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Archive for July, 2017

Georgia Firefighter Standards & Training Council Issues Proposed Amendments to Rules for Cancer Insurance Coverage

Posted on: July 31st, 2017

By: Pamela F. Everett

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On July 14, 2017, we published a blog regarding House Bill 146 which amended O.C.G.A. §25-3-23 to provide cancer insurance coverage to fire fighters. This Bill, which becomes effective January 1, 2018, requires that all Georgia cities, counties and private companies with legally organized fire departments purchase and maintain cancer insurance coverage for firefighters.   In this blog, we noted that the Georgia Firefighter Standards & Training Council (GFSTC) had been authorized to adopt rules and regulations as necessary to implement the provisions of this new Code section and to establish and modify the minimum requirements for all fire departments operating in Georgia.

On July 19, 2017, GFSTC issued its proposed changes to its 2016 Rules & Regulations, specifically, Section 205-1-2-.02 Minimum Requirements for Fire Departments, for comment to fire departments throughout the state.

The proposed changes are as follows:

  1. All legally organized fire departments are required to purchase and maintain coverage in compliance with O.C.G.A. §25-3-23(b);
  2. All cities and counties using Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and Georgia Municipal Association for insurance coverage are required to provide proof of insurance coverage for all personnel;
  3. All departments using other insurance carries or means of being self-insured shall provide a copy of the policy, council/commission resolution or other proof of coverage; and
  4. All GFSTC Compliance Packages must now contain a copy of an insurance certificate or other proof of coverage that complies with O.C.G.A. §25-3-23(b).

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments in this area as they occur. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Pamela Everett at [email protected] .

Lawmakers Seek to Block New EEO-1 Reporting Form

Posted on: July 26th, 2017

By: Paul H. Derrick

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has dealt a potentially crippling blow to the future of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s revised Form EEO-1. Lawmakers inserted a rider into the government’s annual funding measure that would prohibit the EEOC from spending any of the agency’s budget allotment on its plan to collect pay data from employers on the new form.

Unveiled in early 2016, the revised EEO-1 form would require private employers, including federal contractors, with 100 or more workers to compile and disclose a variety of payroll data with each filing. The data would include information about rates of pay, hours worked, and more. Employers with fewer than 100 workers would continue their current EEO-1 reporting practices.

In addition to blocking efforts to collect pay data, the appropriations bill also directs the EEOC to make reducing the backlog of pending discrimination charges a top priority. According to the Committee’s report, lawmakers want the agency to focus on resolving complaints that employees actually filed, rather than trying to use pay data to decide whether to pursue litigation over things about which “no complaint was filed by an actual/former employee or applicant” in the first place.

Collection of data for the new EEO-1 form was, and technically still is, scheduled to get underway beginning with the period from October 1 through December 31, 2017. The first deadline for filing the new reports is March 31, 2018. If the appropriations bill ultimately becomes law, however, the revised Form EEO-1 almost certainly will not be implemented in the upcoming fiscal year.

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments in this area as they occur. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Paul Derrick at [email protected].

DOL Invites Public Comment on Overtime Rule

Posted on: July 26th, 2017

By: Paul H. Derrick

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it is formally seeking public comment on the 2016 compensation revisions in the regulations defining the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s so-called “overtime rule” or “white collar” exemptions.

The overtime rule, which has been blocked by a federal court since November 2016, would require employers to pay certain executive, professional, and administrative employees at least $913 each week in order to avoid having to pay them overtime for all time worked beyond 40 hours in a work week. Under pressure from the business community, the Trump administration previously has suggested that the DOL would likely come up with a salary threshold that is lower than $913 per week but higher than the current level of $455.

The DOL’s announcement says that it is seeking input on 11 broad topics, including:

  • Whether factors such as number of employees and geographic location should be considered in setting the salary threshold for a given employer;
  • Whether executive, professional, and administrative employees should be subject to different salary thresholds;
  • The extent to which employers had already increased salaries of exempt employees (to at least $913 per week) in anticipation of the overtime rule going into effect and what strategies might be in place to deal with employees who would have been eligible for overtime pay under the now-blocked rule;
  • Whether an exemption test that relies only on duties (and does not consider salary) might be preferable, and, if so, which duties should be taken into account; and
  • Whether and on what basis the compensation thresholds should be “automatically updated.”

A copy of the DOL’s request for public comment is available here. The 60-day comment period will end on September 25, 2017.

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments in this area as they occur. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Paul Derrick at [email protected].

What Do Jurors Think?

Posted on: July 24th, 2017

By: Jacob E. Daly

Figuring out what jurors think – and, therefore, predicting what decisions they will make – is critical to success at trial. Many lawyers believe they have this figured out, but of course it is impossible to know the attitudes and beliefs of any one juror or group of 6 or 12 jurors. DecisionQuest is a national trial consulting company that has been tracking potential jurors’ attitudes for decades. It recently published the results of its 2017 National Juror Attitude Survey, which involved 1,201 respondents from 12 major metropolitan areas. Some of the results are eye-opening.

For example:

  • 90% agree that there are too many lawsuits.
  • 75% agree that plaintiffs’ lawyers manufacture lawsuits just to enrich themselves.
  • 73% agree that personal injury plaintiffs fake illness or injury to get money.
  • 68% agree that a lawsuit would not go to trial if the plaintiff did not have a legitimate claim.
  • 50% believe that damages awarded in lawsuits are about right; 42% believe they are too high; and 8% believe they are too low.
  • 79% are angered by at least some things about corporations.
  • 42% believe that corporations will do anything to maximize profit.
  • 72% agree that conspiracies between business persons are common.
  • 69% believe that companies destroy their own records to avoid taking responsibility.
  • 79% agree that awarding punitive damages against large companies is the best way to get them to behave more responsibly.

Some of these findings are difficult to reconcile with other findings in the survey as well as with actual results in real trials. The bottom line from this survey is that there is both good news and bad news for personal injury plaintiffs and defendants, especially corporate defendants. The key for each side, obviously, is to maximize the good and to minimize the bad. Predicting jurors’ decision-making is an imprecise exercise at best, but having as much information as possible about their attitudes will help with emphasizing issues that exploit their beneficial attitudes while avoiding issues that promote their harmful attitudes.

For any questions, please contact Jacob Daly at [email protected].

USCIS RESUMES PREMIUM PROCESSING FOR “CAP-EXEMPT” H-1B CASES

Posted on: July 24th, 2017

By: Kenneth S. Levine

On July 24th U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the immediate reinstatement of the premium processing program for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions. An H-1B visa may now be filed under premium processing if the Employer (i.e., Petitioner) is:

* An institution of higher education;

* A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or

* A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Prior to today, USCIS had reinstated premium processing only for H-1B petitions filed under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program for physicians. UCICS indicated in the July 24th announcement that premium processing would be reinstated for all categories of H-1B petitions as workloads permit. FMG Immigration Attorneys will update our clientele once H-1B premium processing has been fully reinstated.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Kenneth S. Levine of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].