Thursday, July 31, 2008

West Virginia Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Every state has its own specific unemloyment benefits, and West Viginia is no exception.

Eligibility for West Virginia Unemployment Benefits
The basic requirements for collecting unemployment in West Virginia are:

First, you must have been employed. You must have worked a certain amount of time during a required window, and earned a certain mount of money.

Second, you must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of your own as defined under West Virginia law.

Third, you must file ongoing claims and respond to questions concerning your continued eligibility. You must report any earnings from work and any job offers or refusal of work during any claim period.

Finally, you must meet any other unemployment eligibility requirements of West Virginia law.

Your Unemployment Benefit Check
How much: Generally, unemployment benefits are based on an individual's earnings in the base period. The unemployment benefits in WV are also subject to Federal income taxes. WV benefits were raised to $366 in January, 2005.

How soon: You will typically receive your first check two or three weeks after you file an eligible claim.

How long: The duration of WV unemployment benefits in 2005 was several weeks. There is an exception when there is high unemployment or other special circumstances.

The unemployment rate varies from state to state. In West Virginia, the unemployment rate is approximately 4.0%.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

U.S. Secretary of Labor announces $10 million in grants to train workers in the energy industry

On July 22, 2008, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced the awarding of $10 million in grants to fund 11 projects. With the awards, the potential workers in the energy industry will be provided with skills-based job training.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration originally announced the competition on Jan. 23, 2008.

"There is a shortage of energy workers in this country. This $10 million grant competition under the President's High Growth Job Training Initiative will help workers access the training they need to get good paying jobs in the growing energy industry," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

This competition was open to public, private for-profit and private nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community groups. Applicants were required to clearly identify the nature of their organizations and describe their capacity to deliver energy and skilled trades training. Proposed strategies were to be based on existing workforce development models and promising practices in a particular region, or adapted from successful strategies already in place in another region.

Projects that won funding are located in the following 11 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Their awards range from $394,933 to $1,151,287. The awardees were chosen from among 171 candidates entering a competitive solicitation for grant applications.
“These grants awarded under the President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative will help equip workers with skills and certifications that are in demand in the energy sector,” said Secretary Chao.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Federal minimum Wage Increase Good For Workers

The federal minimum wage has increased from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour, effective July 24, 2008.

In 2007, President Bush signed into law legislation to provide for a three-step increase in the federal minimum wage: to $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and to $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

According to Boucher, a lawmaker, the increase in the minimum wage will increase $4,400 a year for workers who earn the minimum wage. “Americans who work hard and play by the rules should be able to earn enough to provide for their families,” Boucher said. “For 10 years, the minimum wage was frozen at $5.15 an hour, a wage far too low to provide for the needs of a family as gas prices, food costs and health insurance costs continue to rise. This represented the longest period in the history of the minimum wage law that minimum wage workers failed to receive an increased wage.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Texas Minimum Wage Increased

The Texas minimum wage has increased from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008 with reference to the federal minimum wage increase. Under the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1007, the deferal minimum wage was scheduled to increase the minimum wage by three steps. Each increase is 70 cents.

There are also a number of other states increasing the minimum wage by reference to the deferal minimum wage, including Maryland, South Dakota, Virginia Idaho and Oklahoma.

In Texas, there is no overtime law at the state level. Instead, most employees in Texas are entitled to 1.5 times their usual mniimum wage rate of pay after working 40 hours under the federal law.

The Texas minimum wage specifically excludes any employee covered by the primary federal minimum wage law - Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA applies to employers who engage in interstate commerce, as well as those with revenue of at least $500,000.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

OSHA Sets Two Public Hearings on Proposed Shipyard Rule

In the June 30 Federal Register OSHA ( the US Depatment of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is scheduling two informal public hearings on the proposed rule on general working conditions in shipyard employment. The dates of the two hearings are as follows:

9:30 am September 9, 2008, in Washington, DC
9:30 am October 21, 2008, in Seattle, WA.

The two hearings aim at providing a platform for interested stakeholders to discuss how to improve existing standards on working conditions for employees in shipyard employment.

Notice of intention to appear at the hearing: Interested persons who intend to present testimony or question witnesses at either the Washington, DC, or Seattle, WA, hearing must submit (transmit, send, postmark, deliver) a notice of their intention to do so by July 18, 2008.

Hearing testimony and documentary evidence: Parties who need over 10 minutes for their presentation and those who will present documentary evidence are supposed to supply the agency with copies of their full testimony and all documentary evidence by August,2008

If you want to submit your notice of intention, you can use the Federal eRulemaking Portal, following three ways are also acceptable: facsimile( on longer than 10 pages) to OSHA Office at 202-693-1648; regular mail, messenger or courier service to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-S049-2006-0675, U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins Building, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room N-2625, Washington, DC 20210; telephone 202-693-2350.

It is the employers’ responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for the employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s working people by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently launched a new tool for posters and recordkeeping compliance - The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor.

The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor is one of the elaws Advisors, which are interactive e-tools that provide easy-to-understand information to help employers and employees understand their rights and responsibilities under certain federal employment laws. Each Advisor simulates the interaction you might have with an employment law expert. It asks questions and provides answers based on responses given, and each Advisor includes links to more detailed information that may be useful, such as links to regulatory text and compliance assistance materials.

The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor is designed to help employers determine which of the major DOL employment laws and regulatory requirements their organization must comply with, what recordkeeping and reporting requirements they must comply with, and which posters they need to post.

The Advisor can help all employers, including non-profit organizations, private sector businesses and government agencies.

If employers already know which federal employment laws apply to them, the Advisor can quickly provide basic information about how to comply with these laws, including the requirements for recordkeeping, reporting, posters and other notices. This information can also be printed off as a reference guide.

This Advisor provides three basic starting points depending on your interests and needs:
l FirstStep - Employment Law Overview Advisor provides a short primer on each law's basic provisions as well as any related recordkeeping, reporting and notice requirements.
l FirstStep - Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Notices Advisor provides detailed explanations of each law's recordkeeping, reporting and notice requirements.
l FirstStep - Poster Advisor provides access to short descriptions of DOL poster requirements and links to printable posters.

It is really a great place for employers to double-check their current posters and document retention policies. However, the FirstStep Employment Law Advisor can only give advice on major DOL laws, and it does not cover all laws administered by DOL. In addition, the advisor will not identify laws administered by other federal agencies that might also apply to your business or organization.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The WHD Criticized By The GAO

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for mishandling many overtime and minimum-wage complaints and delaying investigating hundreds of cases for a year or more, according to a GAO report issued on July 15th, 2008.

The GAO, which will release its report at a hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that from fiscal years 1997 to 2007, the number of WHD’s enforcement actions decreased 37 percent, from 46,758 in 1997 to just 29,584 in 2007.

Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said in his prepared remarks for the hearing, “Although the Department of Labor currently has the necessary tools to fight wage theft, the G.AO investigation suggests that the problem of wage theft is only getting worse because of weaker enforcement.”

The WHD defended its performance, saying that it decided to enforce fewer, but more time-consuming and comprehensive claims. In addition, it said that the decrease also resulted from more careful screening of complaints to eliminate those that may not be violations. WHD also stated that part of the decrease is attributable to a 20% reduction in investigative staff.

The GAO also criticized the WHD for focusing on too narrow a range of industries. “WHD focused on the same industries from 1997 to 2007. The agency primarily targeted four industry groups: agriculture, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and health care and social services.” The WHD didn’t focus on the low-wage industries where, one report said, it would be most likely to find violations. The GAO concludes, “WHD may not be addressing the needs of workers most vulnerable to FLSA violations.” But the WHD said it had also broadened its efforts to include other low-wage businesses, including day care, restaurants, construction and hotels.

In a fact sheet, the Labor Department noted that the back wages collected by the WHD “more than doubled to $220,613,703 in 2007 from $96,719,108 in 1997.” The DOL said that “341,624 employees received back wages in 2007, up from 189,244 10 years earlier.” It also added “The Wage and Hour Division is delivering pay for workers, not a payday for trial lawyers.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Michigan Minimum Wage Increased to $7.40 Per Hour July 1, 2008

The state of Michigan has increased its minimum wage to $7.40 per hour, up from $7.15 an hour, effective July 1, 2008.

Roughly 58,000 workers in the state of Michigan who make the minimum wage will get the increase. Another 209,000 workers who earn more than $7.15 per hour but less than $7.40 per hour will also get the raise, according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

The largest effect of the minimum wage increase will be in the service industry, like hotels and restaurants, as well as nursing homes and businesses that employ teachers’ aids and home health care workers.

"Restaurants are doing everything they can now to survive. It's a mandatory increase in their labor costs at a time they don't have the money," said Andy Deloney, spokesman for the Michigan Restaurant Association.

Michigan's new wage ties Rhode Island for eighth-highest in the United States.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Maryland Increases Its Minimum Wage to $6.55 Per Hour on July 24, 2008

The state of Maryland has increased its minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $6.55 per hour, effective July 24, 2008. And for tipped employees, the minimum wage will also increase to $3.28 per hour.

The federal minimum wage will increase to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008. The minimum wage in Maryland is automatically replaced with the Federal minimum wage rate because it is higher than the State minimum wage rate.

According to Maryland Department of Labor, with certain exceptions, time and a half the usual hourly rate must be paid for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Exemptions include certain agricultural workers, executives, administrative and professional employees.

Because of the mandated minimum wage increases, the summer job market for teenagers will decline. For every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, employment for high school dropouts and young blach adults and teenagers falls by 8.5 percent, according to econonist David Neumark.

The California DFEH Has Announced A New Plan

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), California’s civil rights agency (whose mission is to protect Californians from employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination, as well as hate crimes), has announced an ambitious three-year plan to step up enforcement of the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Phyllis Cheng, the DFEH’s director, who was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger earlier this year, announced the plan at a presentation given on June 26, 2008 before members of the San Diego County Bar Association’s Employment Law Section.

The DFEH plans to streamline the claim process. Previously, employees had to schedule an office appointment at a regional DFEH office to initiate a complaint. Under the updated procedure, complainants don’t have to go in to a DFEH office; they can file a complaint on-line by visiting the DFEH website to schedule an appointment, and in-person appointments will soon be unnecessary because telephone in-take interviews will start to be used. Initially, four of the ten DFEH offices will accept telephonic in-takes.

The DFEH will also automate the right to sue system. Usually when employees are represented by counsel, they do not want the DFEH to investigate but request a “right to sue” letter, which is a prerequisite to filing a civil lawsuit in court. In fact, the majority of claims are processed this way. “Of the 16,000 employment claims filed each year, about 9,000 of them are filed by employees represented by counsel who want a right to sue letter,” said Ms. Cheng. Implementing an automated online right- to-sue system will free up DFEH staff to work on more discrimination investigations.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Regulation of Using E-Verify

On June 6 2008, the Bush administration signed an amendment to Executive Order 12989, mandating that all companies hired to perform work for federal agencies must use the E-Verify system to ensure that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. Businesses failing to abide by this directive risk losing federal contracts.

On June 9, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated E-Verify as the electronic employment eligibility verification system that all federal contractors must use.

E-Verify, formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program, was originally established in 1997 by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It is a free, internet-based system run by the United States government to allow employers who are enrolled in the E-Verify program to confirm the legal status of new employees.

The current form of the proposed regulation requires that all entities which provide the federal government with over $3,000 worth of goods or services in the United States use E-Verify for all new employees, even those who do not actually work on the federal contract. It also requires such entities to identify all employees who currently work on any federal contract and verify their legal status through E-Verify as well. The only entities excluded from this regulation are those who perform work for the federal government outside of the United States, provide less than $3,000 of goods or services, or provide contracts for commercial, off-the-shelf supplies.

The regulation is now open for public comment until August 12, 2008. Once the public comment period expires, the rule will either be implemented in its current form, or modified based upon the public comments received.

Once the regulation is implemented, the included entities will have 30 days to enroll in the E-Verify program, and then another 30 days to verify all current employees working on federal contracts in addition to all new ones. After that, such entities must verify the legal status of all new employees through E-Verify within three days after their hiring. The mandatory use of E-Verify will be a provision included in all federal contracts.

The E-Verify program will be used in conjunction with the existing I-9 forms. So although the proposed regulation will be implemented after the public comment period expires, federal contractors still have to complete the I-9 form for all new hires.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Standard Mileage Rate Raised to 58.5 Cents

Effective July 1, 2008, the optional standard mileage rate has increased by 8 cents, from 50.5 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile, for all miles driven from July 1 to December 31, 2008.

The increase allows taxpayers to use the higher deduction amount as an alternative to recording actual costs of operating a qualifying vehicle. The new rate is also for determining the reimbursement amount to employees who operate an automobile for business purposes.

The Internal Revenue Service made this special adjustment for the final months of 2008 because of the recent gasoline price increases.

"Rising gas prices are having a major impact on individual Americans. Given the increase in prices, the IRS is adjusting the standard mileage rates to better reflect the real cost of operating an automobile," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "We want the reimbursement rate to be fair to taxpayers."
The rate for moving and medical mileage also increased 8 cents, to 27 cents; the rate for charity services, however, remained at 14 cents because it is a special case and requires an act or law to change it.

The District of Columbia Increase The Minimum Wage to $7.55 On July 24, 2008

The District of Columbia will increased its minimum wage from $7.00 per hour to $7.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and will increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour on July 24, 2009.

The federal minimum wage will increase from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour on July 24, 2008 and to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009. If you are working for the federal government, you arer only entitled to the federal minimum wage. If you work for Washington D.C. government, you are entitled to receive a living wage, which is $11.75 per hour in the current time.

If you work over 40 hours in one week, you should get overtime pay. If the regular pay is $7.55 per hour, overtime pay would be $11.325 per hour. However, some kinds of jobs do not get overtime pay, such as salesmen, professionals, and those domestic workers who live with their employers.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Colorado Updated Anti-Discrimination By Adding Sexual Orientation

Colorado has signed a new law - Senate Bill 200 – which prevents certain types of discrimination by adding Sexual Orientation as a new protective category, effective May 29, 2008.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has signed a controversial bill into law that broadens the ban on Sexual Orientation Discrimination created by the 2007 amendments to Colorado’s civil rights law; these banned sexual orientation and religious discrimination in employment. The new bill defines sexual orientation as “a person’s orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or another person’s perception thereof.”

In the new law, public accommodation is broadly defined as “any place of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to the public.”

On the basis of the 2007 amendments to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, many Colorado employers have already considered modifying their business policies regarding transgender employees. With the passing of the new law, Colorado employers should revisit those policies and consider whether the same protections should be extended to customers and guests.

Besides sexual orientation, Senate Bill 200 also adds creed, marital status, disability, national origin and ancestry to the protected statuses upon which an individual cannot be denied membership in a union or labor organization. The Colorado law now also broadens the bans prohibiting discrimination in employment decisions on account of sexual orientation in schools.

Similar legislation already exists in the following states: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Florida’s Guns At Work Law

On July 1, 2008, Florida's Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008 (the "Guns At Work Law") has taken effect. The bill was signed into law by Florida Governor Charlie Crist on April 15, 2008.

The new law prohibits all public and private employers from discriminating against any customer, employee, or invitee who possesses a legally-owned firearm that is kept inside a locked, privately-owned motor vehicle in a parking lot, in most cases, even on an employer’s private property. The law doesn’t apply to schools, prisons, nuclear power plants, military facilities and buildings that store explosives.

Supporters of the law say people have a constitutional right to carry firearms in their cars for protection, while business owners have argued that they have a constitutional right to set the rules on their own property.

However, in order to comply with the new law, employers must do the following:
l Review and update policies prohibiting firearms on the employer's property; lift any ban against keeping legally-owned firearms locked in personal vehicles in parking areas by persons with valid concealed-weapons permits;
l Review and update safety and security measures to deal with the increased risk of violence associated with the presence of guns on company property;
l Provide training on Florida's Guns At Work Law to Human Resources personnel;
l Provide training on Florida's Guns At Work Law to all security personnel.