House Passes Bill Adding Requirements for ADA Lawsuits
The House of Representatives passed the ADA Reform and Education Act (H.R. 620) by a vote of 225 to 192 on February 15, which would create additional requirements for filing lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The bill protects building owners from unfair and unfounded lawsuits, giving them adequate time to address accommodations for disabled individuals.
Specifically, the legislation would prevent individuals from bringing lawsuits alleging ADA violations unless business owners are given written notice, and fail to offer a written response describing improvements or make substantial progress in removing the barrier by the end of a six-month period. As part of the legislation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) would establish a program for educating governments and property owners on how to enhance accommodations for people with disabilities.
Congress Comes Closer to Final Spending Agreement for Current Fiscal Year
Congress has passed another temporary spending agreement spending providing funding for government programs through March 23. Lawmakers have struggled reaching a permanent solution on government spending. The current fiscal year, Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, which began on October 1, 2017, has had five short-term agreements as lawmakers continue to debate future spending level.
The spending agreement, signed into law on February 9, adds $300 billion in discretionary spending over the next two years and raises the debt ceiling through March 1, 2019. In addition, the legislation should give Congress sufficient time to reach an agreement on government funding for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018. A continued sticking point in reaching a full-year spending agreement is President Trump’s March 5 deadline to resolve the status of immigrants who illegally came to the U.S. when they were children.
White House Releases FY 2019 Budget
The White House has released its budget blueprint for FY 2019, which begins on October 1, 2018, and would provide $4.4 trillion in funding for government programs. Like most White House budgets, the plan outlines the Administration’s priorities but has little chance of passage. Release of the White House budget follows President Donald Trump signing a two-year budget deal that increases domestic and military spending by $300 billion over the next two years.
The President’s Budget assumes that the $1.5 trillion tax cut passed in December 2017 will increase economic growth from 2.3 percent in 2017, to 3 percent in 2018, and 3.2 percent next year. Some independent economists view the Administration’s economic assumptions as overly optimistic. Deficit hawks have expressed concern with the proposed budget, as it would add $984 billion to the deficit next year.
President Trump Nominates John Ring for NLRB
President Donald Trump has nominated John Ring to serve a five-year term on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Ring is currently a partner at the law firm of Morgan Lewis & Bockius and co-leader of the firm’s Labor/Management Relations Practice. If confirmed, Ring will reinstate a Republican majority on the Board; the current Board is deadlocked at 2-2, following former Chairman Phil Miscimarra’s departure in December.
Senate Republicans Evaluate Social Security Paid Leave Plan
Republican Senators Joni Ernst (IA), Mike Lee (UT), and Marco Rubio (FL) have come out in support of a paid leave proposal that would allow new parents to collect Social Security benefits in exchange for delaying the collection of their retirement benefits. Under the proposal, parents could take up to 12 weeks of leave and receive pay as a Social Security benefit that is calculated using the same formula as Social Security disability benefits. It is estimated that the average worker would receive $1,175 per month.
Both Conservative and Liberals have criticized the proposal, as it would hasten the insolvency of the Social Security Trust Fund. At present, the trust fund is scheduled to become insolvent in 2034. The U.S. is the only industrialized country without a federal paid leave policy.
Amazon Reaches $1.2 Million Settlement over Pesticide Sales
Giant online retailer Amazon has reached a settlement agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over charges that third parties used its website to sell and distribute imported pesticide and insecticide products that had been not licensed for sale in the United States. EPA said that it had found nearly 4,000 violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act on the site in an investigation that began in 2014. Amazon has agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty and ban foreign entities from selling pesticides through its website.
NLRB Invites Amicus Briefs in Independent Contractor Misclassification Case
On February 15, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) invited the filing of amicus briefs in the case of Velox Express. At issue in the case is whether the misclassification of workers as independent contractors is a violation of employees’ rights to collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Specifically in the invitation, the NLRB asks that briefs address under what circumstances, if any, the Board should deem an employer’s act of misclassifying statutory employees as independent contractors a violation of the NLRA.
DOL Launches HIRE Vets Medallion Program
The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced the launch of the HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration — an effort that will recognize up to 300 employers for their investments in recruiting, employing, and retaining our nation’s veterans. The program demonstration will raise awareness of the HIRE Vets Medallion Program, which begins in 2019, and utilizes the requirements of the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act (HIRE Vets Act) signed by President Trump in May 2017 to determine awardees. The program will recognize large, medium, and small employers at two levels, platinum or gold, depending on the criteria they meet.