HR Issues Update - January 26, 2007
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A Note from Sue Meisinger

Welcome to HR ISSUES UPDATE, a new SHRM e–letter delivered every other Friday with current info on HR public policy topics like health care, leave rules and workplace safety. No government jargon — just quick and concise news to help HR professionals stay informed on the issues that affect their jobs daily. All articles have links to additional information and can be printed for your convenience.  I hope you find this new member benefit useful.

Sue Meisinger, SPHR
President & CEO, SHRM

Welcome to HR ISSUES UPDATE, a new SHRM e–letter delivered every other Friday with current info on HR public policy topics like health care‚ leave rules and workplace safety. No government jargon — just quick and concise news to help HR professionals stay informed on the issues that affect their jobs daily. All articles have links to additional information and can be printed for your convenience.  I hope you find this new member benefit useful.

Sue Meisinger, SPHR
President & CEO‚ SHRM

Health Care and Immigration Top Bush’s Plans for 2007

President Bush’s State of the Union speech this week outlined his vision for reforming health care and immigration in 2007—two top concerns for HR professionals and employers and for the new Democratically controlled Congress.

President Bush’s State of the Union speech this week outlined his vision for reforming health care and immigration in 2007—two top concerns for HR professionals and employers and for the new Democratically controlled Congress.

Heath Care:  The President’s plan would provide all American families receiving employer-provided health care with a $15,000 standard deduction for health care ($7,500 for individuals) but, in turn, would also consider the cost of employer-provided health care above the standard deduction as taxable income. Americans who purchase their own health care could also claim the full amount of the deduction regardless of the cost of their individual or family policy. The goal is to level the playing field for those who buy their own health insurance in the marketplace with those who receive or purchase health care through their employers.

In an upcoming issue of HR ISSUES UPDATE, we will provide a simple comparison of the most talked about health care plans, including those in California and Massachusetts.

Immigration:  The President called for comprehensive changes in immigration that include employment verification, a guest-worker program, stronger enforcement and a path to citizenship for some illegal aliens. Implying that the current employment verification system is not perfect, he said, “We will enforce our immigration laws at the work site and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers—so there is no excuse left for violating the law.”

Following the President’s speech, SHRM President and CEO Sue Meisinger confirmed that belief, saying “Any comprehensive immigration reform must include an employment verification system that works. As HR professionals, we know the current system is both inefficient and inadequate at preventing fraud.”

"Genetics" Nondiscrimination Plan Could Expose Employers to Lawsuits

As an HR professional, you know how important it is to protect the privacy and confidentiality of employees´ medical information, including genetics. However, new proposals in Congress could expose employers to lawsuits if they allegedly discriminate in their health care coverage and employment decisions on the basis of genetics.

As an HR professional, you know how important it is to protect the privacy and confidentiality of employees’ medical information, including genetics. However, new proposals in Congress could expose employers to lawsuits if they allegedly discriminate in their health care coverage and employment decisions on the basis of genetics.

On Tuesday, January 30, 2007, SHRM member Burt Fishman will appear before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions to discuss genetic discrimination and pending legislation intended to protect workers.  Fishman will testify on behalf of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination in Employment Coalition, which SHRM co-chairs. 

As currently drafted, the legislation would make it illegal to discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on that individual’s or family’s genetic make-up.  Health insurance companies and employers also could be bared from denying health care coverage due to a potential genetic condition.  Employers are concerned that such proposals could lead to expensive and frivolous litigation.

SHRM is seeking a balanced approach that protects the interests of both employees and employers. For more information, please contact Michael Layman in SHRM’s Governmental Affairs department.

SHRM Members Offer Advice on FMLA

If you’ve ever struggled with questions over how the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is implemented, now is your chance to speak out to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In response to DOL’s Request for Information about challenges employers have encountered in administering parts of the FMLA‚ SHRM has launched a major member advocacy effort to encourage members to submit their comments to the DOL.

If you’ve ever struggled with questions over how the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is implemented, now is your chance to speak out to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In response to DOL’s Request for Information about challenges employers have encountered in administering parts of the FMLA, SHRM has launched a major member advocacy effort to encourage members to submit their comments to the DOL. Deadline for comments has been extended to Friday, February 16, 2007. 

On January 10, Washington State Legislative Director Jenifer Lambert opened the first of three sessions co-sponsored by SHRM to discuss issues around FMLA rules. The meetings, attended by nearly 250 SHRM members and other HR professionals, were held in Seattle, Chicago and Groton, CT. The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave, which SHRM chairs, also participated.

Already nearly 2,000 comments have been sent to the DOL by SHRM members, highlighting such issues as the definition of “serious medical condition” and intermittent leave. SHRM, through the HRVoice letter-writing program, is offering members a variety of comments to choose and submit, including the opportunity to share examples of how the current FMLA regulations have affected the workplace.

For more information on the discussion sessions or submitting comments to the DOL, please contact Kenya Wiley or Bernard Coleman in SHRM’s Governmental Affairs department.

 

Workplace Weapons Bills Popping Up in States Across the Country

Does your organization have a “no weapons”policy? Are some of your employees hunters? Then you could encounter problems if legislation backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) is enacted in your state. In January 2007, legislative proposals that could severely restrict an employer’s ability to ban weapons from its company property, including parking lots, have surfaced in Texas, Indiana and Georgia.

Does your organization have a “no weapons” policy? Are some of your employees hunters? Then you could encounter problems if legislation backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) is enacted in your state. In January 2007, legislative proposals that could severely restrict an employer’s ability to ban weapons from its company property, including parking lots, have surfaced in a number of states, including Texas, Indiana and Georgia.

SHRM has opposed this legislation, arguing against employer mandates and in favor of leaving the decision to individual employers on what policies are best for their workplaces. SHRM’s recent 2006 Weapons in the Workplace study found that HR professionals overwhelmingly support public policies that allow employers to bar weapons from work sites.
SHRM is tracking this issue in the states.

For more information about this issue, please contact Kathleen Coulombe in SHRM’s Governmental Affairs Department.