Category Archives: regulations

Home Health Care Rule and FLSA

Starting January 1, 2015 home care aides are not exempt from Wage and Overtime laws.  The Department of Labor released a press release discussing this wage and hour change as well as unveiling a new web portal with interactive tools.  The web portal for Home Care can be accessed here.

In the DOL’s press release, DOL stated,

This change will result in nearly two million direct care workers – such as home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants – receiving the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers.

The DOL also explained that this wage and hour new rule did not apply to companionship workers.  The DOL stated,

The final rule also clarifies that direct care workers who perform medically-related services for which training is typically a prerequisite are not companionship workers and therefore are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime.

And, in accordance with Congress’ initial intent, individual workers who are employed only by the person receiving services or that person’s family or household and engaged primarily in fellowship and protection (providing company, visiting or engaging in hobbies) and care incidental to those activities, will still be considered exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime protections.

The final rule can be accessed here.

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Is a Fourth Branch in the horizon?

The Washington Post has a very interesting article, which highlights the increased deferment of cases to government agencies.  Instead of going through the court system, many cases are increasingly going through administrative agencies instead.

The question posed here is whether the right for court accessibility being challenged?  The Washington Post raises its concerns:

The growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more fundamental changes within the federal government itself: It is just not bigger, it is dangerously off kilter.  Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency.

The Washington Post reports that the vast majority of laws governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations.  A study found that in 2007, Congress enacted 138 public laws, while federal agencies finalized 2,926 rules, including 61 major regulations.

The Washington Post also reports that a citizen is 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency instead of an actual court.  While federal judges conduct roughly 95,000 adjudicatory proceedings (including trials), federal agencies complete more than 939,000.

However, there are several items the Washington Post fails to mention.  The increasingly use of administrative agencies does not only fall upon the agency.

Take for example the individual’s decision to file a charge/claim.  Going through administrative agencies is more cost-effective.  Lawsuits in court have become more expensive.  Technology, electronic evidence, growth in documents and companies, among others, lead to a higher volume of issues and motions that increase the cost of litigation.  Given both alternatives, it makes sense that an individual might choose to go through an administrative agency.

For example, an individual going through the EEOC for a discrimination charge does not have to pay anything.  While an individual going through the court system may have to pay attorney fees and might be responsible for attorney fees.

 

 

Saying that, however, the issue of transparency and timing is highly concerning.  Administrative decisions are not public.  In addition, the length of an administrative decision might take several years.

via The rise of the fourth branch of government – The Washington Post.

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VA modifies Mental Health benefits

Courthouse News has this update on VA benefits regulations:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has modified eligibility rules so veterans with mental illness may receive treatment while waiting for confirmation of their service, according to a revised regulation.

The VA has revised its rules to allow for tentative eligibility approvals for VA health care for those who served in the military after Sept. 7, 1980. Applicants must still meet the minimum service requirement under federal code and tentative approvals are contingent on whether they have filed for VA health care within six months after their discharge under conditions “other than dishonorable,” the agency said in its action.

Effective June 13, veterans may receive medical treatment before their psychosis or “mental illness other than psychosis” has been confirmed to be service-connected, the rule says.

The VA said the rule change makes sense considering most veterans are able to connect their medical condition to military service, and early treatment could improve their chances of a positive outcome.

“The immediate medical treatment will, in turn, enable the veteran to manage his or her medical condition more effectively,” the agency said in its action.

The agency also removed the six-month minimum service time to be eligible for the mental health benefits. The minimum was originally set by a Congress concerned about some service members who would enlist with the sole intention of obtaining eligibility for veterans’ benefits, but then would bring about their own early discharge, the agency explained in its action.

The agency said that the rule has been changed “in consideration of the fact that very few, if any, veterans will be seeking tentative eligibility determinations within six months of discharge for a period of service that began over 32 years ago. The amount of time that a veteran, who entered active duty after Sept. 7, 1980, must serve on active duty to be eligible for VA benefits is governed by another U.S. code.

In addition, mental health care has been extended to “non-enrolled” veterans, or veterans who receive their care from private hospitals instead of the VA, and copayment obligations have been removed.

via Courthouse News Service.

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Federal Agents Indicted in Immigration Scams

Seeking immigration or legal advice sometimes comes with the risk that the person you are talking to is committing fraud.

The most public cases of these frauds are known as “Notario Fraud” or “Immigration Consultants Fraud.”  Notarios or immigration consultants use false advertising and fraudulent contracts.  They hold themselves as qualified to help immigrants to obtain lawful status or perform other legal functions.  (You can read more about Fight Notario Fraud at the ABA).

Now, federal agents were indicted in an immigration fraud scheme led by a L.A. attorney.  The indictment alleges two conspiracies against the US involving bribery and fraud, seven counts of bribery, as well as making false statements and misuse of government seals.

The U.S. Attorney stated in a statement,

The conspiracy was allegedly orchestrated by a Los Angeles attorney who paid bribes as high as $10,000 to officials with several agencies in the Department of Homeland Security to help secure immigration benefits for aliens he was representing.

The indictment claims alleged that Kwan Man “John” Lee bribed public officials to get immigration benefits for clients who paid him, at times, more than $50,000.  Lee was charged in a previous criminal complaint and is not a defendant in the indictment.

via Courthouse News Service.

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EEOC’s First GINA Suit Settlement

The first settlement between the EEOC and an employer over GINA is important because it brings attention to this relatively new law.  EEOC charges alleging GINA violations have increased each year.  Consequently, it is important for employers to ensure their policies and procedures are compliant with GINA procedures.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) went into effect in 2009.  Some of GINA’s regulations are as follows.

  • It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants based on their genetic information.
  • Employers cannot request or obtain genetic information, which includes any information about an employee or an applicant’s family history.
  • GINA also applies to third parties.  So, employers cannot request or obtain family medical history, even through a third-party medical provider or examiner.
  • There are exceptions for voluntary health risk assessments.  However, if the employee is receiving an incentive for completion of the Health Risk Assessment, the employer must make clear that an employee need not answer any of the questions about family medical history in order to obtain the incentive.

On May 7, 2013, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) reached a milestone of sorts as it filed – and then settled – its first complaint ever alleging genetic discrimination under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”).

The EEOC filed suit in Oklahoma federal court against Fabricut Inc., one of the world’s largest distributors of decorative fabrics, alleging that Fabricut violated GINA and the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by unlawfully asking a job applicant for her family medical history in a pre-employment, post-job offer medical examination, and allegedly rescinding her job offer based on the belief that she had carpal tunnel syndrome.

The EEOC and Fabricut reached a settlement, which is the first settlement in a GINA case.  In the consent decree, Fabricut agreed to pay $50,000 but did not admit to violating GINA or the ADA.

via EEOC’s First GINA Suit Serves As Reminder of Pre-Employment Exam Pitfall | Proskauer Rose LLP – JDSupra.

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Generic and Branded Drugs

This is an interesting case that the Supreme Court will hear today.  Does a branded drug maker, faced with a potential competitor who makes generic drugs, act illegally if it pays money to the competitor in a deal that postpones the sale of the generic drug for a period of years?

The FTC says it is unlawful, while the generic and branded drug makers disagree.

So why does this matter?  Everyone knows that generic drugs are cheaper than branded drugs.  As the NY Times reported, “73 percent of consumer spending” is spent on branded drugs.  When a generic drug, which costs about 15% of the branded drug cost, enters the market, branded drug makers lose about 90% of their profits.

In FTC v. Actavis, Inc., the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held companies holding the patent to the branded drug could make those payments to the generic drug maker.  In this case, the generic drug maker challenged the patent of the branded drug maker in court.  Both drug makers came to a settlement, whereby the generic would get some payment as long as the branded drug maker could continue to sell its branded drug exclusively for a time period.

In sum, the 11th Circuit reasoned, “absent sham litigation or fraud” when the anticompetitive effects of a patent fell within that scope, there is no antitrust claim. Further, since there was a settlement, the 11th Circuit stated that it would be hard to predict what the effect would have been.  And since the settlement was with one generic drug maker, this did not impact other generic drug makers from selling the generic version of the drug.

Now, the Supreme Court has to decide on this issue.

via Generic-Brand Name Drug Case Goes to Supreme Court – NYTimes.com.

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Misclassification of workers and the DOL’s take on it

Labor Employment Perspectives reports on a possible change that the Department of Labor (“DOL”) regarding classification of workers.

DOL suggests that it may push forward changes to the record keeping requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) regulations.  These changes will bring to the forefront issues relating to the misclassification of workers as independent workers when they are, in fact, employees.

On January 11, 2013, the DOL requested comments on a public survey designed to look at worker classification and determine the workers’ knowledge and understanding of employment laws and rules regarding basic laws and misclassification.

The DOL states,

The purpose of this study is to design and administer a new survey to collect information about employment experiences and workers’ knowledge of basic employment laws and rules so as to better understand employees’ experience with worker misclassification…..

The data collection effort with this group will gather information about workers’ employment and pay arrangements and will measure workers’ knowledge about their current job classification, and their knowledge about the rights and benefits associated with their job status.

As a backdrop, in 2010, DOL commissioned a study, which found that 10% to 30% of audited firms for state unemployment insurance had one or more of its employees misclassified as independent contractors.  In the fall of 2010, the DOL proposed a change to the regulations regarding record keeping designed to “enhance the transparency and disclosure to workers of their status as the employer’s employee or some other status, such as an independent contractor…”

In other words, the regulations, if passed as suggested in 2010, would require employers to inform workers of whether they are (1) employees, (2) independent contractors, or (3) other status.  Currently, the law does not require this.

Given their renewed interest, as evidenced by the public survey focused on worker classification, FMLA regulations may change.

 

via Right-to-Know Regulations May Move Back to the Forefront; Time to Check If You Have Misclassified Your Workers! | Labor & Employment Law Perspectives.

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FMLA and Adult Children?

On January 14, 2013, The Department of Labor issued a new interpretation that clarifies its position on the ability of employees to take leave under the FMLA to care for an adult child who has a disabling medical condition.  You can read the DOL’s guidance for adult children here.

The FMLA allows employees to take leave to care for a son or daughter with a serious health condition.  However, the scope of allowable leave narrows once an employee’s son or daughter reaches 18 years old.  At that point, a parent is entitled to take FMLA leave when all four of the following occur:

(1) the adult child has a disability as defined by the ADA;

(2) the child is incapable of self-care due to that disability;

(3) the child has a serious health condition; and

(4) the child is in need of care due to the serious health condition.

Prior to this interpretation, there was some question as to whether the adult child’s disability must have developed before the child reached 18 years of age for the parent to be eligible for FMLA leave.  The Department of Labor has now clarified that the age of onset of the disability is immaterial so long as the child at issue has a disability under the ADA.

This interpretation reflects the impact of the ADAAA’s expansion of the definition of “disability” on the FMLA and will enable more parents to take FMLA-protected leave to care for their adult sons and daughters with disabilities.

via New Department of Labor Interpretation on FMLA Leave for Adult Children | Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC – JDSupra.

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New Mortgage Loan Regulations

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued two regulations that expand the types of mortgage loans subject to federal protections and require creditors to provide loan applicants with written appraisals.  You can access the regulations here.

One of the regulations expands the types of mortgage loans subject to the protections of the Home Ownership and Equity Protections Act HOEPA, which was enacted to address abusive refinancing practices and equity loans with high interest rates or high fees.  HOEPA was amended through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to add protections for high-cost mortgages.

Among the changes, the regulation requires borrowers to receive home ownership counseling before obtaining a high-cost mortgage.

The regulation also adds exemptions for three types of loans the CFPB does not believe are as risky: loans to finance initial construction of a house, loans originated and financed by housing finance agencies, and loans from the U.S. Department of Agricultures Rural Housing Service loan program.

The CFPB also issued a rule that would require creditors to provide applicants with free copies of all appraisals and other written valuations and requiring creditors to notify applicants in writing.

The rule is consistent with an amendment to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Previously, creditors only had to provide copies of appraisals when applicants requested them.

Creditors are prohibited from charging applicants for copies of appraisals, but may charge for appraisals and other written valuations.

Both rules become effective January 18, 2014.

via Courthouse News Service.

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