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Alexander Hamilton Institute

According to a November 2009 collaborative report from the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and the Partnership for Prevention, the prevalence of obesity in the United States is estimated to increase from the current level of 31.30% to 42.80% in 2018.

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Here’s a look at some of the more significant laws affecting the workplace that were enacted or became effective in 2009.

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Workdays can be split roughly into three parts: pre-work activities (if any), the actual workday, and post-work activities (if any). Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you have to pay employees for their pre-work and post-work activities if those tasks are integral and indispensable to their principal activities. A federal appeals court has ruled that employees’ post-work activities, which consisted of uploading data to the company’s server, may be compensable working time. [Rutti v. Lojack Corp., Inc., No. 07-56599, 9th Cir. (2009).]

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Eligibility for the 65% COBRA subsidy was to have expired at the end of 2009.  The Department of Defense Appropriation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-118) extends the duration of the subsidy to 15 months, from nine months, and extends the eligibility period to employees laid off as of February 28, 2010.  The law also makes other changes to the COBRA subsidy.

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Given the Department of Labor’s (DOL) increased focus on enforcing wage and hour laws (the agency announced in November that it has increased its staff by more than one third by hiring 250 new wage and hour investigators), and the high price of losing a wage and hour lawsuit (in one case, a company agreed to pay $517,000 to 60 misclassified workers), auditing employees’ exempt classifications is a smart move.

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In light of the H1N1 pandemic flu virus, the Department of Labor (DOL) has released question-and-answer guidance on leave issues under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

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Last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the issuance of Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to 1,000 employers across the country associated with critical infrastructure, alerting business owners that ICE will audit their hiring records to determine compliance with Form I-9 employment eligibility verification laws.

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently set a record for the largest settlement in a single lawsuit in the agency’s history. The EEOC had sued Sears, Roebuck, and Co. under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that the company maintained an inflexible Workers’ Compensation leave exhaustion policy and terminated employees when the leave expired, instead of providing them with an accommodation for their disabilities.

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As the holiday season begins, so begins the inevitable answering of questions from confused employees regarding holiday pay issues.  Typically, misconceptions abound, with employees mistakenly believing they are entitled to much more than they really are.

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President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget requested $564 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is $51 million (10%) more than it received in FY 2009. With this funding, the Labor Department plans to hire 160 new OSHA inspectors, many of whom will be bilingual to better communicate with the increasingly diverse employee population.

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