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On December 16, 2009, the House approved the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill by a 395-34 vote. This most-recently approved version of the Defense Appropriations Bill includes provisions to extend unemployment and COBRA benefits and also prohibits Defense Department contractors and subcontractors from requiring their employees and independent contractors to agree to arbitrate certain claims.
If signed into law, the bill would extend from nine to fifteen months the 65-percent COBRA health insurance subsidy for individuals who have lost their jobs. While the previous extension of COBRA benefits passed by Congress earlier this year applied to individuals who were involuntarily terminated between April 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, this bill would extend the job loss eligibility date to February 28, 2010. In addition, the bill would extend previously expanded unemployment benefits, including increased payouts and longer duration of benefits, through February 28, 2010.
The Defense Appropriations Bill would also prohibit defense contractors or subcontractors from entering into or enforcing any agreement with their employees or independent contractors that would require them to arbitrate claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention. This provision would apply to contracts over $1 million that are awarded more than sixty days after the effective date of the Act. The bill would, however, allow the Secretary of Defense to waive this prohibition if necessary to avoid harm to the national security interests of the United States.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Senate previously passed a different version of this appropriations bill in October.