New Training Video – Crash Course on Workplace Sexual Harassment

I just uploaded a new 15-minute crash course training video on Workplace Sexual Harassment. This training session will teach you the legal definition of sexual harassment, help you identify when it is happening at work, and give you the tools to help stop and prevent it.

This is a condensed version of an in-person training session that can be customized for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. If you are interested in receiving this training (tailored to your organization’s policies), or if you need help reviewing and/or creating sexual harassment prevention and reporting policies, please contact me about possible consultations.

New Birth Control Mandate Rules Open Door to Corporate Morality Rights

Today the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued two new final rules related to the the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.

The ACA requires that birth control be 100% covered as a preventive service under every employer-offered health insurance plan. However, a recent Supreme Court case (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) allowed closely-held companies (ex. family-run businesses) and non-profits to opt out of that mandate if they had religious objections to contraception. The first of the two new regulations simply promulgates that high court decision.

Opening the Floodgates

The second rule is rather interesting because it potentially opens the court door to an argument that publicly-traded, large corporations have moral beliefs. In this second rule, the DHHS allows entities to object and opt out of the mandate on the “basis of moral conviction which it not based in any particular religious belief. ” (DHHS news release 10-6-17)

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The FMLA and “Friends” – What Rachel Can Teach Us About Leave Transitions

You can learn a lot about human resources from binge-watching shows on Netflix (especially if you do it at work, since it’ll get you some one-on-one time with your HR department!). The Office is full of employment law violations, Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy discuss modern problems in health insurance, and 30 Rock showcases the challenges of team leadership.

During a recent marathon of the late 90’s show Friends, I came across an episode that teaches us about the managerial pitfalls of parental leave benefits.

“Friends” screenshot from Netflix, 2017

In the real world, paid parental leave is one of the fastest-rising employee benefits. Organizations are fighting harder than ever to recruit and retain good employees who are growing families. For the rest of the working world, at least in the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act remains a strong, but complicated policy mandating a form of unpaid parental leave (see my crash course video on the FMLA).

While the law may appear simple, management must jump through many hoops in order to provide a fair and effective process (if they want to avoid litigation and prevent huge morale losses, that is). Policies must be established and relationships must be strengthened, in order to ensure a peaceful transition and continued productivity when the employee on leave returns to work. Friends teaches us the consequences when the process isn’t done correctly.

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A Concern about the Proposed American Health Care Act (Editorial)

Earlier this week in a rally in Nashville, President Trump reiterated a plea he has made throughout his push for the new health care law: “Insurers are fleeing, and nobody will have insurance.” I am concerned that this stance is dangerously overstated as a good reason to dismantle our current health insurance system.

The “fleeing” refers only to some insurance companies no longer offering specialized insurance plans on the state-run Exchanges (the ones that come with subsidies for lower-income folks). If a person earns too much to receive a tax subsidy, which is the majority of Americans, he or she can go directly to an insurance carrier and buy a plan during open enrollment. Outside of the Exchanges, there are many plan and carrier options everywhere.

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What’s Happening to the Affordable Care Act?

Confusion. Frustration. Fear. We’re all feeling something towards the uncertainty surrounding health insurance right now. Let me try to relieve some of it by explaining what has happened and how we should respond.


WHAT WE KNOW

With the Affordable Care Act currently in a state of flux, we must ground ourselves with facts. Here’s what we know for sure right now:

  1. The ACA is a law passed by Congress. Only Congress has the power to change a law.
  1. There were many regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) over the past five years to support portions of the ACA law (ex. specifying the Essential Health Benefits that all plans must cover). These rules can change, but only through a fairly long and formal rulemaking process.
  1. A small army of legal organizations are ready to file lawsuits to stop any action by the President, Congress, or any other official that oversteps their legal authority. Government officials and health insurers cannot ignore current, active law.
  1. President Trump issued an executive order last weekend (Jan 21st) ordering all federal agencies to “take all actions consistent with law to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the [Affordable Care] Act.” While there is little actual functional value to the executive order (see #1 and #2 above), it reinforces the President’s stance against the ACA and asks Executive Branch employees to work towards limited the law’s effect. It doesn’t actually do anything on its own. At most, the IRS director could use it as reason to not levy the tax penalty on uninsured individuals.

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NLRB: NLRA Covers Graduate Assistants at Private Universities

In a HUGE change of labor law jurisprudence, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced its ruling today in Columbia University that graduate students at private colleges and universities are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This means that graduate students working at their attending college as a teaching or research assistant are considered employees of that institution under the NLRA, and thus can form a union and have collective bargaining rights.

columbia uThis decision is a change from the previous rule on this issue the Board set forth in Brown University in 2004 (342 NLRB 483). In Brown, the Board ruled that graduate assistants were primarily students, and thus not engaged in an “economic relationship” with their institutions. In Columbia University, the NLRB looked at the “contemporary academic reality” of the role graduate assistants play at colleges and universities, and decided that they were in fact employees, and thus covered by the law.

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Normal Speak: the New Overtime Rules

****EDIT: The new overtime regulations were placed on hold by a federal court. It is likely that these rules will not enter effect as they are currently written.**** 

INSTANT VERSION: Starting December 1, 2016, many white collar workers earning a salary between $23,660 to $47,476 will become eligible for overtime pay.

To clarify – as a matter of law, teachers, lawyers, and doctors are still excluded from overtime regulations, regardless of salary
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Today the Department of Labor announced new rules affecting overtime pay.

First, to get a sense of what this is all about, I highly recommend checking out a great video from the DoL. It provides a quick primer on the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirement and explains the reason for these new rules. Go watch it, and then come back and read the rest of this article. It’s okay, I’ll wait!

Welcome back! Let’s talk about the final rules and what they mean.

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Crash Course Training Video #1: Family & Medical Leave Act

My first video in a series of crash-course trainings has been uploaded. This session is all about the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and is geared towards new HR professionals or anyone who needs a refresher on the law.

This is great timing, as the Department of Labor recently updated its advisory guide and posters to help employers and employees better understand the rules and requirements under the FMLA.