Tag Archives: regulations

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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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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DOL clarifies expansion of FMLA due to ADAAA

The DOL published Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2013-1, which clarifies the expansion of FMLA.  The DOL explained that the ADA Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) expanded more than just employer liability for disability claims, but also expanded the scope of FMLA coverage for children.

The DOL clarified the following.

  • The DOL adopted the ADA’s definition of disability to define “mental or physical disability” for purposes of defining a son or daughter 18 years or older.  See 58 Fed. Reg. 31794, 31799 (June 4, 1993).  The 2008 FMLA Final Rule explicitly adopts the ADAAA’s changes to the ADA’s definition of disability;
  • The definition of a “son or daughter” is defined by the definition of a disability under the ADAAA, which “shall be construed in favor of broad coverage;”
  • The determination of whether an adult son or daughter is incapable of self-care under the FMLA focuses on whether the individual currently needs active assistance or supervision in performing three or more activities of daily living (or ADLs) including “grooming, hygiene, bathing, dressing and eating;” or instrumental activities of daily living (or IADLs) including “cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, using telephones, and using a post-office, etc.;”
  • A serious health condition is an illness, injury impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider; and
  • For a parent to take FMLA leave to care for an adult son or daughter, the parent must be “needed to care” for that son or daughter due to the serious health condition.

In the Administrative opinion, the DOL provides examples.

via Department of Labor Clarifies When an Employee May Take FMLA Leave to Care for Adult Children | Orrick – Global Employment Law Group – JDSupra.

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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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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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Updates to Medicare

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have revised the Medicare prospective payment system to update payment rates and reporting requirements for hospital outpatient departments, ambulatory surgical centers, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities for 2013, and will continue the electronic reporting pilot for the Electronic Health Record, according to a recent final rule.  You can access the regulations here.

According to the Courthouse News, this is the summary of the changes:

Many of the changes were made to bring the Medicare payment system into alignment with provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The changes affect hospitals paid under the Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) as well as Community mental health centers (CMHCs) and Ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). The agency estimates that most hospitals paid under the OPPS will see “a modest increase or a minimal decrease” in payment for services in 2013 with an expected 1.9 percent increase for all services over what was paid in 2012.

The agency estimates that some urban hospitals will experience a payment increase of 8.3 percent due to increased payments for partial hospitalization, group psychotherapy and hemodialysis services. CMHCs may see a decrease of 4.4 percent due to a decrease in estimated costs. The updates to the ASC payment system for 2013 will affect each center individually, depending on the mix of patients who are Medicare beneficiaries and the payment changes for the procedures offered by those centers, the rule said.

In addition to new payment rates, the agency decided to continue the electronic reporting pilot for the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program “exactly as finalized for 2012” and made changes for the Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), including the secure transmission of electronic medical information, and beneficiary complaint resolution and notification processes, according to the CMS.

The agency maintains that “the use of an electronic infrastructure that supports the use of EHRs by eligible hospitals and CAHs [Critical access hospitals] to meet the requirements in various CMS programs” will reduce reporting burdens simultaneously with the submission of quality data “to provide a foundation for establishing the capacity of hospitals to send, and for CMS, in the future, to receive, quality measures via hospital EHRs for the Hospital IQR [Inpatient Quality Reporting] Program’s measures.

via Courthouse News Service.

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