Monday, April 27, 2009

It is trend to pass Employee Free Choice Act

Nowadays almost every American is waiting for the approval of Employee Free Choice Act, including the America’s veterans.

Many of America’s veterans have come out in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, among them, active and retired union members who have served in the armed forces. In Arkansas, these veterans got together Wednesday to talk about the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s the long cherished dream for them to form a union and fairness and respect in the workplace. It is one of the values that they fought for years.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, employees will be more able to organize as a labor union bargaining for better wages and working conditions. If passed, employees could have more rights given by the EFCA to strike a better deal with their employers, making business and industry owners fairly share profits earned by employees' labors.

The Employee Free Choice Act is American’s needs. All Americans needs to stand up with their co-workers who need protection from firings and harassment.
We all need to step up and get involved in this campaign because this is our best shot to reform the current laws.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New H-1B Visa Restrictions Release

New restrictions for employers who receive stimulus find to hire foreign workers through the H-1B visa program was recently outlined by the Department of Homeland Security. On March 20, 2009, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced these regulations.

Employers who receive TARP funds will need to provide additional statements to the U.S Department of Labor. It is to show that they have made good-faith attempts to fill the positions with qualified American workers.

H-1B regulations are generated under the Employ American Workers Act or EAWA which was signed on February 17, 2009. However, the new provisions are in effect until February 17, 2011. H-1B visas are granted for maximum of 6 years to highly-skilled, temporary foreign workers, such as IT industry, including computer programmers and software engineers.

Before hiring an H-1B worker, any employer who has accepted TARP funds must take a number of actions. The employers can use industry wide standards to make a good-faith effort to recruit and hire qualified U.S. workers. Employers must also show that they have offered the job to any U.S. worker who applies and is equally as qualified as (or better qualified than) the H-1B worker.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IFCO Systems Paid Back Wages and Penalties

IFCO Systems North America Inc., doing business as IFCO Systems, has paid $1,602,267 in back wages to its employees. DOL said the Wage and Hour investigation found 1,751 employees in 17 states had not been properly paid by the company for overtime hours that they worked as the Fair Labor Standards Act requires. The Wage and Hour Division also fined the company $963,050 in civil money penalties.

Investigators found that IFCO Systems, a Houston-based company that manufactures and repairs reusable plastic containers and wooden pallets, did not pay its employees time and one-half for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The company also did not maintain the records that they are required to keep under the law.

The investigations took place in the states of Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Utah on the case, according to DOL.

Back wages and civil money penalties have been paid in full, and the company has agreed to injunctive relief enjoining them from further violations of the FLSA.

A separate 2002 Wage and Hour Division investigation in Atlanta, Ga., found the company had violated FLSA, resulting in $30,538 in overtime back wages paid to 67 employees.

"The Department of Labor is a voice for working families, and I am committed to ensuring that employers comply with federal labor laws so workers can have confidence they will receive the compensation they've earned and deserve," said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New I-9 Form In Effect

From April 16, 2009, all employers should begin using the new updated I-9 form. Expired identity documents will no longer be accepted on the new form. This is the biggest difference between the new version and the previous version of the I-9 form.

The Department of Homeland Security wants to ensure that “documents presented for use in the Form I-9 process must be valid and reliably establish both identity and employment authorization.” This is what the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) notes.

The newest I-9 form adds a number of documents to List A, including:
Foreign passports with machine-readable immigrant visas
Passports from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or
Passports from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)
Along with Form I-94 or Form I-94A indicating nonimmigrant admission under the Compact of Free Association Between the United States and the FSM or RMI

Besides that, the new I-9 form also eliminates several documents from List A, items that establish both identity and employment authorization.

The new I-9 was originally slated to be used beginning February 2, 2009. However, the Obama Administration gave employers an extra month to adjust to the new document.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

California Has Its “Own FMLA Regulations”

The U.S. Department of Labor published new regulations governing the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The rules became effective on January 16, 2009.

California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) is called “California version of FMLA”. There are many similarities between CFRA and FMLA, but a HR professional should also know the differences between the two leave acts.

The new FMLA regulation can not be fully applied in California because California has its own separate statutory and regulatory scheme. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission, The California agency responsible for regulating CFRA, issued a statement and a chart comparing the two Acts and their regulations.

On November 17, 2008, the federal Department of Labor issued revised regulations interpreting the FMLA. These new regulations differ from comparable regulations that the Commission had issued interpreting the California Family Rights Act. The Commission plans to revise its CFRA regulations. It has made a comparison between the revised FMLA regulations and the Commission’s CFRA regulations.”

Although we do not have a clear idea when the new CFRA regulations will be proposed, and we do not know whether the new regulation will make a closer step to the new FMLA, there is one thing for sure: Employers must of course comply with both state and federal law.

The following are some examples.

Domestic Partners. CFRA covers leave to care for “spouses” in the traditional sense of the word and registered domestic spouses, while in FMLA registered domestic spouses are excluded.

Military Leave. FMLA now includes 26 weeks of leave to care for injured family members in the military, and 12 weeks of leave for “qualified exigencies” related to certain military deployments. California does not offer this right, although in a separate statute spouses of certain military members may take leaves.

Overtime. Under FMLA, overtime hours that would have been worked but for leave can be deducted from the 12 week leave entitlement. The employer has no such expression under CFRA.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

ARRA for Employee’s Health Care

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the economic stimulus legislation, were approved by the House of Representatives and Senate On Friday, February 13, 2009.

On April 3, 2009, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published Implementing Guidance for ARRA. This is the second installment of detailed government-wide guidance for carrying out programs and activities enacted in the Recovery Act.

Employers’ obligations under COBRA have been significantly increased by ARRA.

Employees who have terminated their employment between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 are entitled to continue their heath care coverage through COBRA. What those employees need do is pay 35 percent of their premiums for up to nine months. Employers are obligated to pay for the remaining 65 percent. Apparently employer has to pay some money; however, they do not have any loss as they can deduct their cost from federal payroll taxes. Employers must immediately comply with the law by providing notice to eligible individuals, collecting 35% of the premiums from the employees, paying 65% themselves, and filing quarterly tax returns claiming a credit for the 65% subsidized amount.

ARRA mandates that plans notify certain current and former participants and beneficiaries about the premium reduction. Employers should send notices to employees who are involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009.

The Department created model notices to help plans and individuals comply with these requirements. Each model notice is designed for a particular group of qualified beneficiaries and contains information to help satisfy ARRA’s notice provisions. The forms were posted on the DOL website on March 19, 200

Monday, April 06, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Unemployment Extension

On March 27, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation extending unemployment insurance benefits for jobless Californians. To those employees who meet certain criteria, California's unemployment insurance benefits will be extended an additional 20 weeks, including the exhaustion of the 59 weeks of federal/state benefits previously available – 26 weeks of state benefits plus federal extensions totaling 33 weeks. Thus, some jobless residents now will be eligible for up to 79 weeks of aid.

Only jobless Californians whose existing benefits expired after Feb. 21 are eligible for the 20-week extension. The money will be an immediate lifeline for more than 75,000 California workers whose benefits would have run out on April 11. It is estimated that by the end of the year, about 400,000 additional laid-off workers should get the extra help. Officials expect the money to be spent on buying food and paying rent as the state's unemployment rate tops 10 percent.

"Accessing billions of dollars in federal unemployment aid not only will keep families in their homes, it's going to provide a quick boost to withering local economies and small businesses," said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Due Diligence under Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Since the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act release, when buying or merging with a new company, companies will have to add new step in their due diligence. Under the law, employees can sue for wage discrimination.

Now, the U.S. Senate has passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and President Obama has signed it into law. According to the new act, it allows for discrimination suits beyond the old 180-day deadline. This means that employers must retain records on the basis of compensation decisions far longer for defending against a possible lawsuit.

According to President, he intended “to send a clear message” by signing the bill: “That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it’s not just unfair and illegal – it’s bad for business – to pay someone less because of their gender, or their age, race, ethnicity, religion, or disability.” It was the first bill the new President signed following his January 20 inauguration.

However, the act is opposed by both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).