Big changes are happening in the realm of workplace compliance issues and labor laws in the United States. Noncompliance with government regulations can have serious consequences—and can cost your business big time. Keep up with what's happening between the government and the workplace with the HR Compliance Tracker: your go-to place to stay updated on some major workforce compliance issues.
Texas federal judge ruled ACA unconstitutional
On December 14, Republican-appointed Judge Reed O’Connor has ruled the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional. He stated that “because rewriting the ACA without its ‘essential’ feature is beyond the power” of his court, the individual mandate was inseparable from the law and therefore must be dismantled.
While this decision sent sweeping shock waves in the healthcare landscape, it has little immediate impact. Government agencies reported that the 2019 enrollment will proceed as planned, and the law would stay in place during appeals. Yet, Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling raises concerns for millions of Americans who depend on the law for health coverage. Hospitals and provider groups are also stressed as blows to keep the ACA will affect their ability to provide access to high-quality care.
DHS proposes a reform to the H-1B visa filing process
On December 3, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a new change to the H-1B visa filing process. This proposed rule would require employers to register candidates online for visas two weeks before the application deadline of April 1. Only accepted submissions are allowed to submit a full application. The new process would also flip the order in which the petitions are reviewed, which would favor candidates with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.
"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and this administration are intensely focused on reforming employment visa programs so they benefit Americans to the greatest extent possible," U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Michael Bars said in an emailed statement. The application process aims to reduce the overall costs for businesses of highly skilled foreign workers and decrease the administrative burden of processing thousands of applications.
The rule is yet to be finalized. Despite uncertainties, the best course of action is to stay informed.
IRS extends deadlines for Form 1095-C & transition relief
At the end of the month, the IRS issued a notice saying it would extend the deadline for furnishing Form 1095-C to employees. After consulting with stakeholders, the IRS determined that employers, insurers, and other providers of Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) will need an extended period of time to gather and analyze the necessary information to prepare Forms 1095-B and 1095-C. The deadline has been extended from January 31, 2019, to March 4, 2019.
This IRS notice also extended the good-faith transition relief through the 2018 tax year from section 6721 and 6722 penalties to the 2018 information reporting requirements under sections 6055 and 6056. Remember, good-faith transition relief can be applied only when reasonable efforts to maintain ACA compliance and meet ACA reporting deadlines have been demonstrated.
Supreme Court casts a unanimous vote in age discrimination case
In a unanimous vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of two Arizona firefighters in a lawsuit against the Mount Lemmon Fire District. The firefighters, the two most senior crew members at the time, claimed they were fired based on their age. The Mount Lemmon Fire District argued the employees were let go due to lack of participation in volunteer assignments. Adding to their arguments, the Fire District also claimed the age discrimination law did not apply to them because they had 13 employees at the time the oldest employees were let go. This, they believed, put them well below the 20-person threshold requirement for the private sector.
While the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) covers private-sector employers with 20 or more employees, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a statement that the ADEA covers state and local governments without regard to the number of workers they employ. This comes from, as Ginsburg noted, the 1974 amendment that says the term employer “also means a State or political subdivision of a State and any agency or instrumentality of a State or a political subdivision of a State” without any numerical threshold. Knowing your rights and responsibilities as both an employer and employee is valuable in maintaining proper workplace compliance and knowing how to respond when things don’t go as they should.
DOL pushed back overtime rule until 2019
If you’re expecting regulation updates on overtime exemptions, you’ll have to wait until next year. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) pushed the date to propose new regulations governing overtime exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to March 2019.
The DOL plans to roll out an updated salary level for exemption and seek the public’s view on salary-related issues. Today’s salary threshold for overtime pay is $23,660, but President Trump’s DOL may propose a range between $32,000 and $35,000.
When the rules are changing, employers need to prepare their businesses and HR departments for compliance with important FLSA resources. You can also read here to learn more about DOL’s fall regulatory agenda.