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Jobless Claims Decline

Wall Street Journal (03/15/12) Jeffrey Sparshott; Eric Morath

The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits fell by 14,000 last week to 351,000, matching a four-year low, the U.S. Department of Labor reported today in the latest sign that the labor market is improving. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 365,000 from 362,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast that claims would fall by 5,000. The four-week moving average of claims, which smoothes out week-to-week volatility, was unchanged at 355,750.

U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Tools to Help States Reduce Improper Unemployment Insurance Payments

U.S. Department of Labor News Release (03/14/12)

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the availability of new tools to help states reduce unemployment insurance payments to fraudsters. DOL is also publishing new materials highlighting what companies can do to avoid the negative tax implications of making improper payments. Taxpaying employers will eventually pay a higher UI rate based upon unnecessary or fraudulent charges. Eventually, the organization’s tax rate will be pushed into the next higher tax bracket because of the cumulative fraudulent/unnecessary unemployment claim charges. DOL is working with states and the work force system to disseminate these materials in public areas and to post them online.

Employer Costs for Employee Compensation

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (03/14/12)

As of December 2011, private sector employers spent an average of $28.57 per hour worked on the cost of employee compensation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries averaged $20.14 per hour worked, while employee benefits averaged $8.43 per hour worked. Costs for workers’ compensation averaged $0.41 per hour worked. Costs for state unemployment insurance averaged $0.21 per hour worked, while costs for federal unemployment insurance averaged just $0.02 per hour worked.

How Might the 2012 Presidential Election Affect Your Business? Find Out at 2012 ASA Staffing Law Conference

News outlets are packed with stories about the implications of the upcoming presidential election, but what does it all mean for the staffing industry and your business? Attend the 2012 ASA Staffing Law Conference—April 17–18 in Washington, DC—and hear from the nation’s pre-eminent authority on U.S. elections and political trends, Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report.

Attendees will get the inside scoop and preview the potential aftermath of this year’s election. See a short video of Cook, learn more about the 2012 ASA Staffing Law Conference, and register today. For agenda and hotel details, visit

USCIS Affirms Staffing Firms’ Ability to Obtain H1-B Visas

American Staffing Association (03/15/12) Stephen Dwyer

On March 12, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued guidance stating that staffing firms can sponsor H1-B workers if they can establish a valid employer relationship with the assigned worker, or “beneficiary.” The guidance specifies factors that could lead to a finding of employer status, including “whether the petitioner will pay the beneficiary’s salary; whether the petitioner will determine the beneficiary’s location and relocation assignments (i.e., where the beneficiary is to report to work); and whether the petitioner will perform supervisory duties such as conducting performance reviews, training, and counseling for the beneficiary.”

Responding to Social Security Number Mismatches: Threading the Needle Between Discrimination and Employment-Eligibility Liability

JDSupra (03/08/2012) Doug Hass

Companies should establish policies that outline how to respond to Social Security Number mismatches, because the penalties for ignoring or overreacting to SSN mismatches are severe. The policies should address how the company will respond to worker requests to change a SSN or legal name in payroll or personnel records. The policies also should address how the company will respond to requests or notifications by courts or government agencies regarding SSN mismatches. Additionally, the policies should address the company’s views on disciplining or letting go of workers for obtaining work using fraudulent paperwork.

If a company learns of a SSN mismatch, it should examine the worker’s Social Security card and compare it with the information in payroll and personnel records. If the information doesn’t match, the company should correct its records and submit corrected W-2, W-4, or other forms to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and other appropriate agencies. If the company’s records do match the information on the worker’s card, the company can use the SSA’s Social Security Number Verification Service to verify the SSN. If the SSA confirms that the worker’s number matches, the company should tell the worker that someone may be using his or her SSN.

Companies should never require a worker to “reverify” their employment eligibility or take any other adverse action against a worker because of a SSN mismatch. To do so could subject the company to substantial liability under the antidiscrimination components of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

EEOC’s Lipnic Discusses Review of Agency Guidance on Criminal Checks

BNA Daily Report for Executives (03/14/12) Kevin P. McGowan

At a recent conference, Victoria Lipnic, commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the agency could soon update guidance on companies’ use of arrest and conviction records, noting that a draft would not be released for public comment but would be debated and voted on internally. “Blanket” hiring policies excluding individuals with past convictions could amount to discrimination against black and Hispanic applicant, she said.

Under existing EEOC guidance, employers must consider the nature and gravity of the offense, how much time has passed since the conviction, and the nature of the job, and if disparate impact is shown, Lipnic said, employers must show their hiring policy is related to the job and necessary to the business. She added that employers with blanket policies will be targeted by the EEOC for investigation and even litigation. The fact that employers now have access to more criminal background information via the Web is another reason why the guidance could be updated soon.

Court Refuses to Enjoin NLRB Notice Posting Requirement Pending Appeal

Seyfarth Shaw (03/08/12) Joshua M. Henderson

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson recently upheld in part a rule by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board that requires employers to post a notice detailing employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The employers’ request to enjoin the NLRB from enforcing the rule until their appeal of the court order upholding the posting requirement is decided was denied by Jackson, who said they had not established that the posting requirement would cause them to suffer irreparable harm. Additionally, Jackson said it was “undoubtedly in the public interest” to enhance employees’ awareness of their rights.

New York Workers’ Compensation: No Employer Repayment for Concurrent-Job Benefits (03/14/12)

In the case Thomas v. Warren County DPW, the court enforced a 2007 amendment to New York’s workers’ compensation law. Under the wage replacement provision of the law, the employer in whose employment the worker sustained the injury must cover all medical costs and the worker’s average weekly wage, including additional wage amounts from other jobs held by the employee. Employers previously could obtain reimbursement for the higher average weekly wage tied to concurrent employment through a state Special Disability Fund, but the amendment eliminated this reimbursement. The court case confirms that employers are still responsible for the higher payment, and they or their insurers must absorb the cost.

Health Care Industry Offers Jobs at Every Level

U.S. News & World Report (03/13/12) Christopher Gearon

The health care employment market is among the brightest anywhere. Even before the new health care reform law promised to add 32 million people to insurance rolls, the government’s employment prognosticators had predicted upward of three million new jobs between 2008 and 2018. “Even when the economy slowed down, people kept hiring physicians,” says Tommy Bohannon, a vice president at Merritt Hawkins, a Dallas-based physician recruiting firm. “I do not see it changing.”

Primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are enjoying a seller’s market. These providers increasingly are seeing and treating more patients themselves and are taking on traditional physician duties such as writing prescriptions. Nurse practitioners cost an employer about half what internists do; their average pay now runs around $99,000. They also tend to be efficient at coordinating patient care to avoid mistakes and gaps in treatment. “The demand will be there for care coordination alone,” says Peter McMenamin, senior policy fellow with the American Nurses Association.

The Skills That Employers Want Most: What You Should Know

Wanted Analytics (03/14/12)

Wanted Technologies says the top 10 software skills being sought by employers are Microsoft Office, Microsoft PowerPoint, Structured Query Language, Microsoft Word, Oracle Java, Linux, UNIX, Customer Relationship Management, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft SQL Server. The top 10 certifications demanded by employers are Certified Registered Nurse, Certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Basic Life Support, Commercial Driver’s License, Continuing Education, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Long Term Care, Certified Public Accountant, Licensed Practical Nurse, and Board Certified.