Quick Hits - August 31, 2022 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

Quick Hits - August 31, 2022

ICE is moving to permanent review of I-9 forms remotely:  The federal government has moved to permanently allow employers to review Form I-9 identification documents remotely, according to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published August 18.   If finalized, the rule would create a framework under which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could “pilot various options, respond to emergencies similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, or implement permanent flexibilities upon a specific determination as to level of security, including, but not limited to, fraud risk.” Additionally, the agency proposed a change to Form I-9 that would have an employer indicate whether it inspected the documents remotely. The agency has requested input on several questions, such as ways to reduce fraud risk, avoid discrimination in the process, and protect privacy. For example, it asked whether employers should be required to retain copies of documents inspected remotely, and whether the remote-inspection option should be limited to employers that use E-Verify. Stakeholders can review the proposed regulations and comment on them at Regulations.gov for 60 days using code ICEB 2021-0010.  Currently, the agency has extended remote view until October 31.  Source:  HR Dive 8/17/22, CCH 8/16/22

OFCCP to release 5 years EEO-1 reports unless contractors object: Will Evans, a reporter with The Center for Investigative Reporting (“CIR”), initially submitted a FOIA request to Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in January of 2019, seeking the Type 2 consolidated EEO-1 reports for all federal contractors for 2016.  Some contractors may remember being notified, and possibly objecting, to the FOIA request at that time.  Since then, CIR has amended its FOIA request several times.  The most recent was on June 2, 2022, when CIR expanded the request to reach all federal contractors and first-tier subcontractors for 2016-2020 Type 2 EEO-1 Reports.  On August 19, 2022, OFCCP published in the Federal Register a “Notice of Request under the Freedom of Information Act for Federal Contractors’ Type 2 Consolidated EEO-1 Report Data.”  Companies that have historically kept their EEO-1 data confidential and wish to maintain that confidentiality, should take immediate steps to file an objection to the FOIA request.  Such employers must act promptly to protect their information by filing objections or seeking an extension no later than September 19, 2022. A company that fails to respond by that date “will be considered to have no objection to the disclosure of the information” according to the OFCCP.  Source: Seyfarth Shaw 8/24/22

No surprise, health insurance costs rising again:  The average health benefit cost per U.S. employee is expected to increase by 5.6% next year, according to preliminary results from a Mercer survey of 864 employers that launched June 22 and was collected Aug. 4. That figure is up from the 4.4% increase projected for 2022, but it is lower than overall inflation, Mercer said. Employers may not be feeling the full impact of price inflation within their plans, however, because of the multiyear nature of healthcare provider contracts, Sunit Patel, chief actuary for health and benefits at Mercer, said.  Large employers are nonetheless set on enhancing their benefits for the foreseeable future, with 84% stating that this was an important or very important strategy, per Mercer. Other areas of focus include behavioral healthcare and overall healthcare affordability; the majority of employers said they would not take cost-saving measures that shift expenses to employees, like raising deductibles or copays.  The projected increase of 5.6% reflects changes that employers plan to make to hold down cost. If they made no changes, respondents indicated that the cost for their largest medical plan would rise by an average of 7.0%.  Source:  Mercer 8/11/22

Turning full circle, should you consider childcare for employees? Want to lure reluctant employees back to the office five days a week? Forget doughnuts and food trucks. Give them something actually essential: on-site day care.  It might be only a minority of employees who need incentives to resume their commutes, but private investment in childcare would benefit workers of all kinds. Without safe places and people to entrust with their children, millions of American workers faced terrible choices. Those who could work from home could try to juggle parenting with professional demands, while feeling they were failing at both. They could leave their jobs entirely. Or they could risk leaving their children inadequately supervised and hope that nothing terrible might happen during a shift. And if we want more women to return to the workforce, childcare would seem a no brainer.  The costs are less than the lack of production dues to an employee shortage.  It doesn’t have to be operated on site but could work with those nearby the workplace.  Something for HR to think about as the worker shortage continues.  Source: Washington Post 8/15/22

Chinese students looking elsewhere for studies:  The number of U.S. student visas issued to Chinese nationals plunged by more than 50% in the first half of 2022 compared with pre-COVID levels, with the U.S. losing ground as the most-coveted place for Chinese students to pursue higher education abroad. In the first six months of 2022, the U.S. issued 31,055 F-1 visas to Chinese nationals, down from 64,261 for the same period in 2019, according to data from the U.S. State Department. The drop has hit revenue at big and small colleges and universities around the country, including state flagships. “We’re probably not going to rebound fully to where we were before,” said Josh Davis, associate vice chancellor for global affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “This is the new reality.”  Source:  Wall Street Journal 8/11/2022

Vaccine mandate for federal contractors revived in states outside the Federal 11th Circuit: A split 11th Circuit shrank but did not dissolve a bar on the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, saying a nationwide injunction was too broad but that states challenging the mandate were ultimately likely to succeed. The Procurement Act gives the president authority to create policies to promote "economy and efficiency" in federal contracting.  "No statutory provision contemplates the power to implement an across-the-board vaccination mandate," U.S. Circuit Judge Britt C. Grant wrote for the court majority. "It follows that the president likely exceeded his authority under the Procurement Act when directing executive agencies to enforce such a mandate."  But the injunction itself should apply only to the specific plaintiffs — Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia, and construction trade group Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. — Judge Grant said, partially vacating that block. The decision of the lower court was also consistent with the so-called major questions doctrine articulated in recent high court decisions, where Congress must clearly articulate when it is giving a federal agency the ability "to exercise powers of vast economic and political significance," the judge said.   Source:  Law360 8/26/22


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