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.