Two Pending Lawsuits Test Disabilities Act
Two lawsuits are pending that could open the door to many more claims. The "association discrimination" provision of the
Americans with Disabilities Act prevents employers from discriminating against workers based on "unfounded stereotypes and assumptions about" people who care for or work with the disabled. In other words, the provision protects the jobs of relatives of disabled people.
One lawsuit is pending in Wyoming and it involved a company called PacifiCorp. The lawsuit alleges the company fired a couple to avoid paying the cost of treating their son's brain tumor. The second lawsuit, which is more prominent, was filed by Phillis Dewitt against Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Ill. Dewitt was fired because of her husband's extensive cancer treatment medical bills. The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has cleared the Dewitt case for trial and it is scheduled for August 2009.
Dewitt's case began in 2005. Her husband was battling prostate cancer. His bills were mounting and the prognosis was not good. The hospital was self-insured. A supervisor asked Dewitt if the couple would be switching to less-expensive hospice care. The hospital "could not continue to sustain the substantial medical bills incurred." A few months later, Dewitt was fired with no reason given.
In clearing the lawsuit for trial, the appeals court hinted the hospital could prevail if it could prove Dewitt was fired strictly to cut costs. However, that does not appear to be a viable defense for Proctor. At the time it fired Dewitt, it kept other employees on the payroll that had even higher medical expenses. Even with the facts stated above, Dewitt may have a difficult time. She still will have to establish that her husband's disability was covered under the ADA and show a direct link between that and her employer's actions.
According to the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of association discrimination filings reached a record of 253 last year, up from 194 the year before. So, it seems the word is getting out.
HSA Contribution Caps, Deductibles to Rise in 2009
The maximum contributions that can be made to
health savings accounts will increase next year, according to the
Internal Revenue Service.
In addition, the minimum deductible imposed on health insurance plans linked to HSAs and the maximum out-of-pocket expenses that employees can be required to pay also will rise, the IRS said.
In 2009, the maximum contribution that can be made to an HSA for employees with single coverage will be $3,000—up from $2,900 in 2008—while the maximum contribution for those with family coverage will rise to $5,950 from $5,800.
In addition, the maximum out-of-pocket expense—including deductibles—that employees with single coverage can be required to pay will rise to $5,800, up from $5,600 in 2008. For those with family coverage, the maximum will rise to $11,600 from $11,200.
The minimum deductible of the health plan to which HSAs must be linked will increase to $1,150 next year for employees with single coverage, up from $1,100; the minimum deductible for those with family coverage will increase to $2,300 from $2,200.
The new limits reflect increases in the cost of living, according to the IRS.
Workplace Poster Requirements
Every employer must have the most up-to-date minimum wage and other posters showing. And when the government officials audit your office to ensure you are complying with the law, they usually head straight for your posters. It's a quick and easy way for them to size up your compliance (and often, to levy a quick and easy fine).
Posting compliance bulletins is also necessary to defend lawsuits. Being able to show that appropriate posters were displayed is essential to defending lawsuits. (Opposing lawyer: "You didn't even care enough about EEO to put up the poster?")
Here's a rundown of the most important federal requirements. Note that many states have their own poster mandates, so always check state law, too:
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Employers must display a notice with information for employees on the minimum wage (that's the change that kicks in soon), overtime pay, child labor laws, enforcement of the
FLSA, and contact information for the
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). It needs to be up to date, too, especially now that the minimum is going up automatically every 6 months.
Job Safety and Health
Employers engaged in interstate commerce and subject to the requirements of
OSHA (and that's pretty nearly everyone) must display a copy of the poster "Job Safety and Health—It's the Law." This poster notifies employees that they are entitled to a workplace free from recognized hazards and explains how to report workplace hazards.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Employers with 50 or more workers must display a notice explaining an employee's rights and responsibilities under the
FMLA, including eligibility for leave, notice requirements, job protection, health benefit continuation, and contact information for DOL.
Consolidated Equal Employment Opportunity
All employers covered by the federal nondiscrimination and
equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act, and laws protecting veterans from discrimination, must display this poster.
Employee Polygraph Protection Act
All employers engaged in interstate commerce (which is defined broadly to include virtually all private employers) must display this poster.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
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Employers must display the revised
USERRA poster titled "Your Rights Under USERRA" that explains the rights, benefits, and obligations of employees covered under USERRA. (There are separate posters for federal and nonfederal employers). With two wars on and veterans returning, this one's especially important these days.