Quick Hits - July 13, 2022 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - July 13, 2022

OMB looking to change demographic collection requirements: Dr. Karin Orvis, the U.S. Chief Statistician and Branch Chief for Statistical and Science Policy at OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, will be updating OMB Directive 15 or as known by its technical title: “Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity.” Dr. Orvis stated that the OMB’s review of Directive 15 will include the formation of an interagency technical working group of federal Government career staff who represent programs that collect or use race and ethnicity data. Dr. Orvis is also part of the Biden Administration’s Equitable Data Working Group, which issued a report this past April directing agencies about ways to promote equity in federal data. The report noted concern that “people of Middle Eastern and North African heritage and subgroups of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are not represented within the current minimum racial and ethnic categories, leaving them unseen in government statistics and masking important inequities.”  They will also look at LGBTQI+ communities and smaller ethnic groups to ensure meaningful data is available and have a goal of completing the revision no later than Summer 2024.  The recommendations will be reported in the Federal Register for public comment later this year.  Source:  White House 6/15/22, OFCCP Week in Review 6/20/22

New SAMHSA suicide prevention number as of 7/16/22: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will have a new number.  In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed 988 as the three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crises. The following year, the National Hotline Designation Act (Public Law 116-172) was signed into law, incorporating 988 as the new Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line number. This new number will become available using any cell phone, land line, or voice-over internet device by July 16, 2022. The creation of 988 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen and expand the lifeline and transform America’s behavioral health crisis care system to one that saves lives by serving anyone, at any time, from anywhere across the nation.  SAMHSA sees 988 as the linchpin and catalyst for a transformed behavioral health crisis system in much the same way that, over time, 911 spurred the growth of emergency medical services in the United States.  Source:  SAMHSA

Even SHRM has discrimination issues it needs to contend with: A self-described “brown-skinned Egyptian Arab woman” who worked for the Society for Human Resources Management filed a lawsuit against the organization June 30 alleging discrimination and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Mohamed v. Society for Human Resource Management, No. 1:22-cv-01625 (D. Colo. June 30, 2022)).  According to the suit, the plaintiff’s supervisor “systematically favored” her White charges over her non-White charges. After the plaintiff — who had worked at SHRM since 2016 — complained to her supervisor’s superior, she said, her supervisor retaliated by excluding her from meetings and professional opportunities, unfairly criticizing her work and “setting her up to be fired within weeks.” According to the complaint, after being frustrated with the responses of several managers, the plaintiff communicated directly with SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor, pursuant to SHRM’s open-door policy. “Taylor responded by admitting that SHRM as a whole was struggling with ‘people manager’ and diversity issues,” the complaint alleged. Taylor reportedly connected the plaintiff with SHRM’s chief human resources officer, but the issue was still not resolved, the plaintiff said, and she was ultimately fired a little over one month later for allegedly missing deadlines.  Source: HR Dive 7/1/22

Considering supporting employees accessing abortion travel benefits: As businesses begin crafting coverage policies for abortion travel, there are important compliance issues they need to keep in mind. Employers need to maintain awareness of the types of expenses that are and are not taxable — a topic which gets thorny when it comes to medical care and abortion policy. “Certain travel expenses relating to medical services are considered medical expenses under the Internal Revenue Code and can be covered under a group health plan,” Kirsten Vignec, a shareholder at Hill Ward Henderson who specializes in employee benefits law. “If these permitted travel expenses are covered under a health plan there will not be any adverse tax consequences to the employee.” If reimbursements are provided outside of the health plan, Vignec said, “the amounts paid would likely be taxable to the employee.” Further, outside of taxation complications, some states have anti-abortion laws that could put companies that help employees secure out-of-state abortions in legal jeopardy. Texas and Oklahoma, for example, have these “aid and abet” provisions.  Best bet, discuss with legal counsel any benefits related to abortion access for employees.  Source:  HR Dive 7/6/22

Reminder: never ask for COVID test results from employees’ families: On July 6, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced it has entered into a conciliation agreement with a Florida-based medical practice for violations of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) arising out of the practice’s collection of employees’ family members’ COVID-19 testing results.  In a press release announcing the agreement, the EEOC stated that, following an investigation, it found that the medical practice – Brandon Dermatology – violated GINA by requesting the test results of employees’ family members and that “[s]uch conduct violates the GINA, which prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information about applicants or employees and their family members, except in very narrow circumstances which do not apply in this matter.” GINA defines “genetic information” to include “the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an employee’s family members.”  Source: Proskauer 7/7/22

Recession coming or here?  Who knows: Economic output fell in the first quarter and signs suggest it did so again in the second. Yet the job market showed little sign of faltering during the first half of the year. The jobless rate fell from 4% last December to 3.6% in June and is stable. If the U.S. is in or near a recession, it doesn’t yet look like any other on record. Analysts sometimes talked about “jobless recoveries” after past recessions, in which economic output rose but employers kept shedding workers. The first half of 2022 was the mirror image—a “jobful” downturn, in which output fell and companies kept hiring. Whether it will spiral into a fuller and deeper recession isn’t known, though a growing number of economists believe it will. At the end of June, 1.3 million Americans were collecting federal unemployment checks, substantially fewer than the 1.7 million people collecting them on average each week during the three years before the pandemic, when the economy was considered to be exceptionally strong. The U.S. has recorded more than 11 million unfilled job openings in six of the past seven months. In other words, demand for workers is abundant.  ASE can confirm this situation.  Our staffing and background check services has never been busier.  Source:  The Wall Street Journal 7/4/22

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