Informed Employer: OSHA Fines to Increase Significantly in 2016 Informed Employer: OSHA Fines to Increase Significantly in 2016

Informed Employer: OSHA Fines to Increase Significantly in 2016

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High Court Takes on Overtime Pay in Tyson Foods Lawsuit
U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed skepticism toward Tyson Foods Inc.’s challenge to an almost $5.8 million class action judgment in a case that could buck the court’s recent pro-business trend in such disputes. Tyson is appealing a jury verdict over claims that it underpaid workers at an Iowa pork facility, but based on questions asked by the justices, the case is unlikely to lead to a ruling cutting back on class action litigation, a goal for a business community eager to rein in big-money payouts in such lawsuits.
(Source: Insurance Journal, 2015-11-11) Read the full article
Coalition Urges Reworking of Benefits Amid New Labor Definitions
In an attempt to shift focus away from labor classifications, some leading on-demand start-ups such as Lyft and Instacart have formed a somewhat unlikely alliance with labor groups to explore ways to better support contract workers without necessarily creating new laws. The coalition called for easier and more expansive access to the sorts of benefits that are traditionally enjoyed by full-time employees.
(Source: The New York Times, 2015-11-09) Read the full article
Employee Benefits for Same-Sex Couples Challenge Companies
Many companies -- two-thirds of Fortune 500 firms, according to the Human Rights Campaign -- offered health care benefits to same-sex domestic partners before the high court decision, on the theory that it wasn't fair to deny marital benefits to people not legally allowed to wed. But now that gay and lesbian couples can make their unions official, employers are grappling with how to adjust.
(Source: U.S. News & World Report, 2015-11-10) Read the full article
Firms' Health Costs Rise at Lower Rate, But Workers' Share Rises
Companies' health care costs in 2015 rose at the lowest rate in at least 20 years, a report shows, but workers' share of costs continue to skyrocket. The average health care rate increase for mid-sized and large companies was 3.2 percent this year, the lowest since the consulting firm Aon started tracking it in 1996, but despite this the average amount workers have to contribute toward their health care is up more than 134 percent over the past decade and that trend will accelerate.
(Source: USA Today, 2015-11-11) Read the full article
Employers Discriminate Against Qualified Disabled Job Applicants
When researchers at two universities sent out hundreds of fake cover letters to employers, they discovered something distressing: Employers are still systematically discriminating against disabled job applicants. After sending out more than 6,000 fake resumes and cover letters, researchers from Rutgers University and Syracuse University found that employers showed less interest in candidates who said they have a disability.
(Source: Fast Company, 2015-11-06) Read the full article
Judge Rejects Suit Seeking Comp for Apple Workers' Bag Searches
A federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for the time Apple employees spent while undergoing exit searches of their bags at retail stores in California. The employees had sued under California law requiring a minimum wage for all work hours, defined by California courts as time subject to the control of the employer.
(Source: ABA Journal, 2015-11-09) Read the full article
Global Outsourcing Companies Taking Advantage of H-1B Program
Congress set up the H-1B program to help American companies hire foreigners with exceptional skills, to fill open jobs and to help their businesses grow, but the program has been failing many American employers who cannot get visas for foreigners with the special skills they need. Instead, the outsourcing firms are increasingly dominating the program, federal records show.
(Source: The New York Times, 2015-11-10) Read the full article
More Companies Allowing Employees to Work Remotely
While only about 4.5 percent of full-time workers telecommute every day, a growing number of companies have gone all-in on working remotely, according to Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs. That is to say, there is no company office or headquarters.
(Source:, 2015-11-09) Read the full article
First National Restaurant Chain to Eliminate Tips
Joe’s Crab Shack seafood chain is dropping tips for servers, but implement a 12 percent to 15 percent price increase to the restaurant’s menu to offset the wage increase. Wages will be raised and begin at $14 an hour, but pay will vary based on each server's past performance.
(Source: Fox News, 2015-11-10) Read the full article
Companies That Stop Offering Office Snacks May See Repercussions
Organizations eager to save money tend to get creative, and gratis office treats can seem like just the kind of frivolous expense a company entering a phase of austerity should reconsider. But snacks keep workers in the office working instead of out foraging for sustenance during working hours.
(Source: Bloomberg, 2015-11-09) Read the full article
OSHA Fines to Increase Significantly in 2016
Ryan Poor

OSHA’s maximum penalty amounts – up to $7,000 for each serious violation and $70,000 for each repeat and willful violation – have not increased in a quarter century. That is all about to change. As a part of the federal budget signed into law earlier this month, OSHA is authorized to increase those penalties by what will amount to approximately 80%. Although the precise ceiling is not known, it is expected that the adjustment (which is based on changes in the Consumer Price Index from 1990 to 2015) will take those maximum penalties to over $12,000 for each serious violation and over $120,000 for each repeat or willful violation. The changes in fines must be implemented no later than August, 2016. Thereafter, the maximum penalty amounts may be increased on an annual basis, also tied to inflation. These changes will likely quickly follow in approved state plan states, as the state plans' programs must be at least as effective as the federal program.

For more information, contact Ryan Poor or any member of Ice Miller’s Labor, Employment and Immigration Group.


Timing of Final Rule on White Collar Exemptions Uncertain

Until last week, most writers predicted that the Department of Labor (DOL) would issue its final regulations on the white collar exemptions to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act in late 2015 or early 2016. An article recently published by the Wall Street Journal calls that prediction into question. The article, which can be located here (registration required), and which has been picked up by several other sources, reports that the Solicitor of Labor, M. Patricia Smith, commented at a recent conference that the DOL is unlikely to issue the final regulations until late 2016. If accurate, employers may have a little more time to consider any changes that may need to be made to their pay structures in response to the new regulations. Nonetheless, employers should continue looking at their exempt positions that pay less than $50,000, and considering their options if those positions can no longer be treated as exempt when the DOL issues the final regulations.

For more information, contact Tami Earnhart or any member of Ice Miller's Labor, Employment and Immigration Group.


Controlling Medical Costs in Worker’s Compensation

Nationally, worker’s compensation medical costs are increasing at an alarming rate. Medical services account for 60% of worker’s compensation claim costs. Plus, worker’s compensation costs are 71% higher than care for similar injuries covered under group health costs. Although it is not appropriate to second guess the authorized treating physician’s recommendations or try to direct care through utilization reviews, there are other things an employer or its insurer can do to control medical costs.

Learn those here.


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