PAID Underway. On April 3, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) officially launched its Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program to encourage employers to voluntarily resolve potential overtime and minimum wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Stakeholders who are interested in the six-month pilot program should review the website, which has a step-by-step guide on how to participate. Further, the WHD will also conduct a webinar on the program on April 10. Alfred B. Robinson, Jr., has further details on the program here.
SCOTUS Issues FLSA Decision. Speaking of the FLSA, on April 2 the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro and found that automobile service advisors are exempt from the federal law’s overtime provisions. Significantly, the Court rejected the principle that FLSA exemptions should be construed narrowly, because nothing in the statute provides for such interpretation. Alfred B. Robinson, Jr., and Hera S. Arsen have the details.
EEOC General Counsel Update. On April 10, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Sharon Fast Gustafson to be general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While the confirmation hearing is obviously a good (and necessary) first step to getting a general counsel at the Commission, it’s not the confirmation hearings that have slowed down the process of filling vacant agency positions. Rather, the bottleneck occurs on the Senate floor, where a long line of appointees—judges, ambassadors, agency officials—awaits approval of the full Senate. The whole process reminds the Buzz of a trip to the doctor: sitting in the waiting room isn’t so bad, but it’s that lengthy, chilly, half-naked wait in the examining room that is the most frustrating.
Labor Nominee Votes Coming Soon? Before leaving town for spring recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on two labor nominees: Patrick Pizzella (nominated for Deputy Secretary at the DOL) and John Ring (nominated to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board). This means that these nominees have made it to the front of that long queue and could get a vote on the Senate floor this coming week. While Ring was nominated in January of this year, Pizzella has been waiting in the cold examining room for quite some time, since June of 2017. Of course, Ring’s potential ascendancy to the Board would give it a 3–2 Republican tilt, and having Pizzella in place will give the DOL political team a seasoned veteran to help lead its policy efforts.
H-1B Season. On Monday, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting H-1B visa petitions for fiscal year 2019, which begins on October 1. As usual, the demand for H-1B visas is expected to exceed the 65,000-visa cap (an additional 20,000 visas are available for applicants with advanced degrees from U.S. schools). As the Buzz has previously noted, the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 (I-Squared) would, in part, increase the annual cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 85,000 and allow 110,000 additional H-1B visas (for a total of 195,000) if certain market demand requirements are met.
Disability Claim Rules. On April 1, the DOL’s 2016 changes to its procedures governing ERISA disability benefit claims went into effect. Originally scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of the year, the regulations were delayed for 90 days “to give stakeholders the opportunity to submit data and information on the costs and benefits of the final rule.”
Cherry Blossoms (Finally). Despite snow being in the forecast for the D.C. area tomorrow, the city’s famous cherry blossoms are finally blooming. Like the early elimination of the Washington Capitals from the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual springtime tradition here. But while many people are aware that the trees were a gift from Japan, most are not likely aware of the instrumental role that first lady Helen Taft played in getting the iconic trees to our nation’s capital.