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Bernanke Notes Labor Market Concerns

Wall Street Journal (03/26/12) Ben Casselman

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said today that high long-term unemployment is likely caused more by cyclical rather than structural factors, and that extremely low interest rates should continue to bring down the jobless rate. Bernanke cited a wide range of indicators indicating a “notable” drop in unemployment. However, he cautioned that conditions remain “far from normal,” with uncertainty lingering about whether the relatively rapid improvement over the past year is sustainable.

“Further significant improvements in the unemployment rate will likely require a more-rapid expansion of production and demand from consumers and businesses, a process that can be supported by continued accommodative policies,” Bernanke said in prepared remarks to the annual conference of the National Association for Business Economics.

Time Not on Side of the Jobless

Wall Street Journal (03/26/12) Ben Casselman

The hiring picture has improved in recent months, but not for everyone. In February, 3.5% of the U.S. work force was unemployed for more than six months, compared with 4.0% in February of 2010, a smaller decline than in the overall jobless rate. The average unemployed worker has been jobless for 40 weeks, a mark that has barely budged in the past six months. The diverging fortunes of the long- and short-term unemployed suggests the emergence of deeper, structural problems that could persist long after the rest of the economy recovers. Rather than returning to work as the economy recovers, as they have after past U.S. recessions, the long-term unemployed could effectively break off from the normal job market.

Economists term this prospect “hysteresis,” a term borrowed from chemistry meaning that the past affects the present. The U.S. has little history with such problems, and even in the early 1980s, when the U.S. unemployment rate got close to 11% at one point, the average length of unemployment, at its peak, was just over 21 weeks, and fell quickly from there. Most economists believed that the more flexible, business-friendly American labor market would protect the U.S. from hysteresis, but some are re-evaluating that assumption. They argue that in the wake of a severe recession, the lines between cyclical and structural unemployment can become blurred.

California Jobless Rate Holds Steady as More People Seek Work

Los Angeles Times (03/24/12) Alejandro Lazo

California employers added 4,000 jobs in February, signaling slow but steady improvement in the labor market, according to figures released on March 23 by the California Employment Development Department. The state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10.9% as more workers looked for employment. The largest number of new positions was added in the information sector, which includes software and motion pictures, followed by manufacturing, educational and health services, and professional and business services.

The number of temporary workers hired by employers in California has been increasing over the last three months, says Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast from the Anderson School of Management at the University of California–Los Angeles. “This rise in temporary workers is at least in part showing the leading edge of employers beginning to bring employees on,” Nickelsburg says. “If the economy continues to see growth, they will continue to convert those into permanent jobs.”

Learn the Legal Do’s and Don’ts of Electronic Record-Keeping

The 2012 ASA Staffing Law Conference, April 17–18 in Washington, DC, features a packed agenda devoted to legal issues facing staffing firms. Among the can’t-miss sessions is “Paperless HR: The Do’s and Don’ts of Electronic Record-Keeping.”

Because technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, the days of recording placements on index cards are long gone and the paperless approach to personnel records is here. Learn how to go paperless as well as the legal do’s and don’ts for completing and storing electronic Forms I-9 and other personnel records.

Register for the 2012 ASA Staffing Law conference.

Staffing Law Conference Update: Hotel Group Rate Extended to March 28

The ASA group rate at the Hotel Helix has been extended to Wednesday, March 28 ; this hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the Westin City Center Hotel—the location for the 2012 ASA Staffing Law Conference, April 17–18, Washington, DC. The exact distance between the hotels is 0.3 miles. The Westin is sold out, but ASA has secured a block of rooms at the Hotel Helix for conference attendees.

Make reservations by calling the Hotel Helix at 800-706-1202 and asking for the 2012 ASA Staffing Law Conference group rate. The group room rate is $259 (plus tax) per night for single or double occupancy (includes complimentary Internet access), and is subject to room availability.

Among the valuable content presented at the upcoming ASA Staffing Law Conference is a can’t-miss session— “The Regulators Speak: Enforcement Agendas of DOL, EEOC, and DOJ .” Senior-level agency representatives discuss wage and hour, immigration, and antidiscrimination enforcement agendas and efforts, and what those mean for staffing firms. Register today.

Senators Ask Feds to Probe Requests for Passwords

CBS News (03/25/12)

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into whether companies that ask applicants for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On Friday, Facebook warned companies not to ask job applicants for their passwords and threatened legal action against acts that violate its policy against sharing passwords. A Facebook executive warned that if a company learns that an applicant is a member of a protected class, the company may be vulnerable to discrimination claims if it doesn’t hire the applicant.

Employer Still Liable Despite Theft of Workers’ Compensation Check: Court

Business Insurance (03/23/12)

In the case of Barrett Business Services Inc. vs. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, a California appellate court has ruled that even though a company’s $17,000 check was stolen and cashed, the company still must pay the workers’ compensation claimant who never got the check. Rafael Rivas worked for Barrett and injured his back in 2005, but changed addresses numerous times before his claim was settled. Barrett mailed the settlement check to Rivas at an out-of-date address, and a “Rafal Rivas” fraudulently cashed the check. Barrett argued that because it mailed the check to Rivas at an address specified in a compromise and release agreement, it had fulfilled its duties in the matter. However, the court disagreed.

Does Your Company Have an LM-10 Reporting Deadline Soon?

Lexology (03/19/12) Bernard J. Bobber

Employers that have some reportable activity as defined by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 must file a Form LM-10 (Employer Report) with the U.S. Department of Labor. The law requires certain payments of money or other items of value to a union, union official, labor relations consultant, or employee to be disclosed, even if the company’s employees are not represented by a union. For companies using the calendar year as their fiscal year, the reporting deadline is March 30. Under LMRDA, the payments to be reported must be greater than $250 and include such things as gifts or services given to employees on the condition that they will not organize, paying a labor relations consultant to plant agents among employees to report on union organizational activities, paying to print or disseminate pamphlets and other advertisements that threaten to close or move plants if organized, or taking out a union official with whom collective bargaining agreements are being negotiated. The report must be signed under oath by the employer’s president and treasurer, and willful violations could result in criminal and civil penalties.

Don’t Get Socked With a Retaliation Charge (03/19/12)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that for 2011, it received more complaints about retaliation than any other kind of complaint, such as race or disability discrimination. Retaliation—finding a pretext to fire or transfer an employee because the employee complained about mistreatment by a supervisor, improper company practices, sexual harassment, or anything similar—is illegal. Furthermore, retaliation claims are easier to prove than discrimination claims.

To address the surge in retaliation claims, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued three new fact sheets on the issue: Fact Sheet #77A: Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act; Fact Sheet #77B: Protection for Individuals Under the FMLA; and Fact Sheet #77C: Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.