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.