Archive for July, 2011

DOL Gives Pension Plan Service Providers More Time to Disclose Fees

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced an extension of the effective date for new rules requiring pension plan service providers to disclose their fees to pension plan fiduciaries.

The rules were to take effect Jan. 1, 2012. The new effective date is April 1, 2012.  DOL also extended the date plan administrators must provide an initial fee disclosure to all current participants and beneficiaries until the later of May 31, 2012 or 60 days after the first date of the first plan year beginning on or after Nov. 1, 2011. Read more about the rules and the extension here.


US Airways, Pilots Union in Fight Over Alleged Slowdown

Strikes and slowdowns were once potent weapons that unions used to pressure their employers to agree to their terms at the negotiating table. They’re less so these days with the decline in union membership. That’s why it’s worth watching the brewing confrontation between US Airways and the US Airways Pilots Association.

US Airways has gone to court to stop its pilots from staging a slowdown that the company claims is disrupting its operations in Charlotte, N.C. and other East Coast hubs. The pilots and the carrier have been without a contract since US Airways merged in 2005 with America West Holdings Corp.

So this may be a ploy by the pilots union to pressure the carrier into negotiating a contract.  The Railway Labor Act, which governs airline labor relations, makes it illegal for unions to stage work slowdowns or strikes unless they have been released from contract talks by the National Mediation Board.

No doubt we’ll hear more about this as the summer travel season heats up.

Here’s some background on the Railway Labor Act.

Temp Agency Violated ADA, EEOC Alleges

A temporary employment agency violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by denying an employee who suffered an epileptic seizure the opportunity to return to his employer, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged today.

The commission said that although the employee got a note from his doctor giving him permission to return to work the next day, the agency neither advised him the note was inadequate or forwarded the note to the employer. The result-he was effectively terminated from his job.

Read the EEOC’s press release on the case.


For First Time, BLS Employee Benefits Survey Includes Domestic Partner Benefits

Further confirmation that gay and lesbian employees are gaining equality in the workplace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor,  yesterday released its annual report on employer-provided benefits, including for the first time data on employers offering domestic partner benefits.

According to the survey data, about half of unmarried domestic partners in state and local government have access to survivor benefits, as compared to 7 percent of the workers in private industry.

Thirty-three percent of state and local government workers and 29 percent of private sector workers have access to health care benefits for unmarried domestic partners of the same sex. Access to benefits varies by employer and employee characteristics and by whether the unmarried domestic partner is of the same or opposite sex.

The report also includes data on health care benefits.

For more information on the report, visit

New Book Discusses Ins and Outs of Managing Social Media in the Workplace

I don’t normally advertise for other authors, but I’m making an exception this time to tell you about a new book  by fellow blogger and employment law attorney Jon Hyman on the intersection of social media, HR, and labor/employment law.

To learn more about this book and how to purchase it, please visit the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog.

Jon didn’t ask me to make this pitch. I’m making it solely on my own because I know Jon to be one of the best labor lawyers in the country and the subject is too important to ignore.

Ohio Employer Must Pony Up $563K for Willful Safety Violations

A reminder that the federal government takes workplace safety seriously. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently fined Republic Engineered Products, Inc. of Lorraine Ohio $563,000 for willful violations of fall hazard regulations.

Read more about the case and what you should do to lesson your chance of being caught in OSHA’s web here.

Big Win for Washington D.C. Area Transit Workers in Wage Dispute

For all of the issues that collective bargaining touches on, none is more important than wages, because that’s why employees go to work everyday–to make a decent living to provide for themselves and their families.

So employees of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will sleep more contentedly tonight knowing that they will receive promised-for wages increases. A federal judge ruled today that WMATA must give bargaining unit employees a 9 percent pay raise covering 2009-2011.

The issue went to arbitration after the parties reached an impasse in 2008. In November 2009 the arbitrator ruled on some issues for the union, but WMATA appealed the decision.

Federal District Court Judge Peter Messittee agreed with the arbitration panel. A WMATA spokesperson said the authority already has money in the budget to cover the wage increases.

Employees will receive the wage increase of 3 percent per year spread out over 3 years.

So it was a good day for workers, and an outcome that other transit authorites under union contracts might wish to analyze further.

More Personnel Cuts at Lockheed Martin

Against the backdrop of potential cuts in the defense budget, Lockheed Martin announced Tuesday that it is offering buyouts to 6,500 U.S.-based employees, the lastest in a series of personnel cuts at the world’s largest defense contractor.

Buyouts will be offered to employees in Washington, D.C., Florida, Denver, Fort Worth, and Valley Forge, Pa.

The severance pay package provides two weeks of pay plus another week of pay per year of service, up to 26 weeks. Eligible employees have until Aug. 12 to decide and would depart in the fall, the Washington Post reported.

After the program ends, the company will decide whether to implement layoffs.

Lockheed also has announced it plans to lay off about 1,500 employees in its 28.000-employe aeronautics business, primarily based in Texas, Georgia and California.

Don’t forget that if a severance pay package includes a waiver of rights–as it frequently does–the package must comply with the Older Workers’ Benefit Protection Act.

Ilinois Governor Signs Workers’ Compensation Reform Law

A law signed late June by Gov. Pat Quinn purports to fix Illinois’ workers’ compensation law, promising savings to employers of $650 million per year and decreased premiums of between 12 and 18 percent.

The legislation establishes a new workers’ compensation advisory board within the Illinois Department of Central Management Services. It calls for the termination of all present advisory board members effective July 1, 2011, to be replaced by advisory board members appointed by the governor.

Other provisions of the law include the following:

  • Reduces the workers’ compensation medical fee schedule by 30 percent.
  • Allows employers to create networks of doctors for workers’ compensation claims similar to preferred provider healthcare networks to prevent “doctor shopping” by claimants.
  • Requires doctors to follow American Medical Association guidelines for determining levels of disability, and creates a list of criteria to be used when deciding final disability determinations.
  • Limits carpal tunnel awards to 15 percent loss of use, or 30 percent for exceptional cases.
  • Makes it easier for employers to deny claims for injuries resulting from intoxication.
  • Establishes new criminal penalties for fraud, including Class 1 felony charges for fraud seeking $100,000 or more.
  • Requires the state to purchase workers’ compensation insurance from a third party rather than self-insure, which is the current practice.

Read more about the new law here.