On December 29, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued Interpretive Bulletin 2016-01 (the “Bulletin”) relating to the exercise of shareholder rights by fiduciaries of employee benefit plans, including the voting of mutual fund proxies under 401(k) and similar retirement savings plans.

What is the Obligation?

Generally, the Bulletin provides that fiduciaries that manage employee benefit plan assets have a fiduciary obligation to exercise shareholder rights for securities (including mutual funds) held by such plans. Thus, plan fiduciaries may not simply ignore their voting rights.Continue Reading Proxy Voting and Interpretive Bulletin 2016-01

On July 1, 2016, an interim final rule adjusted the amounts of civil penalties assessed by OSHA. (Link) The penalties are being modified pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, which requires federal agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation each year. As a result of this rule, OSHA is increasing its maximum penalties.  Until now, OSHA has been exempted from this law, and so OSHA’s maximum penalties have not been raised since 1990.  The result of these changes is a significant increase in penalty exposure for OSHA violations.
Continue Reading Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Catch-Up Adjustments

As we informed you on June 22, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) “persuader rule” was to go into effect on July 1, 2016.  However, on June 27, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted a nationwide preliminary injunction on the rule.  The so-called persuader rule required employers and law firms to file a Form LM-20 detailing expenditures on common legal services, such as supervisor training, drafting union avoidance materials, and providing other labor advice.
Continue Reading Persuader Rule Preliminary Injunction Doesn’t Impact Need For New Engagement Letter

On December 17, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that its Environmental and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) will increase efforts to work with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate and prosecute crimes related to workplace violations. According to the DOJ’s Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, “On an average day in America, 13 workers die on the job, thousands are injured and 150 succumb to diseases they obtained from exposure to carcinogens and other toxic and hazardous substances while they worked.” As such, Ms. Yates said the DOJ is “redoubling its efforts to hold accountable those who unlawfully jeopardize workers’ health and safety.”
Continue Reading DOJ Looks to Increase Criminal Prosecutions for Workplace Violations

On November 30, 2015 the DOT issued its final rule prohibiting coercion of commercial drivers, which expands the current whistle-blowing provisions jointly administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation via a Memo of Understanding issued last year. The main point of expansion is that now a covered driver is protected not only from discharge, discipline or discrimination for engaging in certain protected activities (focusing on safety regulations issued for this industry), but it now includes “coercion” of such drivers not only as to safety violations, but also as to any violations of commercial regulations that would apply to “motor carriers, shippers, receivers or transportation intermediaries.” The regulations are quite vague regarding what “coercion” shall consist of, stating the DOT will investigate any “non-frivolous” claim that a motor carrier, shipper, receiver or transportation intermediary, or their respective agents, officers, or representatives, have threatened to or actually withheld business, employment or work opportunities from, or taken any adverse employment action against, a driver in order to induce the driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle under conditions in which the driver would be required to violate one or more of the regulations that are codified within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
Continue Reading DOT Expands Potential Liability in the Area of Commercial Truck Driving

Employers in sectors such as manufacturing, energy and agriculture faced with significant shortages of skilled labor, received a major boost from Congress last week. The long-awaited job training program reform bill “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act” received bipartisan approval. President Obama has expressed support for the legislation and is expected to sign it into law later this week.
Continue Reading Job Training Reform Bill Clears Congress; President’s Approval Expected This Week

The New Year is fast approaching and with it comes droves of college students seeking to trade their upcoming summer break for valuable on-the-job training.  This rite of passage has traditionally afforded prized experience and training for a student or recent grad, while allowing the employer to review the temperament and talents of the student to determine if she would be a cultural fit for possible future employment opportunities, and all-the-while, promoting the employer’s brand and reputation at the collegiate level.  However, a wave of wage-and-hour litigation brought by former unpaid interns has challenged to what extent for-profit employers will continue to have unpaid internships and how the surviving internship programs will be structured.
Continue Reading No Good Deed Goes Unpunished – Unpaid Internships Can Be Very Costly