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Washington Labor & Employment Wire » Other

Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2892)

Core provisions:  On July 8, the Senate approved an amendment to the 2010 homeland security appropriations bill that would make E-Verify, the federal government’s voluntary employment verification system, permanent. The amendment would also require all federal contractors to use E-Verify beginning September 8, 2009.Employers can currently use the program to verify employment eligibility of new hires by comparing information from I-9 forms with federal government databases. The comparison is done through a website operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

The Senate passed the amendment, which was offered by Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), by a vote of 53-44. The House of Representatives previously voted to extend the program for two years. Also added to the bill is an amendment offered by Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would allow an employer to verify the status of all employees, not just new hires.

Another part of the amendment approved July 8 includes a provision from Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) which would permanently authorize the EB-5 visa program, which enables foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in the United States to secure a green card.Homeland Security Secretary

Janet Napolitano had announced earlier that day that DHS will implement a regulation that will award federal contracts only to employers who use E-Verify, prompting a motion by Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to table the amendment as moot. The motion to table the amendment was rejected.

Status:  Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) introduced the bill in the House June 16, 2009. A cloture motion on the bill has been presented in the Senate, with the latest floor actions July 8, 2009.


FOREWARN Act (H.R. 3042)

Core Provisions: The bill would amend the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (”WARN”) Act by expanding notification requirements and enforcement provisions. 

Under the current WARN Act, employers with 100 or more employees must provide employees with 60-days written notice in the case of mass layoff that: 1) will affect 500 or more employees or 2) will affect 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the active workforce. The current WARN Act also requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60-days written notice to employees when a plant closing involving 50 or more employees occurs.

The amendments contained in the bill would impose notification obligations on employers with 75 or more employees, rather than 100 or more employees. The bill would change the definition of a plant closing under the Act to cover closings that affect 25 or more employees at a worksite, as opposed to the current minimum of 50 employees. In addition, the bill would substantially lower the notice threshold for a mass layoff. Under the bill, employers would be required to provide notice in the event of a mass layoff affecting 25 or more employees at a single worksite. Further, the bill would extend the written notification period to 90 days instead of the current 60-day period.

In addition, the bill would require the employer to send notification to the Secretary of Labor and the governor of the state where the plant closing or mass layoff is to occur. The notice must include the number of affected employees, the reason for the plant closing or mass layoff, whether the employer has jobs available in other locations or establishments, a statement of each employee’s rights to wages, severance and benefits, and a statement of the available employment and training services provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The bill would also provide the U.S. Department of Labor with administrative enforcement authority over the WARN Act. Currently, the WARN Act only allows employees to bring civil actions against employers for alleged violations. Finally, the bill would increase penalties from a single day of back pay for each day of a violation to two days of back pay for each day of a violation.

Status: Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced the bill on June 25, 2009, and it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor that same day.


Safety in Defense Contracting Act (H.R. 2825)

Core Provisions: This legislation would require the Secretary of Defense to debar from contracting with the Department of Defense any defense contractor found to have caused serious death or injury to any civilian or military personnel of the government through gross negligence or with reckless disregard for the safety of such personnel or found to have committed fraud. Contractors that award a subcontract to a subcontractor found to have committed these same acts would also be debarred.

The debarment would apply for a period of at least five years. The bill applies to contracts for an amount greater than $500,000 and includes a provision for a waiver of the debarment requirement on a case-by-case basis if the Secretary finds that the debarment would jeopardize national security.

Status: H.R. 2825 was introduced by Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) on June 11, 2009 and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.


Wounded Veteran Job Security Act (H.R. 466)

Core Provisions: As passed by the House on June 8, 2009, the bill would amend the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to extend its prohibition against discrimination and acts of reprisal against armed service members to include persons who receive treatment for illnesses, injuries, and disabilities incurred in or aggravated by service in the uniformed services. The amended statute would therefore prohibit employers from discriminating or making any adverse employment decision against a veteran on the basis of that employee or applicant’s receipt of treatment for an illness, injury, or disability determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to have been incurred in or aggravated by uniformed service.

The bill as passed by the House would further establish certain rights of veterans absent from employment for a military service-connected disability. These employees would be: 1) entitled to be retained by the employer and 2) entitled to the seniority and other rights and benefits determined by seniority the veteran had on the date of the treatment for the disability, plus the additional seniority and rights and benefits the veteran would have attained had he or she remained continuously employed. In addition, these employees would be deemed to be on furlough or a leave of absence while receiving treatment for a military service-connected disability, and therefore would be entitled to other non-seniority rights and benefits generally provided by the employer to employees having similar seniority, status, and pay who are on furlough or a leave of absence.

Employees would not be entitled to such non-seniority rights and benefits if the employee provides written notice to the employer of having no intent to return to employment following medical treatment.  Further, employers would not be required to retain a covered veteran if: 1) circumstances have so changed to make retention impossible or unreasonable, 2) retention would pose an undue hardship on the employer, or 3) the employment in question is for a brief, nonrecurrent period and there is no reasonable expectation that it will continue indefinitely or for a significant period.

The House version of the bill also would permit any veteran absent from work due to treatment for a military service-connected disability to use any accrued vacation, annual, medical, or similar leave with pay to cover such time away from work, although an employer cannot require a veteran to do so.

Status: Rep. Doggett (D-TX) introduced the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act on January 13, 2009 and it was referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The bill was reported with amendments to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and placed on the Union Calendar on May 19, 2009. The bill was passed by the House in a voice vote on June 8, 2009. The bill will now move to the Senate.


Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009 (H.R. 626)

Core Provisions: This legislation provides for four weeks of paid leave for federal employees in connection with the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care. Specifically, the bill provides that for any of the twelve weeks of leave an employee is entitled to for these purposes, a federal employee may substitute four weeks of paid parental leave and any accumulated annual or sick leave.

The bill also authorizes the Director of Personnel Management to promulgate regulations to increase the amount of paid parental leave to a total of eight weeks based on the consideration of (1) the benefits provided to the federal government of offering increased leave, including enhanced recruitment and retention; (2) the cost to the federal government; (3) trends in the private sector; (4) the federal government’s role as a model employer; and (5) the impact of increased paid leave on lower-income and economically disadvantaged employees and their children.

Status: H.R. 626 was introduced by Rep. Maloney (D-NY) on January 22, 2009 and passed the House on June 4, 2009 by a vote of 258-154.


American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454)

Core Provisions: On May 19, 2009, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved an amendment to the pending American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (”ACESA”) bill that, among other things, would make the Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage rate requirements applicable to construction projects that are financed in whole or in part by the guaranteed loans established by the ACESA. 

Specifically, the amendment would require any borrower receiving loans under the ACESA to provide the Secretary of Energy with “reasonable assurances that all laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors in the performance of construction work financed in whole or in part by the guaranteed loan” will receive wages at least equal to prevailing wages on similar projects governed by the Davis-Bacon Act.

Status: The amendment to the bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) on May 19, 2009, and was approved by the Committee on May 19, 2009.


Wounded Veteran Job Security Act (H.R. 466)

Core Provisions: As passed by the House on June 8, 2009, the bill would amend the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to extend its prohibition against discrimination and acts of reprisal against armed service members to include persons who receive treatment for illnesses, injuries, and disabilities incurred in or aggravated by service in the uniformed services. The amended statute would therefore prohibit employers from discriminating or making any adverse employment decision against a veteran on the basis of that employee or applicant’s receipt of treatment for an illness, injury, or disability determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to have been incurred in or aggravated by uniformed service.

The bill as passed by the House would further establish certain rights of veterans absent from employment for a military service-connected disability. These employees would be: 1) entitled to be retained by the employer and 2) entitled to the seniority and other rights and benefits determined by seniority the veteran had on the date of the treatment for the disability, plus the additional seniority and rights and benefits the veteran would have attained had he or she remained continuously employed. In addition, these employees would be deemed to be on furlough or a leave of absence while receiving treatment for a military service-connected disability, and therefore would be entitled to other non-seniority rights and benefits generally provided by the employer to employees having similar seniority, status, and pay who are on furlough or a leave of absence.

Employees would not be entitled to such non-seniority rights and benefits if the employee provides written notice to the employer of having no intent to return to employment following medical treatment.  Further, employers would not be required to retain a covered veteran if: 1) circumstances have so changed to make retention impossible or unreasonable, 2) retention would pose an undue hardship on the employer, or 3) the employment in question is for a brief, nonrecurrent period and there is no reasonable expectation that it will continue indefinitely or for a significant period.

The House version of the bill also would permit any veteran absent from work due to treatment for a military service-connected disability to use any accrued vacation, annual, medical, or similar leave with pay to cover such time away from work, although an employer cannot require a veteran to do so.

Status: Rep. Doggett (D-TX) introduced the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act on January 13, 2009 and it was referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The bill was reported with amendments to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and placed on the Union Calendar on May 19, 2009. The bill was passed by the House in a voice vote on June 8, 2009. The bill will now move to the Senate.


Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460)

Core Provisions: This Act would require employers with at least 15 employees who work at least 30 hours a week to provide seven days of paid sick leave and pro-rated leave for part-time employees. The leave could be used for the employee or for “a child, a parent, a spouse, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship” requiring care for an illness, injury, or medical condition, or for obtaining medical diagnosis or preventative care. The legislation includes a private right of action for employees to sue their employer, as well as a posting requirement.

Status: H.R. 2460 was introduced by Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) on May 18, 2009 and was referred to the Committees on Education on Labor; Oversight and Government Reform; and Administration.  The Act was also introduced in the 110th Congress, but failed to make it out of committee.  Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) is expected to introduce similar legislation in the Senate later this week.


Alert Laid off Employees in Reasonable Time (ALERT) Act (H.R. 2077)

Core Provisions: The ALERT Act would amend the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to require notifications under the Act for mass layoffs that occur at more than one worksite for an employer. Under the WARN Act, “mass layoff’ is currently defined as a reduction in force that results in an employment loss at a single worksite during any 30-day period for (1) at least 500 full-time employees or (2) at least 50 full-time employees if those employees make up at least 33 percent of the full-time employees. The ALERT Act would amend the definition of “mass layoff” to cover an employment loss of this size not just at a single site, but for a single employer at more than one worksite. The bill also increases penalties for employers that order a plant closing or mass layoff in violation of the WARN Act by providing for double back pay for each day of violation.

Status: H.R. 2077 was introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) on April 23, 2009 and referred to the Committee on Education and Labor. 


Savings Recovery Act of 2009 (H.R. 2021)

Core Provisions: The Savings Recovery Act is intended as a measure to help rebuild retirement, college, and personal savings. The legislation would increase the monthly exempt amount under the Social Security earnings test for individuals who have not reached retirement age. The bill also includes provisions that would exclude certain dividends and long-term capital gains of noncorporate taxpayers and increase the limitation on capital losses of noncorporate taxpayers. To increase opportunities for retirement savings, the bill would eliminate marriage penalties in income limitations with respect to individual retirement plan contributions; increase the amount that can be contributed to retirement plans; and increase the amount of allowed catch-up contributions to retirement plans, among other things. The legislation also targets savings for higher education by providing a credit for contributions to 529 plans.

Status: H.R. 2021 was introduced by Rep. Boehner (R-OH) on April 22, 2009 and referred to the Committees on Ways and Means and Education and Labor.