New HHS Division to Focus on Health Care Workers’ Religious or Moral Objections to Providing Certain Care

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the formation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The new division will review complaints from medical professionals who object on religious or moral grounds to participating in the provision of certain services and/or to certain patients. HHS has also released proposed regulations that would increase the OCR’s responsibility and enforcement power as to existing federal health care antidiscrimination laws involving protections for health care workers related to services such as abortion, sterilization, and assisted suicide.

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The Race is on to File H-1B Work Visas on April 1, 2018

Executive Summary: We are releasing this Alert to remind employers of the fast-approaching April 1, 2018, opening date for filing H-1B work visa petitions on behalf of foreign employees who need sponsorship for work authorization in the U.S. this year. Since April 1, 2018, falls on a Sunday this year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should start accepting H-1B petitions on the following business day, Monday, April 2, 2018.

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Maryland’s Healthy Working Families Act Requires Employers in the State to Provide Sick/Safe Leave

Executive Summary: On January 12, 2018, the Maryland Legislature overrode Governor Hogan’s 2017 veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (the “Act”). As a result, Maryland employers with 15 or more employees are now required to provide for up to 40 hours of paid sick leave on annual basis to eligible employees, and employers with 14 or fewer employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick/safe leave on an annual basis to eligible employees. In addition to the sick leave requirement, the Act imposes notification and recordkeeping requirements and sets out a significant enforcement scheme that includes the potential imposition of treble damage penalties for violations.

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Another Employer Deduction Bites the Dust

You have probably heard about the many tax deductions that you are losing (or have lost) as a result of the new tax law (known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA). But, if you are an employer, one that you may not have heard about – or may not have had reason to hear about – is loss of the Federal income tax deduction for amounts paid in settlement of claims relating to sexual harassment and/or sexual abuse, as well as attorneys’ fees paid with respect to any such settlement or payment, if the settlement or payment is subject to a nondisclosure agreement.

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New Year – New Wage Hour Opinions (Sort Of)

Executive Summary: In a change from the prior administration, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on Friday reinstated nearly 20 “opinion letters” previously published under the Bush administration, but withdrawn prior to implementation by the Obama administration. The U.S. DOL also issued field bulletins providing new guidance on enforcement positions. The reissued letters predominately focus on specific industries; however, three of opinions generally apply to all employers. Below is a brief summary of each opinion. Should you wish to discuss these in greater detail, please contact Salvador Simao at ssimao@fordharrison.com.

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NLRB Tosses “Overwhelming Community of Interest” Standard and Returns to the “Traditional Community of Interest” Standard in Determining Appropriate Bargaining Units

Executive Summary: On December 15, 2017, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) overruled Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB 934 (2011), which required an “overwhelming community of interest” when determining the appropriateness of a bargaining unit, and returned to the “traditional community of interest” standard that the Board has applied throughout most of history. See PCC Structurals, Inc. and International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, District Lodge W24, Case 19-RC-202188.

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Will the Justice Department’s Attack on Marijuana Impact New Jersey Employers?

Executive Summary: On January 4, 2018—just days after California began selling recreational marijuana and became poised to become the largest legal market for the drug in the U.S.—the Department of Justice changed tactics on marijuana enforcement by rescinding the “Cole Memo” and other internal guidelines. Issued in 2013, the Cole Memo de-prioritized federal marijuana enforcement efforts to, among other things, prevent distribution of marijuana to minors; prevent marijuana revenue from funding criminal enterprises; prevent marijuana from moving from legal states; and prevent violence related to growing or distributing marijuana.

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