Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here.  

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.