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DOL mounts vigorous defense against business groups’ lawsuits

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

It’s been a busy summer for the beleaguered lawyers at the U.S. Department of Labor. On Aug. 19, the DOL filed briefs in three separate cases filed against it in federal courts, covering everything from benefits advice to safety records to resisting unionization.

Fiduciary rule: The DOL’s controversial rule requiring retirement plan brokers to act only in their clients’ best interests (and not, for example, on the basis of hefty commissions) is under attack from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

The plaintiffs challenge the DOL’s authority to enact such a rule. The department argued in its latest brief that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act allows it.

OSHA record-keeping: OSHA asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the National Association of Manufacturers that seeks to throw out a new rule that would require employers to report on workplace injuries and illnesses more frequently than ever before.

Plus, OSHA would post the reports online for all to see.

The rule also cracks down on retaliation against OSHA whistleblowers. The DOL’s brief defended the rule’s anti-retaliation provisions.

Persuader rule: A new rule—currently on hold while lawsuits are argued—would require expanded notice when employers consult with outside parties to persuade employees not to unionize. A key deadline in a case filed in Texas needed a DOL response by Aug. 26.

Meanwhile, in a suit filed in Arkansas, employers alleged the persuader rule would compromise attorney-client privilege. The DOL’s latest brief filed on the 19th said it wouldn’t.

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