AGC's Human Resource and Labor News - September 9, 2009 / Issue No. 4-09 (Print All Articles)

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Register Today for AGC’s Joint HR Professionals Conference and Training & Development Conference

AGC’s joint HR Professionals Conference and Training & Development Conference will take place October 27-29, 2009, in Atlanta, GA.  Attending will provide you with a unique opportunity to participate in industry-focused sessions and to learn innovative approaches to managing training and human capital.  Register by October 1 for the early registration discount!

AGC’s joint HR Professionals Conference and Training & Development Conference will take place October 27-29, 2009, in Atlanta, GA.  Attending will provide you with a unique opportunity to participate in industry-focused sessions and to learn innovative approaches to managing training and human capital.  Register by October 1 for the early registration discount!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

General and specialty contractor staff, AGC chapter staff and other professionals involved in workforce and professional development, education, human resources and training.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

Keynote Session:

  • How to Engage Staff, Motivate Managers and Enjoy Life in Turbulent Times - Barbara Sanfilippo, CSP, CPAE

Joint Sessions Include:

  • From MySpace to My Workplace: Using Social Media Campaigns & Web 2.0 for Recruitment and Employee Engagement
  • On The Move: Using Innovative Technology to Engage Employees while in Multiple Locations
  • A Roadmap to Inspire Passion and Performance

HR Sessions Include:

  • Keeping Your Company out of Legal Hot Water
  • Immigration Law Compliance
  • Construction Compensation Strategies
  • Working with the U.S. Department Of Labor
  • Becoming a Strategic Business Partner

Training & Development Sessions Include:

  • Managing Your Training Through an LMS
  • Educating Through Entertainment
  • Delivering Training Value Using the Kirkpatrick Four Levels
  • Facilitating Green Construction Education

Visit www.agc.org/hr_td to see full session descriptions, schedule and to register!

WHAT YOU’LL EARN

The joint conferences have been pre-approved for 8.25 recertification credits towards PHR, SPHR or GPHR recertification from the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI). 

AGC, an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), will also award 1.1 CEUs to participants who successfully complete this program.  For a full list of companies, regulatory boards and organizations that have reported to accept the IACET CEU, visit the IACET Web site.

HOW TO REGISTER

Click here to register online or to download a brochure for registration by fax or mail.
Register by October 1st to receive the early registration discount:

  • AGC members and chapter staff: $495 (after Oct. 1 $595)
  • Non-members: $695 (after Oct. 1 $795)

Invite a colleague!  This is a great year to invite a colleague along for the experience as AGC is offering a 10% discount for multiple attendees from the same organization.


Legal & Practical Tips for Construction Employers When Handling RIFs, Lay-offs & Furloughs

During the recent economic downturn, HR professionals in the construction industry have been increasingly burdened with handling reductions-in-force (RIFs), lay-offs and furloughs - sometimes at a moment's notice.  Recently, AGC requested the expertise of labor and employment law attorney Bert Brannen of Fisher & Phillips LLP, and Doug Mure, Managing Director of Human Resources Consulting and Outsourcing with Pinnacle Financial Group, to give HR professionals in the construction industry much-needed guidance when handling such situations.

During the recent economic downturn, HR professionals in the construction industry have been increasingly burdened with handling reductions-in-force (RIFs), lay-offs and furloughs - sometimes at a moment's notice.  Recently, AGC requested the expertise of labor and employment law attorney Bert Brannen of Fisher & Phillips LLP, and Doug Mure, Managing Director of Human Resources Consulting and Outsourcing with Pinnacle Financial Group, to give HR professionals in the construction industry much-needed guidance when handling such situations.

From a legal perspective, Bert Brannen addressed many federal and state laws, such as wage payment laws, vacation pay, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to name a few.  The advantages and disadvantages of severance and release agreements were also discussed, including specific information on the general requirements necessary for an agreement to be valid.  From a practical standpoint, employers were encouraged consider the unique circumstances of each situation, remain in control of the process and know when to involve legal counsel.

Many employers were also introduced to "workplace survivor syndrome," a phrase used by Doug Mure to describe the negative feelings that workers who are not affected by a RIF or lay-off may experience when their co-workers are forced to leave.  Mr. Mure offered several tips for diffusing workplace rumors and re-motivating employees who are experiencing this effect, such as not promising what cannot be delivered, acknowledging the additional workload and increased stress levels of employees, and, most importantly, communicating honestly and often. 

Another issue that HR professionals, particularly in this industry, are commonly faced with is connecting with superintendents and field supervisors to make them a valuable link between the corporate HR department and field employees.  Of many ideas that were shared to encourage this, one of particular popularity was the idea of providing scripts to these managers for handling difficult conversations when an HR representative cannot be present.

For more tips and a complete copy of the presentation, including PowerPoint slides and an audio recording of the webinar, visit the AGC Bookstore.


EEOC Issues Guidance on Waivers of Discrimination Claims in Severance Agreements

On July 15, 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance for employers and workers in response to recent inquiries about waivers of discrimination claims in employee severance agreements.

On July 15, 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance for employers and workers in response to recent inquiries about waivers of discrimination claims in employee severance agreements.

The guidance, written in a question-and-answer format, covers subjects as basic as "What does a severance agreement look like?", to a complete, separate section on the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, which accounts for nearly 25% of all EEOC claims.  Also included are a sample agreement for employers to use as a model and a checklist that workers may use as a tool prior to signing a waiver of such claims.

Since in some cases an employer can request that a worker "knowingly and voluntarily" sign a waiver of certain legal claims as a part of a severance agreement, the guidance specifically explains that although such agreements may include language that releases the employer from financial legal liabilities, the agreement may not include language that waives the employee's right to file discrimination claims directly with the EEOC or participate in EEOC anti-discrimination proceedings.

For additional information on the EEOC, visit the EEOC Web site and AGC's Labor & HR Topical Resources page.


Federal Contractor E-Verify Rule Now in Effect

A rule requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to use the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' E-Verify system to verify their employees' authorization to work in the U.S. is now in effect.  The rule applies to federal solicitations and contract awards government-wide beginning September 8.

A rule requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to use the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' E-Verify system to verify their employees' authorization to work in the U.S. is now in effect.  The rule applies to federal solicitations and contract awards government-wide beginning September 8. 

The FAR Council issued the final rule in November 2008.  In response to a legal challenge to the rule and in order to give the new administration time to fully review the matter, the government agreed to suspend the rule on three separate occasions, but, in a July 8 statement, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that DHS will "push ahead with full implementation" of the rule without further delay. 

The rule requires the insertion of a new clause in certain federal contracts and subcontracts.  Prime contracts below the simplified acquisition threshold of $100,000 and those with performance terms of less than 120 days are excluded.  The clause requires the contractor to use E-Verify to confirm employment eligibility of all new employees hired during the contract term and all current employees assigned to work on a federal job within the U.S.  It also allows, but does not require, the federal contractor to use E-Verify to confirm eligibility of all employees, regardless of whether they are assigned to work on a federal job.  Currently, use of E-Verify to confirm anyone other than a new hire (including applicants and current employees) is prohibited. 

The rule applies only to employers with direct contracts with the federal government and, via a flow-down requirement, to their subcontractors.  It does not apply to employers working only on federally funded projects or on other projects not under contract with a federal agency.

Although the litigation continues, contractors are advised to carefully review all new solicitations and contracts for federal projects and comply with any E-Verify requirements at this time.  AGC will continue to monitor all related litigation and legislation and will report on significant developments.

Click here for the E-Verify Supplemental Guidance for Federal Contractors issued by USCIS on September 8.  Click here for DHS's list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) for Federal Contractors and E-Verify.  Click here for more information about critical components of the rule.  Click here for information about free webinars on the E-Verify program.

Further guidance on immigration compliance is available in an MP3 download of a live educational session held at AGC's Annual HR Professionals Conference in June 2008.  An immigration law update will also be provided at AGC's next HR Professionals Conference, which will take place October 27-29, in Atlanta, Ga. Click here for conference details and registration.


AGC Submits Comments on Proposed Rule Encouraging Federal Agencies to Consider PLAs

The proposed rule implementing President Obama's executive order encouraging federal contracting agencies to consider imposing project labor agreements (PLAs) on large-scale construction projects fails to substantiate the asserted rationales for mandatory PLAs, fails to require an adequate analysis as a condition precedent to imposing a PLA, and should not be expanded to cover federally assisted projects, AGC told the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council in comments submitted on August 13.

The proposed rule implementing President Obama's executive order encouraging federal contracting agencies to consider imposing project labor agreements (PLAs) on large-scale construction projects fails to substantiate the asserted rationales for mandatory PLAs, fails to require an adequate analysis as a condition precedent to imposing a PLA, and should not be expanded to cover federally assisted projects, AGC told the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council in comments submitted on August 13.

The proposed rule implements the executive order's policy of encouraging (but not requiring) contracting agencies to consider (but not necessarily adopt) a PLA requirement on large-scale construction projects (defined as projects with a total cost to the federal government of $25 million or more) on a project-by-project basis where the use of PLAs will advance the government's interests in achieving economy and efficiency in federal procurement, in producing labor-management stability, and in ensuring compliance with workplace laws and regulations, and where PLA use is consistent with law.  The executive order expressly leaves to the contracting agency discretion to decide whether or not to require a PLA.  It also directs the director of the Office of Management and Budget to work with the Secretary of Labor and other officials to provide recommendations to the President on whether to broaden the application of PLAs on both construction projects awarded under federal contracts and construction projects receiving federal financial assistance.

While AGC neither supports nor opposes PLAs per se, AGC strongly opposes is government-mandated PLAs (GMPLAs) on any publicly funded construction project.  AGC is committed to free and open competition in all public markets and believes that publicly financed contracts should be awarded without regard to the labor relations policy of the contractor.  AGC believes that a public owners should not mandate the use of a PLA that would compel any firm to change its labor policy or practices in order to compete for or to perform work on a publicly financed project.  AGC further believes that the proper parties to determine whether to use a PLA and to negotiate the terms of a PLA on any project are the employers that employ workers covered by the agreement and the labor organization representing workers covered by the agreement, rather than the public owner or its representative.

AGC commented that neither the executive order nor the proposed rule provides support for the assertion that GMPLAs promote economy and efficiency in federal procurement, and pointed out that GMPLAs can actually drive up costs both by effectively restraining competition and, more directly, by imposing additional business costs on contractors that may be passed along to the government.  AGC also challenged the assertion that GMPLAs help prevent and resolve workplace disputes and problems arising from the lack of coordination among multiple employers, noting that the imposition of a PLA does not guarantee that there will be no work stoppages or fully protect against the effects of work stoppages, and that a GMPLA can actually lead to jobsite friction as much as can provide dispute resolution mechanisms.

If the Administration insists on giving contracting agencies the authority to impose PLAs, AGC further commented, then the FAR Councils should require the agencies to conduct a thorough analysis to determine that a PLA mandate is appropriate for the project as a precondition to exercising that authority. Contracting officers should be required to make objective determinations, based on empirical evidence, that a PLA mandate would advance each of the government's interests better than without the mandate.

Finally, AGC urged the Administration not to broaden the application of the policy to federally assisted construction contracts or otherwise.  Expansion would likely restrain competition, increase costs, constitute an unfunded mandate, and lead to even more litigation, AGC explained.

Although comments were originally due on August 13, the FAR Council on August 24 announced that it was reopening the comment period for an additional 30 days.  Interested parties should submit written comments to the Regulatory Secretariat on or before September 23, 2009, for their comments to be considered.

For more information, contact Denise Gold, Associate General Counsel, at (703) 837-5326 or goldd@agc.org, or Marco Giamberardino, Senior Director, Federal and Heavy Construction Division, at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org.


AGC Submits Comments on Proposed Rule Requiring Federal Contractors to Post NLRA Notices

On September 3, AGC submitted comments on a proposed rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor ("the Department") Office of Labor-Management Standards titled "Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws."  The proposed rule implements Executive Order 13496, which requires federal agencies to include a new clause in nonexempt contracts requiring contractors and subcontractors to post notices informing their employees about their rights under the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA").  The proposed rule establishes the content of the notice and sets forth sanctions, penalties, and administrative procedures related to findings of noncompliance.

On September 3, AGC submitted comments on a proposed rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor ("the Department") Office of Labor-Management Standards titled "Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws."  The proposed rule implements Executive Order 13496, which requires federal agencies to include a new clause in nonexempt contracts requiring contractors and subcontractors to post notices informing their employees about their rights under the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA").  The proposed rule establishes the content of the notice and sets forth sanctions, penalties, and administrative procedures related to findings of noncompliance.

AGC commented that the content of the proposed notice should be shortened, simplified, and contain more balanced information.  AGC recommended removing the lengthy list of specific examples of illegal employer conduct or at least including a similar list of illegal union conduct as well as additional information about employees' so-called "Beck rights" concerning union nonmembership and dues payment.  AGC also recommended that the Department abandon its proposal to include the entire text of the notice in the new contract clause, suggesting instead that the Department allow contracting agencies to incorporate the notice by reference.

AGC also expressed strong concern about the provisions in the proposed rule that appear to give the Department authority to enforce compliance with the content of the notice - i.e., substantive mandates of the NLRA - rather than merely with the posting requirement.  AGC pointed out that the Department lacks authority and expertise to administer and enforce the NLRA, a complex and fluctuating body of law over which the National Labor Relations Board has primary jurisdiction.

In addition, AGC asserted that the proposed rule makes available overly severe sanctions - including contract cancellation, termination, and debarment - for even minor violations.  AGC advised the Department to make such sanctions available only in cases of willful and repeated offenses, as determined after an opportunity for a full and fair hearing.

Finally, AGC challenged the Department's interpretation of the executive order's application to subcontracts involving purchases below the simplified acquisition threshold.  Because the executive order explicitly exempts contracts for purchases below the simplified acquisition threshold but does not explicitly exempt such subcontracts, the Department included in coverage of the rule subcontracts below the threshold provided that they are necessary to the performance of the prime contract.  AGC recommended that the Department limit the rule to subcontracts that are both for purchases above the simplified acquisition threshold and necessary to the performance of the prime contract.

For more information, contact Denise Gold, Associate General Counsel, at goldd@agc.org or (703) 837-5326.


CDC Issues Employer Guidance in Preparation for Flu Season

In an attempt to urge employers to prepare for the upcoming 2009-2010 flu season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued new guidance to help employers prepare.  The guidance was issued in anticipation of the spread of the seasonal flu and H1N1, commonly known as Swine Flu.

In an attempt to urge employers to prepare for the upcoming 2009-2010 flu season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued new guidance to help employers prepare.  The guidance was issued in anticipation of the spread of the seasonal flu and H1N1, commonly known as Swine Flu.

Because the severity of a possible epidemic cannot accurately be predicted, the CDC recommends that "employers should plan to be able to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity and be prepared to refine pandemic influenza response plans if a potentially more serious outbreak of influenza evolves during the fall and winter."  The CDC specifically stressed the importance of working with employees to reduce the spread of flu by urging those with flu-like symptoms and those with high risks of infection to telecommute.  In addition, the CDC encourages employers to prepare for school closures and child care issues in the event of an outbreak.  For the construction industry, this can be problematic since contracts are awarded and paid based on anticipated completion dates, and the possibility of reduced staff after a potential influenza outbreak may mean reduced production capacity.

Although construction employers are limited in what they can do to stop the spread of influenza, the CDC recommends nine action steps employers should take now in preparation for the upcoming flu season.

  • Review or establish a flexible influenza pandemic plan and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan;
  • Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season;
  • Have an understanding of your organization's normal seasonal absenteeism rates and know how to monitor your personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter.
  • Engage state and local health department to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information;
  • Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs;
  • Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close;
  • Share your influenza pandemic plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them;
  • Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts; and
  • Add a "widget" or "button" to your company Web page or employee Web sites so employees can access the latest information on influenza: www.cdc.gov/widgets/ and www.cdc.gov/SocialMedia/Campaigns/H1N1/buttons.html.

For additional workplace resources and checklists, review the CDC's Communication Toolkit for Businesses and Employers as well as OSHA's Flu Pandemic Guide.


Is Your Company's Health Plan "Qualified"?

As many construction employers are trying to figure out exactly what health care reform will mean for them, one issue that raises questions for employers, insurers and employees alike is that of a "qualified health benefits" plan.  As mentioned in AGC's What Does a Health Insurance Mandate Mean for Construction Industry Employers, employers will be required to provide a "qualified health benefits" plan for all employees and their dependents or face stiff penalties.  That is, if H.R. 3200, the much-debated proposed bill known as America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, is passed by Congress.

As many construction employers are trying to figure out exactly what health care reform will mean for them, one issue that raises questions for employers, insurers and employees alike is that of a "qualified health benefits" plan.  As mentioned in AGC's What Does a Health Insurance Mandate Mean for Construction Industry Employers, employers will be required to provide a "qualified health benefits" plan for all employees and their dependents or face stiff penalties.  That is, if H.R. 3200, the much-debated proposed bill known as America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, is passed by Congress.

According to H.R. 3200, employers must provide health benefits plans deemed "qualified" by the federal government, or face penalties of up to $100 per day, per employee.  A newly appointed Commissioner of the Health Choices Administration would set many of the standards that would be designed to:

  • Prohibit coverage exclusions of pre-existing health conditions;
  • Require premiums to be determined using adjusted community rating rules, which prohibit insurers from pricing health insurance policies based on health factors;
  • Require coverage to be offered on both a guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewal basis;
  • Impose new, non-discrimination rules; and
  • Comply with a medical loss ratio - the portion of health plan revenue that does not cover administrative or marketing expenses, taxes and profits.

Once deemed qualified, health plans will be able to participate in a newly created, state-run Health Insurance Exchange, similar to Travelocity for the travel industry, which will help individuals and small businesses comparison shop for health insurance.   The Exchange would be regulated by the Commissioner so that insurance companies cannot charge wildly different amounts for similar health coverage.  They will, however, be able to set rates based on age.  Uninsured individuals and employers with 10 or fewer employees would be able to participate in the exchange during year one (2013), while employers with 20 or fewer employees will be able to participate in year 2014.   The Commissioner would have the authority to allow larger employers to participate during subsequent years.

Although the commissioner would be responsible for setting many of the standards required for qualified health plans, H.R. 3200 specifically details minimum requirements that must be included in each plan before the additional standards are imposed.  These standards would form an "essential benefits package" and would be required to cover:

  • Hospitalization;
  • Outpatient hospital and clinic services, including emergency room services;
  • Services of physicians and other health professionals;
  • Services, equipment and supplies necessary to the services of a physician or health professional in appropriate settings;
  • Prescription drugs;
  • Rehabilitative and "habilitative" services (i.e., services to maintain the physical, intellectual, emotional and social functioning of developmentally delayed individuals);
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services;
  • Certain preventive services (with no-cost-sharing permitted) and vaccines;
  • Maternity care;
  • Well-baby, well-childcare, oral health, vision, hearing services, equipment and supplies for those under age 21. 

In addition to the requirement that each plan must cover at least 70 percent of the full value of benefits in the essential benefits package, employers must also contribute a minimum of 72.5% of the premium for the lowest cost qualified plan offered by the employer for individual coverage, and at least 65% for families.  This contribution would be prorated for part-time employees, based on the employee's weekly hours worked, and out of pocket maximums will be capped at $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families.

For employers who currently provide health insurance to their employees, there is a 5-year grace period (beginning 2013) for which employment-based plans could keep their existing coverage and not have to comply with the minimum requirements of the bill.  Upon expiration of the grace period, the plan would have to meet the minimum essential benefits requirements or face all required penalties.  The only exception is for health plans that are subject to collective bargaining agreements (CBA), which are exempted from providing the minimum essential benefits as defined in the bill through the expiration of the CBA or one year after enactment of the legislation, whichever is later.

While the final picture of health care reform is vague, it is likely that employers will have to comply with widespread changes over the next several years.   Before change is mandated, employers should take this time to review its current benefit structure and compare it with the requirement of the essential benefits plan including:

  • Compare actuarial rates and cost-sharing ratios to the proposed mandate;
  • Begin introducing wellness and prevention elements into current plans;
  • Check out what other employers have done to contain cost and partner your employees to do the same;
  • Gradually implement changes during your open enrollment periods now through 2012; and
  • Communicate honestly and often with employees.

Taking the next two years to get ready by gradually moving toward the minimum requirements of the essential benefits plan will soften the blow for employers and employees alike.

For a complete summary of H.R. 3200, read AGC's Facts about the Proposed Health Care Reform Legislation.  To easily contact your congressman with your company's concerns about H.R. 3200, visit AGC's Legislative Action Center today.

* This is one of many articles in AGC's Health Care Reform series.


What Does a Health Insurance Mandate Mean for Construction Industry Employers?

Both the House and the Senate have many ideas when it comes to health care reform, but the one proposal that appears to be present across the board is a requirement for private companies to provide health insurance for all employees and their families.  While this mandate may be well-intentioned, what does it actually mean for America's employers? 

Both the House and the Senate have many ideas when it comes to health care reform, but the one proposal that appears to be present across the board is a requirement for private companies to provide health insurance for all employees and their families.  While this mandate may be well-intentioned, what does it actually mean for America's employers? 

According to H.R. 3200, a proposed bill known as America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, employers will be required to provide a "Qualified Health Benefits" plan for all employees and their dependents or face stiff penalties.  This proposal, commonly referred to as "pay or play," would require employers with an annual payroll of $500,000 or more to either provide the minimum amount of health insurance coverage for their employees and their respective families, or pay a payroll tax penalty of 2-8%, even for employees who decline coverage offered by the company.  It is unclear whether or not coverage will be required for temporary and part-time employees or if coverage will be required for employees on their first day of work.  The bill only states that employers would have to make contributions for their non full-time employees on a pro-rata basis. These two issues raise concerns for the construction industry where many, if not most craft and specialty trade workers may be part-time and/or seasonal employees.  The bill, however, does clearly state that coverage and the tax penalty will not be required for employees who are covered under another qualified plan as a spouse or dependent.

For years, many employers have voluntarily provided health insurance options to their employees as a means of competing with other employers in order to attract the best talent, while also providing for the well-being of employees and their families.  In addition to health care benefits, many employers also offer other fringe benefits to attract and retain employees, such as paid sick leave, paid vacations and flexible hours, to name a few.  Due to the current state of the economy, construction industry employers are already doing what is necessary to cut costs while trying to save jobs. In order to meet the additional financial obligations of this mandate, many employers may be forced to shift the costs of doing business even more by possibly eliminating some of these fringe benefits, cutting pay or even cutting jobs.  Some employers may also choose to pay the required penalty instead of providing coverage because it may be a less costly option for them, leaving employees without the coverage they previously received.

There is, however, some saving grace for small construction employers.   According to the bill, small businesses with a payroll of less than $500,000 would be exempt from the payroll tax penalty and certain small businesses would be eligible for a 50% credit toward the cost of health care coverage even if the business already qualifies for the tax exemption.   This credit would be phased out as average employee compensation increased from $20,000 to $40,000, and then as the number of employees increased from 10 to 25.  The credit would not apply toward insurance for employees whose compensation exceeded $80,000 and would be treated as part of the general business credit, making it non-refundable and available only to businesses with a tax liability.  However, the tax credit is of limited value due to its current structure. The average wage of full-time employees at businesses with fewer than 10 employees is more than $30,000, meaning that in many cases, the value of the credit is already cut in half.

For a complete summary of the proposed mandate, payroll tax penalties and tax credits outlined in H.R. 3200, read AGC's Facts about the Proposed Health Care Reform Legislation.  To easily contact your congressman with your company's concerns about H.R. 3200, visit AGC's Legislative Action Center today.

* This is the first of several articles in AGC's Health Care Reform series.


Union Representation in Construction Increases Slightly in 2008

The rate of union representation in the construction industry increased modestly in 2008 for the second consecutive year following a steady decline in the decade preceding 2006.  Using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the Construction Labor Research Council (CLRC) reports in its latest biennial report on union representation trends that the percentage of workers represented by a union in 2008 was 16.2 percent.  This compares with 14.4 percent in 2007 and 13.6 percent in 2006, according to BLS data.

The rate of union representation in the construction industry increased modestly in 2008 for the second consecutive year following a steady decline in the decade preceding 2006.  Using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the Construction Labor Research Council (CLRC) reports in its latest biennial report on union representation trends that the percentage of workers represented by a union in 2008 was 16.2 percent.  This compares with 14.4 percent in 2007 and 13.6 percent in 2006, according to BLS data.

CLRC notes that both the rate of union representation and the number of union workers increased in every geographic region in 2008, while total construction employment declined in all regions but one.  Still, even in the most heavily union region - the east north central region - under 40 percent of construction workers were represented by a union, says CLRC. 

Click here to read the full report, which is posted on the Labor & HR Topical Resources page of our Web site at www.agc.org/hr/topicalresources, in the category "Unions/NLRA," subcategory "Union Membership Data." 

For more information, contact Denise Gold at (703) 837-5326 or goldd@agc.org.


DHS Formally Proposes Rescission of No-Match Rule

In accordance with a July 8 announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has formally proposed a rule to rescind the so-called No-Match Rule first issued by the Bush Administration in 2007.  The proposed rule seeks to reinstate the language of the regulations as it existed prior to the effective date of the No-Match Rule.  Comments are due no later than September 18, 2009. 

In accordance with a July 8 announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has formally proposed a rule to rescind the so-called No-Match Rule first issued by the Bush Administration in 2007.  The proposed rule seeks to reinstate the language of the regulations as it existed prior to the effective date of the No-Match Rule.  Comments are due no later than September 18, 2009.

The No-Match Rule, issued as a final rule in August 2007 and supplemented in October 2008, established a "safe-harbor" process for an employer to follow when receiving a "no-match letter" to avoid a finding that its receipt of such a letter gave it constructive knowledge of a worker's ineligibility to work in the U.S.  A "no-match letter" is a letter either from the Social Security Administration (SSA) informing an employer that employee Social Security Numbers submitted by the employer do not match SSA records or from DHS indicating a discrepancy calling into question an employee's work authorization.  The rule was never implemented, because a legal challenge brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, and others resulted in a preliminary injunction. 

In the preamble to the newly proposed rule, DHS explains that rescinding the No-Match rule will "better achieve DHS's regulatory and enforcement goals" under the new Administration.  DHS further states that it has determined that improvements in the E-Verify system and other DHS programs "provide better tools for employers to reduce incidences of unauthorized employment and to better detect and deter the use of fraudulent identity documents by employees."  DHS has also "determined that focusing on the management practices of employers would be more efficacious than focusing on a single element of evidence within the totality of the circumstances."

Guidance on immigration compliance is available in an MP3 download of a live educational session held at AGC's Annual HR Professionals Conference in June 2008.  An update will be provided at AGC's next HR Professionals Conference, which will take place October 27-29, in Atlanta, GA.  Click here for conference details and registration.  For additional resources and for information on immigration reform efforts, click here.


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