HHS Releases Communication Checklist to Aid First Responders

HHS Releases Checklist to Aid First Responders in Communicating Effectively with Patients The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has released a plain language checklist that is intended to aid First Responders during emergencies that involve individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and communications related disabilities. The AAA issued numerous articles to its members in 2016 about the newly published requirements for all healthcare providers, including EMS agencies, under the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1557. The requirements are intended to prevent discrimination in the provision of healthcare and ensure that all individuals can meaningfully participate in their healthcare treatment, including those patients with LEP and other communications related disabilities. The announcement yesterday is intended to provide additional resources for healthcare providers to ensure compliance with the ACA Section 1557. The checklist includes numerous recommendations and action steps that EMS agencies can utilize to ensure that they are serving all members of a community in a meaningful way. These recommendations include conducting research about the communities by accessing U.S. Census Bureau data, engaging Centers for Independent Living and local assistance groups, and by preparing emergency messaging that can be...

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Retirement plan limit increases

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week that it has increased the contribution limits for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans.  The total contributions amounts has increased $500 from $18,500 to $19,000 for plan year 2019.  In addition, the “all sources” contribution maximum increase $1,000 to $56,000.  These limits on contributions are adjusted each year due to inflation.  The catch-up contributions for employees who are age 50 or older remains unchanged at $6,000 because that is not adjusted along with inflation but set by law....

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EEOC Sexual Harassment Update Fall 2018

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a Press Release yesterday encouraging employers to take “concrete steps to change their workplace cultures to prevent harassment”.  The EEOC held a meeting yesterday at their headquarters in Washington D.C. as it has been 12 months since the #MeToo movement first exploded in the media in October 2016.  Long before the #MeToo movement gained momentum, the EEOC assembled a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace to try to ascertain the progress made in the last 30 years of anti-harassment efforts.  This Special Task Force released a report in June 2016 in which they state that sexual harassment in the workplace is still a significant problem and that many of the employer awareness and educational efforts have done little to reduce or prevent it. The EEOC released the final 2018 fiscal year data regarding its efforts to fight or prevent workplace harassment.  The report included data that showed a 13.6% increase in sexual harassment charges and nearly 50% increase in harassment lawsuits.  EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic and Select Task Force Co-Chair Chai R. Feldblum, stated that there needs to be a holistic approach to fighting and preventing (more…)

HIPAA Breach Results in Highest Settlement in OCR History

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced earlier this month that is has entered into the largest settlement agreement in the history of the Department with Anthem, Inc., the largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield health benefit companies in the country.  Anthem, Inc. agreed to pay $16 million to HHS and take substantial corrective action to settle numerous potential violations of both HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules after it exposed protected health information (PHI) for nearly 79 million people. In March 2015 Anthem filed a breach report with OCR after they discovered that their Information Technology (IT) systems were infiltrated by cyber-attackers who had gained access to their systems after an Anthem employee opened a phishing email.  This email released an undetected continuous persistent threat attack that permitted the cyber-attackers to access their systems from December 2014 through the end of January 2015.  This attack opened access that ultimately resulted in the PHI of nearly 79 million people to be stolen. OCR’s investigation revealed that Anthem failed to conduct an enterprise-wide risk analysis.  Additionally, OCR determined that Anthem “failed to have sufficient policies and procedures to regularly review IT system activity, identify...

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Notice of Proposed Change to OSHA Injury Reporting

Notice of Proposed Change to OSHA Electronic Injury Reporting Regulations The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced on July 27, 2018 that it has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would change the Electronic Injury Reporting Regulations (29 CFR Part 1904) for employers with 250 or more employees. OSHA is proposing this change due to a heightened concern that employee Personally Identifiable Information may be at risk of disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Currently, all EMS employers must submit their annual injury and illness data to OSHA through the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Historically, employers were required to track all workplace injuries and illnesses and maintain records of those incidents in the workplace on the OSHA Form 300, 301, and 300A. Each year, employers are required to post a Summary of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses on the Form 300A from February 1st through April 30th. In May 2016, OSHA amended the regulations requiring all employers to submit their Form 300A Summary electronically through the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Employers with 250 or more employees were required to electronically report all injury and illness data from Forms 300, 301, and 300A each year. Initially OSHA...

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Do You Offer Equal Paternity Leave?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that Estée Lauder, the beauty product manufacturer, has entered a settlement agreement in the amount of $1.1mm to settle a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 210 male employees who allege that Estée Lauder discriminated against them on the basis of their gender.  The allegations included that Estée Lauder provided “new fathers less paid leave for bonding with a newborn, or with a newly adopted or fostered child, than it provided new mothers. The parental leave policy at issue was separate from medical leave received by mothers for childbirth and related issues. The EEOC also alleged that the company unlawfully denied new fathers return-to-work benefits provided to new mothers, such as temporary modified work schedules, to ease the transition to work after the arrival of a new child and exhaustion of paid parental leave.” The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last August alleging unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The U.S District Court entered a consent decree July 17, 2018 awarding the male members of the class action...

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Supreme Court Overturns 1977 Union Dues Ruling

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case that many municipal employers and labor unions have been anxiously awaiting because it may change the power of organized labor in this country.  The ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, (AFSCME), overturned a 1977 decision that required governmental employees who chose not to join the union to pay union dues.  The plaintiff in this case was a teacher who argued that the union takes political positions and contributes to political causes that are often contrary to his own personal beliefs and that requiring he financially support those causes violates his right to free speech under the Constitution.  The union argued that it is unfair for non-union employees benefit from the collective bargaining effort of dues paying union members and that this ruling will give those employees a “free ride”.  In the opinion, drafted by Justice Alito, said that the majority “conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”  This decision will likely impact the level of union membership in this country, which is currently at about...

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