Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Holds Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Unconstitutional

With a 5-4 decision in the case of U.S. v. Windsor (available here), the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional under Fifth Amendment. DOMA, which was enacted in 1996, established that, for the purposes of all federal laws and programs, “marriage” is defined “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and “spouse” is defined as “only a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” The primary impact of DOMA was that any federal rights or privileges dependent on marital status were not available to same-sex couples regardless of whether they were legally married in a state which has legalized same-sex marriage.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wellness Programs and the Affordable Care Act:

Administration Issues Final Rules on Employment-Based Wellness Program

With the increasing national focus on preventable heath problems, there is growing interest among employers to find ways to promote healthy behavior among their employees as a means of increasing productivity and cutting health costs. Taking another step towards the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury on May 29 issued final rules on employment-based wellness programs (available here). While these regulations maintain the essential elements of the prior wellness program rules adopted in 2006 and 2012 pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the clarifications and modifications they provide will be meaningful for those employers seeking to utilize their health plans to take affirmative measures to incentivize healthy behavior among their employees.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Unpaid Interns a Costly Mistake for Employers?

With the 2008 recession creating a fiercely competitive job market that is still affecting recent college graduates, unpaid internships have become increasingly common as job seekers are willing to forego pay in order to gain experience, references, or anything else that might provide an advantage in finding future employment. For employers also facing tough economic times, this influx of free labor may appear to be an easy way to cut costs and increase profitability. Unfortunately, a recent court ruling underscores that unpaid internships offered by for-profit employers may ultimately cost those employer far more than simply paying the interns in the first place.

Monday, June 3, 2013

No ADA Claim for Maryland Bus Driver

On May 20, 2013, the Court of Appeals of Maryland in Zei v. Maryland Transit Administration, held that a bus operator employed by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), and who suffered from cardiovascular disease was, as a matter of law, not a “qualified individual” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In simpler terms, the bus driver was not entitled to the protections of the ADA after his termination for failing to meet physical qualification standards for the job.  The case appears to be the first of its kind in Maryland.  Employers should be aware that federal and state regulations may provide defenses to claims of disability discrimination and may also, in limited circumstances, reduce the need to perform an individualized assessment and to provide a reasonable accommodation.