Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New GINA Regulations Release

The newest GINA regulations issued by the US Department of Labor, the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services go into effect for plans on December 7, 2009. The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act will not be violated by employers and employees across the nation.

GINA guards employers against gathering information on employees’ genetic makeup, and against making employment decisions based on that information. The GINA poster needs to be displayed in the workplace. This is prominent regulation.

The new GINA is interpreted broadly. In addition, employees’ requests for or receipt of genetic services, and family medical history are all included in GINA. This includes any manifestation of a disease or disorder in the employee’s family members including dependents plus all relatives to the fourth degree without regard to whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption. This would include current medical information about an employee’s children, spouse, grandparents, great-grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and first cousins.

GINA has two titles. Title I prohibits employers from increasing group health premiums or contributions based on genetic information. Title II also prohibits employers from using genetic or familial medical information in employment discrimination.

Monday, December 28, 2009

US DOL announces $3.8 million grant to assist workers in Massachusetts affected by financial industry layoffs

On Dec 17, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a $3,874,594 grant to assist about 725 workers affected by layoffs, began in November 2008, at seven companies in Massachusetts' financial industry.

The grant will be funded by resources made available for National Emergency Grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and will provide affected workers with access to dislocated worker services, which may include skills assessment, basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.

Of the $3,874,594 announced, $1,294,864 will be released initially, and additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the commonwealth demonstrates a continued need for assistance. The grant was awarded to the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development, and will be operated by the Metro South/West Employment and Training Administration.

"Today's grant will provide the job search and employment services necessary for affected workers in Massachusetts to find new jobs in emerging industries," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

US DOL announces more than $800,000 to assist Oregon lumber industry layoffs

On December 3, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a grant of up to $831,423 to assist approximately 75 workers affected by layoffs at Hampton Affiliates' Tillamook Lumber in Tillamook, Oregon .

The grant was awarded to the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, and will be operated by the Oregon Consortium and Oregon Workforce Alliance. This grant will be funded by resources made available for National Emergency Grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and will provide these dislocated workers, all of whom are also certified as eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), with access to "wrap-around" and supportive services, such as dependent care and transportation assistance, not available through the TAA program.

Layoffs at Hampton Affiliates' Tillamook Lumber began on April 6. An initial increment of $501,765 will be made available to serve these workers with the remainder of the funds distributed as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

The grant will "provide the retraining and re-employment services necessary for these Oregonians to upgrade existing skills or seek out retraining that leads to careers in growing regional industries," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Michigan Passed Smoking Ban Law

Michigan has just passed a law that bans smoking in the workplace, including restaurants and bars on December 10. Michigan follows 37 states to pass this law, which will go into effect on May 1, 2010.

The law prohibits workers smoking in almost all the workplaces, even in bars and restaurants. There are also some exceptions, such as tobacco specialty stores and cigar bars. Home offices and motor vehicles are also allowed to smoke, even motor vehicles used for work. Michigan joins with other states including New York, California and Illinois to implement the smoking ban.

According to the new law, smoking will be permitted on the gambling floor of the Detroit-area casinos, but in the casino bars, restaurants and hotels the smoking is not allowed. When the bill was signed by the governor, Michigan became the 38th state to ban smoking in public places including government buildings, bars and restaurants. Senator RAY Basham of Taylor fights for a total smoking ban. He said, “We are moved the ball down the court, and even scored a basket.”

In the state Senate, the bill passed by a vote of 24 to 13. In the Michigan House, it passed by a vote of 75 to 30. 66% of Michiganders supported a smoking ban in a March 2009 survey.

Monday, December 14, 2009

November 2009 Employment Situation

On December 4, U.S. DOL released the November 2009 Employment Situation report, which was the most hopeful sign yet that the stabilization of financial markets and the recovery in economic growth may be leading to improvements in the Labor market.

As reported, the economy lost 11,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate edged down to 10.0 percent in November. Payroll employment declined 597,000 in November 2008 and 741,000 in January 2009. It is by far the closest we have been to stable employment since the recession began almost two years ago. The unemployment rate, which had risen to 10.2% in October, declined to 10.0% in November.
"I am encouraged by the pattern of moderated job loss; however, I will not be satisfied until there are robust job gains,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, "Over the past 10 months, the Obama Administration has taken bold steps to break the back of this recession. While there has been a lot of rhetoric about the Recovery Act, when you look at today's report and other recent favorable economic trends, it is hard to argue that the Recovery Act is not working. "

Hilda L. Solis also said that "At the Department of Labor, we are working tirelessly to ensure that we fulfill our responsibility to provide workers with the assistance they need today to help them find good jobs. We still have work to do before we can be sure that all Americans have access to good jobs, but I am confident that we will reach that goal."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Washington Minimum Wage Remain at $8.55 per Hour in 2010

In the year 2010, Washington minimum wage remaining at $8.55 per hour will marks the first year that it is no increase in the state minimum wage since 1998. This is the result of economy crisis. Even remain stable; the Washington minimum wage is still the highest in the nation.

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries calculates the state minimum wage each September under initiative 688, passed by voters in 1998. According to the law, Washington has increased its minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $8.55 per hour from 1998 to 2009. Each time’s minimum wage increase is on the basis of the federal Consumer Price Index change for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers during the 12 months ending on August 31.

A 5.9% increase in the 2008 CPI makes the Washington minimum wage increase to $8.55 per hour on January 1, 2009. The Washington minimum wage applies to most workers and most industries in the state, even to agricultural workers.

In addition to Washington, there are nine states adjusting their minimum wages each year for inflation. Oregon, Vermont, Ohio, Nevada, Montana, Missouri, Florida, Colorado and Arizona are in the list. Most of those states plan no minimum wage increase for 2010.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

OSHA Schedules Stakeholder Meetings on Combustible Dust

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it will hold two stakeholder meetings on December 14, 2009, to discuss combustible dust workplace hazards . The meetings will be held at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST at the Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th Street NW, Washington, DC. The 2010 meeting dates and locations will be announced in one or more subsequent notices.

The effort is intended to prevent the kind of blast that ravaged Imperial’s Port Wentworth refinery on Feb. 7, 2008, killing 14 people and hurting many others. Investigators have concluded highly explosive sugar dust fueled the inferno. The federal government says that since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions. Existing OSHA rules spell out employers’ “general duty” under the law to keep workplaces safe. But they don’t protect workers as well as a comprehensive dust standard would, said OSHA spokesman Michael Wald.

"Workers are dying from combustible dust explosions, and it must stop," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Worker safety must be a priority, and we are committed to enforcing effective standards to prevent a repeat of these tragedies."

OSHA believes the stakeholder meeting discussion should center on major issues such as:
• Possible regulatory approaches
• Scope
• Organization of a prospective standard
• The role of consensus standards
• Economic impacts
• Additional topics as time permit

OSHA will use comments and information gathered from these meetings and responses to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in developing a comprehensive standard addressing fire and explosion hazards of combustible dust.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ohio Remain Minimum Wage Stable in 2010

The state minimum wage is always increased according to the economy inflation. Colorado will reduce the state minimum wage from $7.28 per hour to $7.24 per hour effective on January 1, 2010. However, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, most Colorado employers will be required to pay &7.25 per hour under the federal minimum wage. While the state of Ohio will remain its state minimum wage stable at $7.30 per hour in 2010.

The minimum wage in the Buckeye State is 5 cents higher than the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. Employers who are covered by both the state and federal minimum wage must pay the higher of the two. So in Ohio the employees will be paid the state minimum wage.

In 2010, Ohio tipped minimum wage will still remain at $3.65 per hour. If a tipped employee does not average at least $3.65 per hour over the payroll week, the employer must pay the difference as wages. The Ohio minimum wage applies to employers with more than $267,000 in gross revenue. The Ohio minimum wage is increased each year based on the rate of inflation. According to a memo released by the Ohio Department of Commerce, the rate of inflation declined 0.2 percent from late 2008 to late 2009.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

OSHA Releases Crowd Control Guidelines

On November 17, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued some holiday specific directives in a fact sheet providing crowd control guidelines for retailers to protect workers during major sales events to lower the risk of crowd related accidents.

"Crowd-related injuries during special retail sales and promotional events have increased during recent years," said acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Many of these incidents could be prevented, and this fact sheet provides retail employers with guidelines for avoiding injuries during the holiday shopping season."

Last year a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store to take advantage of an after Thanksgiving Day "Black Friday" sales event.

OSHA claims in its press release that the employees were exposed to being crushed by the crowd due to the store's failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management principles, including providing employees with the necessary training and tools to safely manage the large crowd of shoppers.

To prevent similar incidents, OSHA recommends retailers to have trained security personnel or police officers on site, set up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians and crowd control well in advance of customers arriving at the store, make sure that barricades are set up so that the customers’ line does not start right at the entrance of the store, prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers, and have security personnel or customer service representatives explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.

OSHA also recommends not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level and not blocking or locking exit doors.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Colorado Minimum Wage Will Reduce in 2010

The state minimum wage is always increased according to the economy inflation, while this situation will change. There comes out news that, for the first time, a state minimum wage will be reduced. That’s the state of Colorado.

Colorado will reduce the state minimum wage by 4 cents, from $7.28 per hour to $7.24 per hour. This will be effective on January 1, 2010. However, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, most Colorado employers will be required to pay &7.25 per hour under the federal minimum wage.

According to the Colorado Division of Labor & Employment, the minimum wage for tipped employees will also change. It will decrease from $4.26 per hour to $4.22 per hour. If the employee does not average $3.02 per hour over the payroll week, the employer must pay the difference. Employers need to update their Colorado state minimum wage posters accordingly.

The Colorado minimum wage is adjusted annually for inflation. Although the Colorado minimum wage will reduce by 4 cents, it is far better than the annual increases of 20 cents or more in recent years. In 2007, Colorado increased the minimum wage from $6.85 per hour to $7.02 per hour, while in 2009, Colorado adjusted the minimum wage again from $7.02 per hour to $7.28 per hour.

The state of Colorado adjusts the minimum wage on the basis of CPI (Consumer Price Index) for the Denver-Boulder-Greeley metro area, published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

DOL Announces $55 Million in Green Jobs Grants

On Nov. 18, US Department of Labor (DOL) announced nearly $55 million in green jobs grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grants will help various state , county and local workforce development agencies to train workers , many in underserved communities, to help them find jobs in expanding green industries and related occupations.

State Labor Market Information Improvement Grants and Green Capacity Building Grants are the two categories of the grant, and both will be administered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. The grants will target Native Americans, women, at-risk youth and farm workers.

State Labor Market Information Improvement Grants, totaling $48.8 million, will help create strategies to connect job seekers with green job banks and assist workers with finding employment after they complete training.

Green Capacity Building Grants, totaling $5.8 million, will increase the training capacity of 62 current Labor Department grant recipients through a variety of strategies, and will offer training opportunities to help individuals acquire jobs in expanding green industries.

Grantees will be able to employ strategies that enable job seekers to connect with green job banks and help ensure that workers find employment after completing training. The department issued 30 awards ranging from about $763,000 to $4 million to state workforce agencies to utilize data for workforce development strategies. Multiple state workforce agencies partnering as a consortium will use this program to gather information that is likely to have a regional, multi-state or national impact.

The grants are part of a larger Recovery Act initiative - totaling $500 million - for green jobs training grants designed to promote economic growth. The Labor Department expects to release funding for an additional three green grant award categories over the next several months.

"Today's announcement is part of the administration's long-term commitment to fostering both immediate economic growth and a clean energy future. It's an investment that will help American workers do well while doing good," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “These grants provide an immediate return, and they are part of a larger green initiative that will help lead to increased job placements and promote economic growth."

Friday, November 20, 2009


Recently, a federal court released a rule that requires employers be more vigilant about seemingly “casual” negative remarks in the workplace.

This case heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals emphasize that supervisors and even coworkers should not ask questions about employee’s religion, national ancestry or country of origin. Employers also should not make derogatory remarks about religions. It is important for an employer to conduct anti-discrimination training for all managers. This is emphasized in the report.

In EEOC v. Go Daddy Software Inc. the court ruled two passing remarks, more than a year apart, by two different supervisors, were enough to show a pattern of illegal discrimination against a religious employee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged discrimination based on religion and national ancestry.

Youseff Bouamama was a Muslim born in Morocco. He was hired by the company in late September, 2001. Just because he spoke French to a customer, he was quizzed by the manager. Shortly after the 911 terrorist attacks on New York, the supervisor also made comments to the effect that Muslims needed to die. Because of such incident, the jury ruled that Bouamama was the victim of illegal discrimination. He was also found terminated as retaliation when he complained of this discrimination to HR.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DOL announces grant exceeding $394,000 to assist workers affected by boat manufacturer layoffs in Maine

On Nov. 9, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a $394,617 grant to assist about 60 workers affected by layoffs at The Hinckley Co., a leading producer of pleasure boats and yachts, in Trenton, Maine .

The grant was awarded to the Maine Department of Labor, and will be operated by the Eastern Maine Development Corp. to provide affected workers with access to dislocated worker services. Those layoffs at The Hinckley Co., taking place between October 2008 and June 2009, will receive various services, such as individualized career assessments and planning services, recruitment, case management, job skills training, basic computer skills training and job placement.

"This grant will provide the retraining and job search assistance necessary for these Mainers to enter new careers in promising regional industries," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

The grant will be funded by resources made available for National Emergency Grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Department of Labor Target Employers Who Violate Wage and Hour Laws

The U.S. Department of Labor is targeting employers who violate wage and hour laws in spite of a recent ruling in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Recently, the federal Department of Labor has filed several class action suits against employers who require or permit employees to work “off the clock”. Permitting employees to work while on unpaid meal breaks or permitting employees to do something unpaid after hours and on weekends is all included in violations.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) permits the government to file collective actions on behalf of a group of employees in a similar situation. Generally, employers are liable for two years of back bay and three years in the case of willful violations. The 9th Circuit Court of appeals rules that an employee can join a collective action only if he or she files written consent with the court at the time the action is brought.

Under the FLSA and various state minimum wage laws, all the time employee works must get paid, including time the employee “voluntarily” works, in excess of his or her scheduled shifts. The FLSA also requires employees to be paid overtime, usually after working 40 hours in the payroll week. If the employee volunteers to work overtime, he or she must be compensated at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s average wage.

Monday, November 09, 2009

New GINA Law Goes into Effect November 21st, 2009

Effective November 21 2009, the new GINA (The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) regulations will goes into effect, mandated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In order to comply with new requirements, all covered businesses must have a new GINA poster displayed in a workplace common area where all employees can see it.

GINA, signed into law by George W. Bush on May 21st 2008, protects insurance policy holders and employees from discrimination on the basis of genetic information. New GINA requirements apply to private, state, and local government employers with 15 or more employees. Labor unions, employment agencies, joint labor-management training programs, as well as Congress and federal executive branch agencies must also comply with GINA requirements.

The GINA prohibition on gathering genetic information includes taking information on an employee’s family medical history – especially hereditary illnesses like heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and other inherited conditions. GINA makes it illegal for employers to use an employee's genetic information when making employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotions, or any other terms of employment. Employers are also forbidden from inquiring whether members of the employee’s family have heritable diseases. Even if the employee volunteers such information in casual conversation, the employer is prohibited from considering it when making employment decisions.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

New Federal Posting Requirement - GINA Poster

Employers are required to display a new federal poster, GINA poster. The GINA poster must be displayed in workplace where all employees can see. That is effective on November 21, 2009. The new federal posting requirement applies to virtually every employer, even if they never engage in genetic testing.

Under GINA (Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act of 2008), employers are prohibited from gathering information on an employee’s genetic makeup. Employers are also not allowed to considering an employee’s genetic information in making employment decisions.

Based on genetic information, health insurance providers cannot discriminate against consumers. The GINA prohibition on gathering genetic information also includes taking information on an employee’s family medical history.

GINA covers depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder and other kinds of metal health conditions. One of the concerns is that employees will forgo genetic t4esting because they fear discrimination in the workplace, or from health insurance companies. Employers are also prohibited from gathering an employee’s family medical history in more traditional ways under the GINA law.

Every employer covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 must display a GINA poster in the workplace. Generally speaking, that is every employer with 15 or more workers, including businesses and non-profits. GINA poster is also required to display in state and local governments, unions, labor organizations, employment agencies and the federal government.

New Massachusetts Independent Contractor Rules

Employers need to be aware that the state of Massachusetts recently increased the penalties for those who misclassify employees as independent contractors.

Somers v. Converged Access explains that, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that the independent contractor law is a strict liability statute. This means that the employer’s intent in misclassifying a worker is irrelevant. Therefore, if the worker had been correctly classified as an employee, he was entitled to compensation for wages, overtime and benefits that he would have received. Besides, the employee was permitted to keep the $65 per hour that the company paid him as an independent contractor.

The employee could get paid from the Massachusetts company for benefits including vacation and holiday pay. In addition, the company was ordered to pay the employee overtime at a rate of 1.5 times the worker’s 65% per hour wage.

The Massachusetts defines more strictly the independent contractor than federal independent contractor regulations. He is free of any control and direction in connection with work performance, both in fact and under the contract. He performs a service outside the usual course of business of the employer. He is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business. If the worker does not meet all these conditions, he or she is not an independent contractor but an employee.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

3 New Illinois Laws Release

Recently there are three new employment bills signing into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. The laws address wage discrimination at the state level and increase the rights of victims of domestic abuse.

The first law is Expanded Leave Rights.
Illinois Victims Economic Security and Safety Act has an amendment which requires employers to extend unpaid, job-protected leave to victims of domestic violence or sexual violence. The new law will be effective August 24, 2009.

Under the new law, employers with 50 or more workers must provide up to 12 weeks of FMLA-type leave to employees who are victims of rape, sexual assault or another type of sexual violence, and the law requires employers with 15 to 49 employees to provide 8 weeks of unpaid leave. Employers must also extend the same benefits to victims of domestic violence of any kind.

The second law is New Illinois Discrimination Law.
Under a new Illinois discrimination law, victims of stalkers, domestic violence and other crimes are protected from employment discrimination. The amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits the employer from discriminating against an employee who is protected by an order of protection or a similar order issued in anther state. This law goes into effect on January 1, 2010.

Under the law, the employer cannot make employment decisions based entirely or in part on whether a worker is shielded by an order of protection.

The third one is Illinois Ledbetter Equal Pay Act.
In the final law, the state enacted protections against discrimination in pay similar to the federal Lilly Ledbetter Act. Under that law, when pay discrimination exists, each paycheck resets the statute of limitations in filing a discrimination claim under the Illinois Equal Pay Act. This law became effective on August 14, 2009.

Monday, November 02, 2009

DOL announced $3.3 million grant to assist workers in Massachusetts affected by layoffs

On Sep 22, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a $3,319,718 grant to assist about 600 laid off workers at nine Massachusetts companies with training and employment services.

Impacted workers , who lost their jobs between November 2008 and October 2009, are from ACT Electronics Inc., Altus Pharmaceuticals Inc., Bose Corp., DHL, EMC Corp., Sepracor Inc., Snap-on Inc., Staples Inc. and Taylor Corp., in information, manufacturing, retail and transportation industries.

The grant was awarded to the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development, and will be operated by Employment and Training Resources. It will provide the impacted workers with access to dislocated worker services, which may include skills assessment, basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.

$1,906,964 of the $3,319,718 will be released initially. Additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

"This grant will ensure that affected workers across Massachusetts have access to high-quality re-training and re-employment services, which are crucial both to shaping the future career success of individuals and to spurring the state's growing industries," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Monday, October 26, 2009

OSHA awards more than $6.8 million in safety and health training grants

On Sep. 18, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has awarded more than $6.8 million in Susan Harwood Training Grants, which cover a two-year period, to 30 recipients, encompassing labor unions, employer associations, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit organizations.

The training grants are named in honor of the late Susan Harwood, who was a former director of the Office of Risk Assessment in OSHA's health standards directorate and died in 1996. During her 17-year tenure with the agency, Harwood helped develop OSHA standards to protect employees exposed to bloodborne pathogens, cotton dust, benzene, formaldehyde, asbestos and lead in construction.

The agency received a record number of 345 applications this year. The Grants support workplace safety, health programs and training programs. This grant program is a crucial component to OSHA's efforts to provide workers with training about job hazards and their rights. It also provides employers with information about unsafe working conditions and their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, under which, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education.

"Safe jobs are our priority," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Providing workers and employers the knowledge and tools they need to ensure safe working conditions is the best way to prevent workers from getting injured or killed on the job."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ohio minimum wage won’t rise in 2010

Ohio’s minimum wage will remain unchanged at $7.30 per hour in 2010, according to the state Department of Commerce.

For tipped employees, the minimum wage remains at $3.65 per hour. Under state law, if the employee’s tips plus wages don’t average $7.30 per hour, the employer must pay the difference.

The constitutional amendment passed by voters in November 2006 states that Ohio’s minimum wage shall increase on January 1 of each year by the rate of inflation. The wage is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for urban wage earners and clerical workers for the 12-month period prior to September. Since the index declined by 0.2 percent from Sept. 1, 2008 to Aug. 31, 2009, so the state minimum wage will not be increased in 2010.

The state minimum wage will continue to apply to employers who gross more than $267,000 per year. For employers grossing less than $267,000 per year the state minimum wage is $7.25 per hour-- an amount equal to the federal minimum wage.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

DOL certifies approximately 4,700 workers in 13 states as eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance

On Sep 17, 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that approximately 4,700 workers from companies in 13 states — Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin — are eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which is a federal program that retrains and financially assists workers whose jobs are displaced by foreign competition.
"Foreign competition continues to impact America's workers regardless of industry or occupation," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "These trade-affected workers deserve the support of Trade Adjustment Assistance as they upgrade current skills or seek out new careers in promising regional industries."
The agency said that workers covered by these latest TAA certifications will be contacted by their respective states and receive instructions on how to apply for individual benefits and services. Those who apply may receive job placement services, case management and re-employment services, training in new occupational skills and trade readjustment allowances that provide income support for workers enrolled in training. Some workers may also receive job search and relocation allowances, and the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC).
According to the federal DOL, workers aged 50 and older may elect to receive Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance (RTAA). If the worker obtains new employment at wages less than $55,000 and less than those earned in adversely affected employment, the RTAA program pay will pay 50 percent of the difference between the old wage and the new wage — up to $12,000 — over a two-year period. RTAA participants may also be eligible for retraining.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Changes to Definition of Disability

The EEOC published proposed rule regarding disabilities in the Federal Register on September 23, 2009. The new rules give a new definition of a disability under the ADAAA, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which went into effect on January 1, 2009. Now the EEOC interpret the term “disability” broadly in accordance with the law.

The law returns the meaning to disability to that enforced by the EEOC in 1990 soon after the ADA was passed. Over time, the courts have eroded the definition of disability under the law. It’s requiring more proof of more severe impairments.

The following are some of the notable changes that employers need to be aware of.

An impairment that substantially limits a major bodily function is sufficient to constitute a disability. It’s different from the old regulations. Under the old ones, cancer or AIDS did not in and of itself, constitute impairment. If the employee was limited in major life functions by the condition, he had to show it. However, such a condition in and of itself is a disability under the new regulations.

Mitigating measures must be disregarded. Under the old definition, these employees who have a disability but are able to function fully with prosthesis or enabling device were not disabled. Under the new definition, the employer must consider the employee’s abilities without the mitigating measures.

If they would be substantially limiting when active, impairments are disabilities if they are episodic or in remission. An employee whose rheumatoid arthritis or lupus was in remission was not a disability employee under the old regulations. Under the new regulations, if the condition would be a disability when not in remission, it is a disability while in a remission.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Definition of Disability Published

New definition of disability has just been published by the federal EEOC under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new regulations specifically address the definition of disability within the ADAAA of 2008, which has been in effect since January 1, 2009.

The new regulations explain that certain impairments will create a presumption of disability. These impairments include many aspects, epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, developmental disabilities, deafness, blindness, use of a wheelchair due to mobility problems, autism, cerebral palsy, HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophy, major depression, bipolar disorder, partial or complete amputations, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

The new ADA rules have its meaning that an employee who has been diagnosed with any of those conditions is presumed to be disabled and entitled to reasonable accommodation. This is only the common-sense approach to disabilities.

Under the old rule, each employee had to individually demonstrate that the condition limited one or more major life activities. The federal agency claims an individualized assessment of whether a substantial limitation exists “can be done very quickly and easily with respect to these types of impairments, and will consistently result in a finding of disability.” Employers should note that the list of impairments is not exhaustive.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DOL announces grant exceeding $1 million to assist Iowa layoff workers

On Sep 8, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a $1,096,423 grant to assist approximately 178 workers affected by layoffs at Alcoa North American Rolled Products in Bettendorf, Iowa , took place between January and June 2009, and John Deere Davenport Works in Davenport, Iowa, began in February 2009.

This grant will be funded by resources made available for National Emergency Grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines.

This Grant was awarded to Iowa Workforce Development, and will be operated by Iowa@Work, a division of Eastern Iowa Community College. It will allow affected workers to access services including skills assessment, basic skills training, individual career counseling and occupational skills training.

"Iowa workers affected by these layoffs need and deserve support," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The grant will provide retraining, job search assistance and other services to help them prepare for career track positions in promising regional industries."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Employment Numbers of Last August

On Sep 4, secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued the August 2009 Employment Situation report, on which, she stated that during past August, the economy lost 216,000 jobs, fewer than what most experts expected. Now the overall unemployment rate is 9.7 percent.

Since this administration took office, the economy had been losing average 700,000 jobs every month, so the job loss of last month is an improvement, “but is still by no means acceptable”, said Hilda L. Solis, "These numbers are a sobering reminder that our economic conditions continue to cause pain for many Americans and that families are having a difficult time simply covering their daily necessities, much less planning for the future.”

One of the Department of Labor’s principal goals is to help those people that have lost their jobs until there is a full recovery that includes sustained job growth. They have taken some measures to protect workers, such as extending the number of weeks available for unemployment insurance, increasing the monthly benefit amount by an extra $25 a week, strengthening social safety net by subsidizing 65 percent of COBRA premiums and providing new training opportunities for workers, so that the unemployed can more easily access health insurance.

At the same time, the Recovery Act has also provided much needed aid to states and has spurred work on shovel-ready projects. Sep 3 marked the 200-day milestone of the Recovery Act, and Vice President Biden announced that all 10 agencies met or exceeded their commitments in our roadmap to recovery.

Hilda L. Solis also mentioned that “We still have a long way to go until we can say that the economy is back on track and everyone has access to a good job, but I am confident that we will reach that goal. And I will make sure that the Department of Labor is standing by, supporting workers every step of the way."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kansas Minimum Wage Increase

On July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage increased from &6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour. For the state of Kansas, it’s a 70 cents increase. Every Kansas employer updated his federal minimum wage poster.
The federal minimum wage is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. FASA covers employers with annual earnings of at least $500,000, and companies who engage in interstate commerce. The majority of Kansas businesses are engaged in interstate commerce. Even if the company doesn’t engage in interstate commerce, an individual employee within the company would be covered by FLSA.
Therefore, most of the employers in Kansas will pay their employee the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in accordance with FLSA. Kansas employees who are not covered by the federal minimum wage are required to the state of minimum wage of $2.65 per hour.
Employees in the same company maybe are paid a different minimum wage. The difference is whether they deal in any way with clients, customers or suppliers in another state.
For example, a small hair salon with earnings under $500,000 may only serve local customers, but if the receptionist accepts credit card for payment, he or she is engaged in interstate commerce and entitled to the federal minimum. A shampoo girl who does not accept payments will be entitled only to the Kansas minimum.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Nearly 1,800 North Carolina Workers Got $2 Million Health Insurance Payments

In August, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a $2 million grant to provide about 1,800 North Carolina jobless workers with partial premium payments for health insurance coverage.

North Carolina Department of Commerce awarded the grant and will use it to make "gap filler" payments for unemployed individuals who are receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits and are eligible for the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) program, under which, eligible individuals and their family members can receive 80 percent of premium costs for qualified health insurance programs. The state of North Carolina will also provide two to three months of "gap filler" payments for the participants.

The funding will take some of the pressure off families who are trying hard to find new work in a tough economy and allow eligible out-of-work North Carolinians to maintain their health insurance. "The challenges associated with a job search are enough without worrying about a lack of health insurance if you or a family member fall ill or need medical attention," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "This funding will help eligible North Carolinians pay for health insurance while they seek out new careers that pay family-supporting wages and provide benefits for the long-term."

Funding for the grant comes from resources made available for health coverage National Emergency Grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

E-Verify News

E-Verify have the new changes. During July, both the U.S. House and Senate took measures that would E-Verify will be required to use by more employers, including federal contractors and companies that benefit from federal stimulus spending. The U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the 2010 Department of Homeland Security budget sponsored by Senate Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

This amendment will prevent illegal immigrants from being hired for construction projects funded by the federal stimulus packages. This bill was submitted to both the Senate and the House. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has long opposed the mandatory use of E-Verify SHRM argues that a biometric component needs to be added to E-Verify.

While the E-Verify are required to use by employers in a number of states, federal contractors are still in limbo. President George W. Bush signed an executive order that would have required federal contractors to implement E-Verify. However, SHRM and other employer groups challenge that.

Nevertheless, many employers continue to voluntarily adopt the E-Verify system. E-Verify compares information provided by the employee’s identity documents – including date of birth, sex, middle name, social security number and other information – with data on file with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Signed Guns at Work Laws

In a growing number of states, an employer cannot bar its employees from bringing guns to work and leaving them in their cars. Recently, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer also signed a new law to limit employers from implementing and maintaining policies that prohibit employees from lawfully storing firearms in their locked vehicles while parked in their employer's parking lot.

The new law, which takes effect on September 30, 2009, prohibits property owners, tenants, public or private employers or business entities from maintaining or enforcing any policy or rule that would forbid employees, as well as other individuals such as visitors and customers, from lawfully transporting or lawfully storing any firearm, as long as 1)the firearm is in the employee's locked and privately owned vehicle or in a locked compartment on the employee's privately owned motorcycle; and 2)the firearm is not visible from outside of the vehicle or motorcycle.

Arizona employers are advised to modify their policies about guns in the workplace and provide appropriate training in anticipation of the new law's effective date. By doing this, Arizona will also join the states who have the similar laws. Other states are: Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

QuikTrip to Pay $750,000 in Back Wage

Convenience store operator QuikTrip Corp. agreed to pay $747,729 in overtime back wages for 3,819 current and former convenience store workers ,following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s Arkansas-Oklahoma District Office.

The Department of Labor said on Monday that they found Tulsa-based QuikTrip had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay its employees the overtime compensation they were legally entitled to receive. The chain did not pay additional overtime premiums due on performance-related bonuses. Among the states involved in the investigation were Missouri , Illinois , Arizona , Georgia , Iowa , Nebraska , Oklahoma and Texas .

An employer is not required by law to provide a bonus, but if a nondiscretionary bonus is paid, the bonus must be included as part of the employee's regular rate of pay for purposes of computing overtime. The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage and receive overtime at one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Effective July 24, 2009, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.

Mike Thornbrugh, QuikTrip spokesman, said that "We have an additional form of compensation, and that is an additional bonus that we pay based on customer service…What we did, and it's our fault, is we had a computer programming error that was paying some employees too much for that and others were not getting the appropriate amount. We obviously fixed the program and reimbursed employees who were not getting the proper amount."

"I am pleased that this case has resulted in almost $750,000 in back wages being paid to thousands of workers across nine states," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "I am committed to ensuring that every worker is paid the full wages he or she is due, and that those who work overtime receive the compensation to which they are legally entitled."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Latest Minimum Wage Increase Still not High

The federal minimum wage rose from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 in last month. An estimated 2.8 million employees got a minimum wage raise. Another 1.6 million whose hourly pay hovers around $7.25 also got a boost as employers adjust their pay scales to the new minimum.

After inflation, the latest minimum wage increase is still no higher than it was in the early 1980s, and it is 17 percent lower than its peak in 1968. That means that no matter how hard they work, many low-wage workers keep falling behind. To some extend, the latest increase will slow down the decline in living standards.

The minimum wage also sets a floor by which other wages are set. Keeping it low keeps wages lower than they would be otherwise, especially for jobs that are just above the minimum-wage level. According to the Department of labor, 50 percent occupations expected to add the most jobs through 2016 are “very low paying,” up to a maximum of about $22,000 a year. The jobs covers retail sales and home health.

Barack Obama proposed lifting the the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 during the presidential campaign to adjust for inflation. The minimum wage of $9.50 an hour would be restored to its historical highs — about 50 percent of the average wage.

In America, low-paid jobs are a fact of working life. Unlike so many of the nation’s higher-paying jobs, they are not going away. One of the big challenges of our time is to ensure that for some workers, they are a stepping stone to better jobs and that for all workers; they are safe and fairly compensated.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Minimum Wage Rises, Unemployment Jumps Again

Recently, the federal minimum wage has risen. However, the numbers of those who unfortunate to be out of work also increase.
Under federal minimum wage laws, the workers covered nonexempt ones are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour. The new rate has come into effect July 24, 2009. Many states also have minimum wage laws; West Virginia is one of the states.
The minimum wage increase of two weeks ago brings the federal minimum in line with the West Virginia state minimum wage. In West Virginia, the minimum wage also increases to $7.25 per hour. According to the West Virginia Division of Labor, that state minimum came into effect July 1, 2008.
According to U.S. Department of Labor's Website, in cases where an employee is subject to both state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher minimum wage. Over half the states in the nation have a state minimum the same as the federal minimum. Also many states exceed the federal minimum wage, like California, Oregon and Washington.

WorkForce West Virginia released data that there were 950 people unemployed in the county in June. The June rate of unemployment was 11.6 percent, well up from May's rate of 10.7 percent. The rate of unemployment for the same June period last year was just 5 percent, representing 410 individuals out of work.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Heat Illness Prevention Regulations Strengthened by Cal/OSHA

On July 31, California's Department of Industrial Relations' (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) filed a proposal with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to amend the state's heat illness prevention regulations, which follows the July 16 request by Governor Schwarzenegger to strengthen and improve the standards to protect outdoor workers from the hot summer sun.

Besides, the state budget just signed has authorized the spending of $1.5 million to expand upon the efforts already in place to educate workers and employers about the necessity of heat illness prevention. This was the expanding outreach to train outdoor workers and employers, and will help to expand Cal/OSHA's successful participation and partnership with industry, labor, and community groups.

Under the Governor’s leadership, California was the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006. The Regulations address such topics as shade requirements, drinking water requirements, heat illness training requirements and other related subtopics. They require that the employer make shade available, provide drinking water, provide training to both supervisors and workers, and requires that the written heat illness prevention program include a plan for summoning emergency responders.

"Today we are moving to clarify amendments to the standards and to ensure that we provide the necessary measures to improve upon our first in the nation regulation to protect outdoor workers from the summer heat," said DIR Director John C. Duncan. "This package will, among other things, include a requirement for shade to be present at all times and a trigger for shade to be up when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees. It also makes it clear that employees have the right to take a rest in the shade whenever they feel the need to do so to prevent themselves from overheating."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama Seeks Support for Health Care Bill

Due to financial crisis, many people are down in spirits during the work. But it is different in Michigan. When the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 an hour last Friday, it also boosted Michigan's sub-minimum wage, which is currently $6.55 an hour.
The 17-year-old Attica Township teen from Michigan has been working this summer for a Lapeer-based landscaping service mowing grass. "It may not seem like much, but it's better than a sharp poke in the eye," Harlow told The County Press. "I'm just a kid still living at home, so I don't know how the government thinks people can live in this wage."
The federal minimum wage increase in last week is the final of a three-step increase which began in 2007. The workers under 18 years of age comply with Michigan's sub-minimum wage which equals 85 percent of the state's adult minimum wage. But the minimum wage cannot be lower than the federal minimum wage. According to federal estimates, about 2,000 Michigan workers, on average, had wages at the federal minimum wage level in 2008.
Although the federal minimum wage will increase, Michigan's minimum wage will still be higher at $7.40 an hour. The current state’s minimum wage is 25 cents higher than last year.
"You keep increasing the minimum wage, and it's just going to be exacerbating the problem," said David Hamel, professor of business management for Wayne State University. "Whenever you have more money coming in on wages, you're going to have folks who take advantage of it."
More information about the Wage & Hour Division as well as the state's minimum wage and overtime law is available at Michigan official website.

Federal Minimum wage Increase Benefits Michigan Workers under 18

Due to financial crisis, many people are down in spirits during the work. But it is different in Michigan. When the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 an hour last Friday, it also boosted Michigan's sub-minimum wage, which is currently $6.55 an hour.
The 17-year-old Attica Township teen from Michigan has been working this summer for a Lapeer-based landscaping service mowing grass. "It may not seem like much, but it's better than a sharp poke in the eye," Harlow told The County Press. "I'm just a kid still living at home, so I don't know how the government thinks people can live in this wage."
The federal minimum wage increase in last week is the final of a three-step increase which began in 2007. The workers under 18 years of age comply with Michigan's sub-minimum wage which equals 85 percent of the state's adult minimum wage. But the minimum wage cannot be lower than the federal minimum wage. According to federal estimates, about 2,000 Michigan workers, on average, had wages at the federal minimum wage level in 2008.
Although the federal minimum wage will increase, Michigan's minimum wage will still be higher at $7.40 an hour. The current state’s minimum wage is 25 cents higher than last year.
"You keep increasing the minimum wage, and it's just going to be exacerbating the problem," said David Hamel, professor of business management for Wayne State University. "Whenever you have more money coming in on wages, you're going to have folks who take advantage of it."
More information about the Wage & Hour Division as well as the state's minimum wage and overtime law is available at Michigan official website.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

U.S. Department of Labor announces 1st Trade Adjustment Assistance certifications under new law

On June 22, 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the certification of 20 petitions for benefit eligibility for workers under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The new TAA law took effect on May 18, 2009, which provides training and employment services for workers who have lost their jobs due to competitive foreign trade and these are the first certifications under the new TAA law.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) expanded the pool of eligible TAA recipients to include: workers in companies that supply services; workers whose companies have shifted production to any foreign country; workers in public agencies; workers whose companies produce component parts of a finished product; workers in companies that supply testing, packaging, maintenance and transportation services to companies with TAA-certified workers; and workers whose companies are identified in an International Trade Commission "injury" determination listed in the Trade Act of 1974. The Recovery Act also raised the cap on annual TAA training funds from $220 million to $575 million.

A petition may be filed by a group of three or more workers, by a company or public agency official by One-Stop operators or partners (including state employment security agencies and dislocated worker units) or by a union or other duly authorized representative of such workers. The workers on whose behalf a petition is filed must be or have been employed at the firm or subdivision identified in the petition. If the group of workers described in the petition is certified, the certification will cover all workers in the group whether or not their names are on the petition. Workers certified as eligible for TAA have access to a variety of resources such as re-employment services, job search allowances, relocation allowances and various types of income support.

"These certifications mark the beginning of a new era of opportunity for service workers who lose their jobs as a result of direct foreign competition," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Workers covered under TAA are offered the employment and training services needed to upgrade existing skills or pursue new careers in growing industries."

Monday, July 20, 2009

4.7 Percent of Texas Workers Received Lower Wages

According to U.S. Department of Labor’s study, 262,000 Texas workers received lower wages than the federal minimum wage last year. Statistics shows that about 4.7 percent of the state's hourly workers received lower wages, which is the seventh highest share in the nation.
But in San Antonio, it seems that the current situation is becoming harder. It’s harder to find workers who earn the low-end salary because the economy has performed well and because city government has promoted higher “living wages” for its employees and contractors.
Living wages are used as a guide by city administrators in establishing departmental salaries. But it often exceeds minimum wages by several dollars an hour, said Dan Williams, a human resources administrator for the city. As a result, all city employees are paid more than the current minimum wage. Thirty workers in the city's summer programs receive $7.25 an hour. This wage will not change until the labor law updates.
Yolanda Arellano, the executive director of the Texas Restaurant Association's San Antonio branch presents that restaurateurs were aware of the looming salary increases and may have cut back slightly on staff this summer as a result.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Healthy Families Act Would Guarantee Paid Sick Leave

One change to healthcare system may be coming, and it's one many small business owners would not like. Senator Ted Kennedy recently introduced a bill –the Healthy Families Act– that would implement a mandatory sick leave law and require employees to receive at least 7 paid sick days per year. In the House, the mandatory sick leave law introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro is called HR 2460.

The Act would require businesses with more than 15 employees to grant no less than one hour of paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 7 paid sick days per year. Employees would be eligible to use paid sick leave after 60 days.

Employees could use the sick leave for their own illness, for preventive care, to care for a child, parent, spouse or "any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.", or to seek medical or legal assistance relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

The Times notes that similar legislation was attempted repeatedly during the Bush administration. The current bill's preamble notes that more than half private sector employees, and a vast majority of low wage workers have no paid sick leave, requiring them to choose between losing pay (and perhaps losing a job) and caring for themselves or their family.

The latest statistics show that more than half private sector employees and a vast majority of low wage workers have no sick leave. They must choose between losing pay (and perhaps losing a job) and caring for themselves or their family.

Business groups are vowing to block the legislation, arguing that the recession makes this an inopportune time to create a new mandate that they say would raise costs for employers. Supporters, on the other hand, say the legislation is especially timely now, given the swine flu epidemic.

San Francisco and Washington D.C. already require paid sick leave, and Milwaukee as well as many states are currently considering doing so as well. In addition, the legislatures of some other states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, are debating similar measures.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Florida Minimum Wage Increase in 2009

The state of Florida will increase its minimum wage by 3 cents, which means, from the current $7.21 per hour to $7.24 per hour on July 24, 2009. At the same time, the federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 per hour.
Of course, the change has a number of ramifications for Florida employers. They must update their state and federal minimum wage posters in the workplace.
This is the second time for Florida to change the minimum wage this month. On July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25, so the minimum in these thirteen states will increase $7.25 per hour, too.
The change in the federal minimum wage will affect most of the employers in the United States. The companies earning $500, 000 or more annually will conform to the federal law.
When an employee qualifies for his or her state’s minimum wage and for the federal minimum wage, the worker is entitled to whichever wage provides the greater benefit to the employee

Monday, July 06, 2009

Minimum Wage Rises in Midst of Bad Economy

A new federally-mandated minimum wage will take effect across the nation July 24.
In order to help state workers, the Kentucky General Assembly voted to put this new act into effect July 1, three weeks earlier than the schedule date.

Congress made a two -year plan to increase the minimum wage in 2007. The minimum wage of 2007 is $5.85 an hour, and that of 2008 is $6.55. The minimum wage of 2009 will be 7.25$. The minimum wage for employees who receive tips will remain at $2.13 an hour. "This increase is significant for many Kentucky workers who, like others, have been struggling during these difficult economic times," Kentucky Labor Secretary J.R. Gray commented in a news release.There are two different views about the increase of minimum wages. Proponents take it as a good way for employees to make ends meet while increasing the standard of living, especially to the poor and vulnerable people. . It prevents workers from being exploited. However, opponents say the law reduces profit margins, destroys jobs and creates inflation, since many employers immediately pass the extra personnel cost on to consumers.
The Kentucky Retail Federation doesn’t think it is a good idea to increase the minimum wage at this time. Jan Gould, Senior Vice President for the Federation thinks it is extremely awful as there are layoffs in all industries. Gould said. "We're seeing major national retailers struggling. Increasing the base wage level and other wage levels just exacerbates it." Gould says arguing about the minimum wage hike is a moot point since the law is now two years old and had an automatic increase for 2009 written into it.
No one could have predicted that the economy would have such sharp decline when passed the minimum wage law in 2007. So it is very important to adjust the wage in Gould’s opinion.

No matter your agree it or not, the new act in Kentucky will taken into effect. That’s the final say about this thing.
Kentucky businesses will need to update their state and federal labor law posters and display them in the workplace. Employers with questions about the new minimum wage regulations can consult the Kentucky Labor Cabinet or call at 502-564-3534. If workers suspect their employer is not paying them properly under the federal minimum wage law, they may contact the U.S. Department of Labor Louisville District Office toll-free at 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act Goes Into Effect

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)of 2008, signed into law by previous President George W. Bush on May 21, 2008,and partly goes into effect on May 21, 2009, is an Act of Congress in the United States designed to prohibit the improper use of genetic information in health insurance and employment.

Under GINA, the EEOC definition of “genetic information” includes information about an individual’s family medical history. The law would prohibit an employer from asking about family medical history during an interview, or at any time after the employee is hired. It also prohibits employers from gathering information about the employee through individual genetic tests, or genetic tests of a family member.

The law has two parts: Title I and Title II. Title I, goes into effect on May 21, 2009, prohibits health insurance providers from discrimination against an individual based on genetic testing. This makes it illegal for health insurance providers to use or require genetic information to make decisions about a person's insurance eligibility or coverage. Title II, goes into effect on November 21, 2009, makes it illegal for employers to use a person's genetic information when making decisions about hiring, promotion, and several other terms of employment.

GINA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including private employers, employment agencies, labor unions, and joint labor-management training programs. It also applies to government employers with 15 or more workers, including state and local governments, agencies of the federal executive branch and Congress. Each of these employers is referred to as a “covered entity” in the GINA regulations.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Obama Speeds Up Stimulus Spending

President Barack Obama announced plans on June 8 to accelerate stimulus spending to save or create 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days, four times the number created or saved in the first 100 days since the plan was signed into law on February 17.

The announcement came days after the government reported that the number of unemployed continues to rise. The Labor Department reported that U.S. unemployment rose to 9.4 percent in May, even though job losses last month slowed to 345,000. The rate is the highest in more than 25 years. Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to lose jobs each month, although fewer jobs were lost last month than expected.

"We've got a long way to go, but I feel like we've made great progress," Obama said at a White House meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and cabinet officials aimed at highlighting gains made since Congress passed the massive stimulus package in February. Obama has claimed as many as 150,000 jobs saved or created by his stimulus plan so far, even as government reports have shown the economy has lost more than 1.6 million jobs.
The White House estimates the $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Democrats pushed through Congress with little Republican support will create or save 3 million to 4 million jobs by early 2011.

Monday, June 22, 2009

N.C. law strengthens rules for child labor

Gov. Bev Perdue on Friday signed into law a bill aimed at improving enforcement of the state's child labor rules.

The N.C. labor commissioner is required by the new law to provided detailed reports on the state’s efforts to protect child labor.

The Labor Department is obligatory to report each year on the number and types of complaints it received. Besides, it must report that how it investigated those complaints and the identity of employers cited for violations.

The labor commissioner also have the reasons about what kind of obstacles they have met which stop the Department of Labor from enforcing youth employment rules , and then provide recommendations about how to better protect working children.

The legislation was passed unanimously in the House and Senate. It followed stories in the Observer last year that chronicled how thousands of American youths are injured working jobs deemed unsafe for young workers.

According to the present law, state regulator can not fine the violators of labor law more that $250. That's among the nation's lowest penalties for child-labor violations.
Now we know that one of the reason that there are so many violators as the do not afraid to be fined.

We are glad to see that there is another bill which aimed to increase penalties for violations of child labor law has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate finance committee.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2009 Federal Minimum Wage Increase

The federal minimum wage increases from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009. This is the third time and the final annual increase under the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.

For ten years, while the federal minimum wage sat at $5.15 an hour, members of Congress voted themselves raises that increased wages by an average of $31,600 each. That changed with the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. This new Act released that increase the minimum wage by 70 cents per hour every year for three years.

The increase comes on July 24 each year. The final increase comes July 24, 2009, when the minimum wage rises from $6.55 to $7.25.

The federal minimum wage law is the Faire Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It applies only to those employers who have more than 50 workers or who earn revenues of more than a half-million dollars a year. More than half of all states in America have passed laws that establish a higher minimum wage than the federal rate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Illinois Nonsmoking Regulations

Now there are clear terms to state that violators of Smoke-Free Illinois Act will face civil but not criminal charges.

Public Act 95-1029, signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn, amends the Smoke-Free Illinois Act by specifying that violations are treated as civil matters and the hearings shall be conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. While the penalties will still include fines but not include jail time.

The Illinois non-smoking law defines smoking as carrying a lit cigarette, pipe, cigar or any other smoking material or implement. In addition, smoking, burning, inhaling and exhaling are also defined as smoking. The law specifically prohibits herbs and weeds as well as tobacco.

According to the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, every employer must post signs prohibiting smoking within 15 feet of any windows that open or ventilation intakes that serve an indoor workplace. It is also prohibited to smoke in all workplaces, including bars, restaurants, schools, theaters and casinos.
Before the regulation, the Chicago Tribune reports that some local law enforcement authorities were treating violations as criminal matters. However, At least one judge ruled that the county courts could not enforce the statute until the State adopted administrative rules. As a result, some counties in rural downstate Illinois stopped enforcing the law.

Monday, June 08, 2009

State and Federal Regulations for Summer Jobs

Here comes summer. It is time for some teenagers to go to the workforce to earn some money.
Companies who hire teenagers should be highly aware that state and federal law restricts the use of minors. Every company should be clear about this labor law poster requirement.

State and federal law apply to “minors.” According to the California Labor Code, minors refer to people under the age of 18 who are required to attend school. The definition also includes people under age 18 who are not required to attend school because they are not California residents. The definition also covers any child under the age of six.

A person under the age of 18 but has graduate from high school or the equivalent is not a minor according to this definition as he is not required to go to school. So the child labor laws would not apply.

Work permits are required to employ “minors” under the age of 18. Generally, permits can be obtained from the student’s school. Schools are not permitted to issue permits for children under age 12, but under federal law it is generally impermissible to employ an individual under age 14. The documents are usually issued from the superintendent’s office, or by the superintendent’s designated representative.

You should know that work permits have its expiration, so it is important to know the effective dates. Permits issued during the school year expire at the start of the next school year. That is to say, if you would love to hire a teenager for another school term, you need to obtain a new permit

To comply with Labor Code requirement, the school district’s permit form includes the following information: the minor’s name, age, birth date, address, telephone number, and social security number. The permit must be signed by both the issuing school representative and the student.

Let’s take a look at some details about the work time by the California Education Code.
Minors age 16 or 17 cannot work more than 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week. They may work as early as 5:00 a.m. or as late as 12:30 a.m. as long as there is no school the following day.

Not all the occupations are allowed for child labor. Children of certain ages are prohibited from working in a number of hazardous jobs, for example, a number of manufacturing, industrial, and construction occupations, as well as driving a motor vehicle.
So before hiring a minor, you should make it clear that weather state and federal law permit the child to work the occupation.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

New Illinois Sexual Harassment Law

A new ruling about sexual harassment was released by the Illinois Supreme Court that an employer is responsible for sexual harassment by an employee who happens to be a supervisor. This ruling makes Illinois employers train supervisors and managers to prevent sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

In Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department v. Illinois Human Rights Commission, the judge ruled on April 16, 2009 that the employer was strictly liable for any manager’s or supervisor’s actions.

In a 4-2 ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling that the sheriff’s department could be held strictly liable in such circumstances.

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, “The issue in this case is whether an employer is strictly liable under [the IHRA] for the ‘hostile environment’ sexual harassment of its supervisory employees, where the supervisor has no authority to affect the terms and conditions of the complainant’s employment. The answer is yes.” The court added that the employer is reasonable for the harassment by the supervisor.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

California Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Ban

On May 26th, the California Supreme Court rejected all constitutional challenges and upheld a voter-approved constitutional amendment Proposition 8 that bans same-sex marriage in the state.

In the 2008 general election, California voters approved Proposition 8 by a 52 percent to 48 percent majority. Proposition. 8 stated: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

However, the California Supreme Court held that Proposition 8 is not retroactive. So those couples who wed in the state under an earlier opinion from the court, will be considered married.

The court majority said same-sex couples would continue to have the right to choose life partners and enter into "committed, officially recognized and protected family relationships" that enjoy all the benefits of marriage under the state's domestic partnership law. But opponents said that the measure was passed improperly as an "amendment," and instead constituted a "revision" to the state constitution, which cannot be accomplished through the initiative process and instead require the involvement of the state legislature. However, the court rejected these arguments.

Monday, June 01, 2009

U.S. Labor Department announces release of $32.3 million to Idaho

The U.S. Department of Labor has decided to release $$32,260,831 in the unemployment insurance modernization incentive funds to the state of Idaho.
Idaho's approved application will be posted at the department's Employment and Training Administration Web site at .

"Idaho has made important updates to its UI program to better meet the needs of the 21st century workforce," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The UI modernization provisions adopted in Idaho help unemployed workers who have entered the workforce recently, work part time or need training to become re-employed receive the benefits they deserve."

As for the usage of the funds to Idaho, the Idaho Department of Labor can use them to pay unemployment benefit. What’s more, the funds can also be used to administer its unemployment insurance program or deliver employment services, if appropriated by the legislature.

These funds are extremely important to those folks in Idaho. These one-time dollars give Idaho families the temporary assistance they need to help themselves through these challenging economic times."

The Recovery Act made a total of $7 billion available in UI modernization incentive payments to states that include certain eligibility provisions in their UI programs. The states that can show that its law includes those provisions have the qualification to share some of the fund.
In addition to Idaho, Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey have been certified by the Labor Department to receive their full shares of the funds. Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, South Dakota, Vermont and Virginia have been certified to receive one-third of their shares.