House Education & Workforce Committee

Kline Statement on EEOC Guidance for Wellness Programs

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 5:00pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN)  issued the following statement after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released new guidance concerning employee wellness programs:

This agency’s recent hostility toward employee wellness programs is contrary to the law and the best interest of America’s workers. While I am encouraged the EEOC is trying to fix a problem it has created, the devil is in the details. We intend to thoroughly examine the agency’s proposed guidance and closely follow the process as it moves forward. And make no mistake, we reserve the right to take legislative action if the agency continues to discourage innovative health plans that have helped control costs and improve the lives of workers and their families. The president himself has said we need to encourage the use of employee wellness plans, and that is precisely what we intend to do.

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ICYMI: Rep. Joe Wilson: #StudentSuccessAct Gives Students "Fresh Start"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 12:00am

Washington’s outsized role in education has imposed a series of one-size-fits-all policies that assume federal bureaucrats know better than parents, teachers, and local leaders. As Education and the Workforce Committee member Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) writes in a recent op-ed, “the quality of our children’s education is too high a priority to rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. The Student Success Act, he continues, would help bring control of K-12 education back to his home state of South Carolina:

I support meaningful solutions to improve education, like H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. This bill promotes common sense reforms and encourages school choice by allowing existing funds to follow low-income students to their school of choice. This will reward the excellent public schools we have in the Second District and help students across the nation escape failing schools. Our bill also prevents the federal government from imposing coercive one-size-fits-all standards, like Common Core, and returns the authority to schools to spend their money where they need it most—not where the federal government thinks is best.

In addition, our bill gives more freedom to schools to hire the best teachers for the job by eliminating federal hiring requirements. It also prioritizes transparency in school funding to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to benefit students. Finally, the bill bolsters accountability at the Department of Education, requiring increased public oversight before issuing new regulations. We must put students above bureaucratic red tape, and this bill takes a positive step toward student-centered education.

This past week marked the beginning of the fourth quarter grading period for our schools. It is a fresh start for students and their grades for the next nine weeks. Let’s give our students a real fresh start next year by voicing support for the Student Success Act to help create meaningful changes in our education system.

To read the full op-ed, click here.

To learn more about the Student Success Act, click here.

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School Nutrition Experts Call for Increased Flexibility of Child Nutrition Programs

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 5:30pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to discuss the importance of federal child nutrition programs as the committee begins an effort to reauthorize these programs later this year.

“Healthy meals are vitally important to a child’s education,” Chairman Kline said. “It’s just basic commonsense that if a child is hungry then he or she is less likely to succeed in the classroom and later in life … It’s the responsibility of this committee and Congress to reauthorize these programs so that students and families receive the support they need in the most efficient and effective way.”

Witnesses echoed Chairman Kline’s sentiments. As First Lady of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, remarked, “The impact of hunger and malnutrition on children is devastating, well-documented, and obvious to anyone who is a parent or works with children … How can we expect our children to be hungry for knowledge, if they are just plain hungry?”

The last reauthorization of child nutrition programs in 2010 vastly expanded the role of the federal government. As a result, program costs have increased while student participation has decreased. Furthermore, many schools are struggling to address wasted food and the nutrition needs of each individual student. When asked what Congress can do to improve these programs, witnesses responded with the need for increased flexibility to effectively serve children.

“Some of the new regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, which threaten our ability to better serve students’ nutritional needs,” said School Nutrition Association President, Julia Bauscher. She added, the US Department of Agriculture “estimated that this year, schools must absorb $1.2 billion in added costs as a result of the new rules.”

Senior Director of Share Our Strength, Duke Storen, highlighted the success of public-private partnerships to “make the federal programs run more efficiently and effectively” and to decrease the costs imposed on school districts.

Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University, Kathy Krey, agreed: “Public-private partnerships bridge local, state, and federal resources to maximize the efficiency and reach of these programs. Innovative collaborations increase the capacity of communities to take ownership of their needs so that children can stay fueled for learning all day, all year round.”

At the same time, Mr. Storen reminded members of the critical need to “update these programs to remove bureaucratic barriers and create efficiencies that will allow us to reach those kids who currently go without.”

"We have to find a better way forward," Chairman Kline concluded, "one that continues our commitment to providing nutritious meals for America’s students, while giving state and school leaders the flexibility they need to make it a reality."

To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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Kline Statement: Hearing on “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:00am

Healthy meals are vitally important to a child’s education. It’s just basic commonsense that if a child is hungry then he or she is less likely to succeed in the classroom and later in life. That is why our nation has long invested in services that provide low-income students nutritious meals in schools. Those services are authorized through a number of laws, such as the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act.

In just a few short months, these laws and the programs they authorize will expire, including the national school lunch and breakfast programs, the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC Program, and several others. It’s the responsibility of this committee and Congress to reauthorize these programs so that students and families receive the support they need in the most efficient and effective way.

Why is that important? Because no child should go to school hungry – it’s that simple. Today’s discussion is not about whether we agree on this basic principle; I am confident we all do. Instead, our discussion today is about beginning a larger effort we will continue in the coming months to ensure the best policies are in place to help reach this goal.

Last week, I had an opportunity to tour a school lunchroom at the Prior Lake High School in Savage, Minnesota. Students and faculty described what’s working and what isn’t working in federal nutrition programs. As a result of our conversation, two important realities are abundantly clear.

First, our school nutrition professionals are dedicated men and women doing the best they can under difficult circumstances, and no one should question their commitment to providing students nutritious meals. Unfortunately, rules and regulations put in place in recent years have made their jobs harder, not easier. The cost of the lunch and breakfast programs for schools are going up, yet fewer meals are being served. In fact, the number of children participating in these programs is declining more rapidly than any period over the last 30 years.

Second, as we reauthorize these programs, we have to provide more flexibility at the state and local levels. Those working in our schools and cafeterias recognize that this has to be a priority. Even students understand the urgent need for more flexibility.

During my visit to Prior Lake High School, I talked with a number of students about their school lunch program. Right now, the federal government determines the number of calories, vegetables, and grains that are served to students, which means Washington is dictating how much food every child is served at every school meal. That is one reason why students are urging the school to drop out of the program. Many children are bringing food from home or buying more food because the portion sizes served at school are too small for a full meal. As one student, Corinna Swiggum, noted, “A lot of times, we’re going back and getting junk food, not healthy food.”

This isn’t what these children want. This isn’t what their parents or school administrators want, and it’s not what we want either. We have to find a better way forward, one that continues our commitment to providing nutritious meals for America’s students, while giving state and school leaders the flexibility they need to make it a reality.

That is why we are delighted to have you here today, Mrs. McAuliffe. Through your work, you are demonstrating that promoting healthy lifestyles is not just a federal priority, but a state and local priority as well. Often we are told we need more federal involvement because states can’t be trusted to help those in need. But through your leadership, you’re showing states can take the lead on tough issues in partnership with the federal government.

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Kline, Roe Statement on Proposed Fiduciary Rule

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 7:00pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) issued the following joint statement in response to the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule proposed earlier today:

It’s remarkable it takes a regulatory proposal spanning hundreds of pages to define a single word. It will take time to examine this new proposal and determine whether it’s a better approach or just the same flawed scheme we’ve seen before. We have said all along that we're open to modernizing current rules in a way that provides more protections to Americans. However, we will strongly oppose any rule that makes it harder for working families to plan for retirement. Our country faces difficult retirement challenges, and the last thing we should do is create new barriers to the retirement security the American people deserve.

This is a sweeping regulatory proposal that will impact the lives and financial well-being of millions of Americans. It’s deeply troubling the administration has refused to fully cooperate with our oversight requests to determine whether close coordination took place across the federal government to ensure a clear, consistent standard emerged. It is time for the administration to stop paying lip service to good government and start delivering the facts to prove it. The American people and this Congress have every right to know how this regulation was crafted, and we expect a complete response to our oversight inquiries without further delay.

To learn more about the committee's oversight of the rulemaking, click here

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Five Years Later: ObamaCare Still Hurting America’s Workplaces

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 6:00pm

The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) today held a hearing to explore the consequences of the president’s health care law on the five year anniversary of its enactment.

“Health care reform should have been an opportunity to preserve and build on what works with commonsense, market-based reforms that would expand access to more affordable coverage,” remarked Rep. Roe. “Instead, a costly government takeover of health care was imposed on the American people, and five years later the law continues wreaking havoc on families, businesses, and even schools. It’s hard to recall a time when supporters of a law promised so much and delivered so little.”

During the hearing, witnesses expressed continued concern with the negative impact of the law on the nation’s workplaces, including:

  • Reduced Hours for Workers - [ObamaCare’s] definition of full-time employee is having an adverse impact on both employers and employees … According to [the Society for Human Resource Management] SHRM’s March research survey, 20 percent of SHRM members’ organizations have already reduced part-time hours to below 30 per week or are planning to do so in the following year to comply with the ACA. Sally Roberts, Director of Human Resources, Morris Communications Company
                        
  • Uncertainty for Employers - For the past several years we have operated in a constant state of unknown … It seems as soon as we have some clarity on an issue, we come to realize that it was only a temporary extension or that we were guided in the wrong direction to begin with … [We] have no idea what to plan for because we don’t know what changes to legislation or regulations will bring next year or beyond.Skip Paal, Society of American Florists
                        
  • Increased Health Care Costs - Although the [law] purports to lower health care costs for Americans, costs continue to rise for employers and employees alike. According to a recent survey, 77 percent of respondents said that their health care coverage costs increased from 2014 to 2015 … the [law’s] current coverage requirements are increasing costs and restricting employer flexibility to offer a benefits package that best meets the needs of employees.Sally Roberts, Director of Human Resources, Morris Communications Company
                             
  • Loss of Existing Health Care Coverage - We are facing a troubling cycle in the world of employer sponsored care … Some employers will exit the system, but we believe that more will look to make serious changes in approach. These employer based changes typically include more cost-sharing components … the cost sharing then impacts the affordability of health care for employees, who will become unsatisfied with their employer sponsored care and look to Washington for answers. Tevi Troy, President, American Health Policy Institute

“When it’s all said and done – after all the broken promises, fewer jobs, lost wages, website glitches, and cancelled health care plans – 35 million individuals will still be without health insurance,” concluded Rep. Roe. “The American people can no longer afford this costly mistake. It is time to move the country away from this government-run health care scheme and toward a more patient-centered health care system.”

To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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House, Senate Leaders Continue Fight Against Ambush Union Elections

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 2:30pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN), and Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) today introduced legislation that will preserve long-standing union election procedures by safeguarding the right of workers to make informed decisions about union representation, ensuring the ability of employers to communicate with their employees, and protecting the privacy of workers and their families.

“Starting today, an ambush union election scheme will begin wreaking havoc on our nation’s workplaces,” said Chairman Kline. “Through his labor board, the president has endorsed new rules that will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy and safety of workers and their families. We promised that the fight against ambush elections wasn’t over. That is why today I am pleased to join my House and Senate colleagues in introducing legislation that will rein in the board's unprecedented overreach, protect the rights of workers and employers, and preserve a fair union election process.”

“The NLRB’s ambush election rule forces a union election in a little as 11 days—before an employer and many employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on,” said Sen. Alexander, chairman of the Senate labor committee. “Congress must act to stop this damaging rule, which sacrifices every employer’s right to free speech and every worker’s right to privacy—all for the sake of boosting organized labor.”

“Unions and employers deserve a chance to make their case on unionizing,” said Rep. Roe, “and employees deserve adequate time to consider the consequences of their decisions, but the ambush election rule unfairly rushes the decision-making process. The safeguards we are seeking to restore with these bills give employees the freedom to make an informed decision. It is unacceptable that the NLRB would force employers to disclose personal information, potentially opening the door for workers to be intimidated, threatened or coerced. Now, more than ever, we should be protecting the rights of workers, and my bill does just that by returning decision-making power to the employee and their families."

“The National Labor Relations Board continues to skew the playing field between management and labor,” said Sen. Isakson. “I have been fighting against these unfair rulings by the NLRB since President Obama took office. This bill protects free speech and ensures that workers are afforded the opportunity to make informed decisions about their right to organize, while safeguarding their personal information and privacy. At a time when our economy and our middle class are trying to recover from a recession, the NLRB’s ambush election policy is absolutely the wrong thing to do and I urge Congress to pass the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act to restore a level playing field.”

BACKGROUND: The NLRB’s rule – which goes into full effect today, April 14 – shortens the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held to as little as 11 days. In 2014, more than 95 percent of union certification elections occurred within 56 days. Furthermore, the median number of days from petition to election was 38 days. These numbers surpass the performance goals set by the NLRB itself. The rule gives employers essentially no time to communicate with their employees before a union election and undermines the ability of workers to make an informed decision. In addition, it forces employers to provide employees’ personal information to union organizers without employees’ consent.

The legislative response proposed by Reps. Kline and Roe and Sens. Alexander and Isakson would:

  • Ensure workers have enough time to make an informed decision in a union election by prohibiting any election from taking place in less than 35 days.
                                   
  • Provide employers at least 14 days to prepare their case to present before a NLRB election officer and protect the right to raise additional concerns throughout the pre-election hearing.
                               
  • Reassert the board’s responsibility to address critical issues before certifying a union, including voter eligibility and the appropriate unit of employees that will form the union.
                
  • Empower workers to control their personal information by allowing each employee to determine the personal contact information that is provided to union organizers.

To learn more about the legislation introduced in the House, click here.

To learn more about the legislation introduced in the Senate, click here.

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Roe Statement: Hearing on “Five Years of Broken Promises: How the President’s Health Care Law is Affecting America’s Workplaces”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 10:00am

As a practicing physician for more than 30 years, I experienced first-hand the marvels of the U.S. health care system and how it has helped improve the lives of countless individuals. But I also saw the challenges of our health care system, one that is too bureaucratic, too costly, and leaves too many Americans without the coverage they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.

Health care reform should have been an opportunity to preserve and build on what works with commonsense, market-based reforms that would expand access to more affordable coverage. Instead, a costly government takeover of health care was imposed on the American people, and five years later the law continues wreaking havoc on families, businesses, and even schools. It’s hard to recall a time when supporters of a law promised so much and delivered so little.

The American people were promised that if they liked their health care plan they could keep it. Not true. Millions of Americans have received letters notifying them that their health insurance is being cancelled because it doesn’t comply with the dictates of the health care law. Patients have learned in horror that their trusted doctors are no longer in their health insurance networks. And it will only get worse. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects seven million people will lose their employer-sponsored coverage over the next 10 years.

The American people were promised health care costs would go down. In fact, the president promised to lower premiums for the average family by $2,500. Not true. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health care costs for the average family increased by 26 percent during the last five years. The average employee with an employer-sponsored insurance plan experienced a seven percent increase in their share of health care costs.

Finally, the American people were told the health care law would boost the economy. Again, not true. More than 450 employers have publicly stated they are cutting hours or making other staffing changes to avoid the law’s punitive mandates, including the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Trig’s Supermarkets and Coach’s Fast Food in Wisconsin, Shari’s restaurants in Oregon, and the Henrico County School District – as well as other school districts – across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the law will result in two million fewer full-time workers.

Many of these difficult changes are taking place in the service industry, which means lower-wage workers are bearing the brunt of the ObamaCare burden. Schools are also cutting hours, undermining the quality of education America’s students deserve. We’ve heard time and again from the administration that these are mere anecdotes or, in the words of then-Secretary Sebelius, “speculation.” Yet even those who supported the health care law have no choice but to recognize its harmful consequences.

Members of the AFL-CIO endorsed a resolution that warned of an “underclass of less than 30-hour-workers” as employers seek to avoid paying penalties under the health care law. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other union leaders said the law will “shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle-class.” Finally, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers lamented that the law “imposes increased benefit costs, fees, and new taxes on our [multiemployer health care] plans.”

Unfortunately, more pain is right around the corner. In just a few short years, nearly half of all large employers will be hit by the so-called “Cadillac tax.” It’s estimated the federal government will collect more than $85 billion through this tax over the next decade. That’s money that could be used to raise wages or create new jobs; instead it will go into the coffers of the federal government. And don’t forget, that right now, the Supreme Court is deciding a case that may result in millions of Americans being stuck with government-run health insurance they cannot afford.

Remarkably, when it’s all said and done – after all the broken promises, fewer jobs, lost wages, website glitches, and cancelled health care plans – 35 million individuals will still be without health insurance. The American people can no longer afford this costly mistake. It is time to move the country away from this government-run health care scheme and toward a more patient-centered health care system.

A key part of that effort is oversight hearings like the one we are holding today. Congress must shine a light on the president’s fatally flawed law. We have a very distinguished panel of witnesses to help us do just that. I would note for my colleagues that today’s panel includes three employers to share their perspectives on how the law is impacting their workplaces. I look forward to a robust discussion.

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Committee Leaders Seek Information Following Reports of Neglect and Abuse at Head Start Centers

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 8:30am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) have requested information about how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responds to reports of neglect and abuse at Head Start centers.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Kline and Rokita expressed their “deep concern” for the health and safety of children enrolled in the Head Start program. They write:

This concern stems from apparent discrepancies in how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decides when to suspend or terminate the contracts of Head Start and Early Head Start grantees and whether those decisions are made in the best interest of the children being served.

Despite recent reports of “significant health and safety problems” and “immediate danger” at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (NYC ACS), including unsanitary facilities, physical and sexual abuse by a teacher, and exposure to poison and toxic substances, HHS has allowed NYC ACS to continue operating 196 Head Start centers rather than suspending or revoking their $130 million annual federal grant and appointing an interim grantee to prevent disruptions in services.

The letter continues, “The decision to allow NYC ACS to continue operating its grant appears to represent a divergent path from other decisions regarding safety concerns at centers.”

After sending the letter to Secretary Burwell, Kline and Rokita remarked:

Quality early childhood education plays an important role in helping children succeed in life. Congress has a responsibility to ensure our investment in early childhood education provides a safe and secure learning environment for the nation’s most vulnerable children. Health and safety must be leading priorities. The secretary needs to explain how these decisions promote the well-being of students and serve their best interests.

To read the full letter, click here.

To learn more about the committee’s efforts to reform the Head Start Act, including the committee’s request for public feedback, click here.

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Hearings Slated This Week on ObamaCare and Child Nutrition

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 12:00am

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold hearings this week on the five year anniversary of President Obama’s health care law and various child nutrition programs in preparation for reauthorization of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act.

On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled, “Five Years of Broken Promises: How the President’s Health Care Law is Affecting America’s Workplaces.” The hearing will examine the consequences of the health care law, including higher costs, reduction in hours and jobs, and loss of existing health insurance coverage. More information about the hearing, including location, webcast, witness list, and testimony can be found here as they become available.

On Wednesday, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs.” Federal child nutrition programs, such as the federal lunch and breakfast programs, deliver vital support to low-income students and families. In 2010, Congress expanded these programs resulting in a series of costly regulations. Schools have experienced a more than $1 billion cost increase in the lunch and breakfast programs, while the number of students and families served has decreased by 1.4 million. Wednesday’s hearing provides members an opportunity to hear from school nutrition experts about the current state of federal child nutrition programs and the role they play in the lives of students and families. More information about the hearing, including location, webcast, witness list, and testimony can be found here as they become available.

For more information on hearings, visit edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

 

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Broad Support for Legislation to Provide Certainty to Employers Offering Innovative Employee Wellness Programs

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 04/02/2015 - 4:30pm

The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, introduced by Senate and House leaders last month to provide legal certainty for employers offering innovative employee wellness programs, is receiving broad support from business leaders and health care industry experts.

The bill was introduced last month by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) with Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN) and Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) and aims to eliminate confusion caused by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for employers offering wellness programs that lower employees’ health insurance premiums to reward healthy lifestyle choices.

“The National Business Group on Health writes in strongsupport of S. 620/H.R. 1189, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. We applaud your leadership to align government policy and provide legal clarity to support employers’ wellness programs and financial incentives that reward healthy lifestyles….Your proposed legislation would clear up this confusion for employers and the employees who value these programs and aligns the federal government’s policy to consistently support wellness programs.”—Brian J. Marcotte, National Business Group on Health

“To maintain global competitiveness and help achieve good health in our communities, American companies must encourage healthy behavior with every tool in our toolkit. In other words, a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and a productive workforce makes for a healthier American economy. We thank you for your sponsorship of S. 620.”—James A. Klein, American Benefits Council

“We urge the Senate to pass this legislation this year. It is important for Congress to eliminate the legal confusion surrounding wellness program financial incentives that has been caused by the recent legal actions taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and restore certainty for employers who want to reward their employees for leading healthy lifestyles.”—Daniel V. Yager, HR Policy Association

“ERIC applauds you for developing and introducing this legislation, as it would provide legal certainty and eliminate confusion caused by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for employers offering wellness programs to their employees. This issue is significant for ERIC members as their wellness plans are part of the comprehensive health benefits they provide to millions of active and retired employees and their families.”—Annette Guarisco Fildes, The ERISA Industry Committee

“NAHU has long been a proponent of group wellness programs and we appreciate your leadership on this important issue for employers and employees alike to be able to participate in wellness programs that will help to both improve overall health and reduce the cost of care. With an ever increasing cost of medical care and health insurance coverage, wellness programs have a demonstrated ability to improve health and save money. Efforts to increase the use of wellness programs and encourage all employees to live a healthy lifestyle will only further these results.”—Janet Trautwein, National Association of Health Underwriters

"The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act will provide employers with more certainty that evidenced-based employee wellness programs designed to meet existing regulatory guidelines will not face unnecessary litigation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Passage of this bill will protect crucial tools for employer wellness programs, biometric screenings, health risk assessments, and premium incentives, which help employees receive interventions best suited to their health needs and goals.”—Mary R. Grealy, Healthcare Leadership Council

“This legislation provides legal certainty and eliminates confusion arising from action by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for employers offering employee wellness programs that lower health insurance premiums to reward healthy lifestyle choices. The legislation provides support for those employers, who may be hesitant to provide wellness programs for fear of violating EEOC requirements.”—Kathryn Mueller, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

“On behalf of the undersigned organizations, which represent millions of employers who employ tens of millions of employees, we write to express our support for S. 620, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, and to thank you for sponsoring this important legislation. S. 620 will provide much needed clarification over the legality of voluntary workplace wellness programs and employers’ use of financial incentives to encourage participation in such programs.”—Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, Food Marketing Institute, HR Policy Association, Independent Electrical Contractors, International Foodservice Distributors Association, International Franchise Association, International Public Management Association for Human Resources, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Council of Chain Restaurants, National Federation of Independent Business, National Grocers Association, National Public Employer Labor Relations Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Society for Human Resource Management, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce link

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House, Senate Leaders Denounce President’s Veto of Joint Resolution to Stop NLRB Ambush Election Rule

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:00am
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) denounced President Obama’s veto today of their Congressional Review Act joint resolution to stop the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from implementing its “ambush election” rule.
 
Under the Congressional Review Act, the House and Senate can vote on a joint resolution of disapproval to stop, with the full force of law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or regulation or issuing a substantially similar regulation without congressional authorization. The resolution passed the House on March 19 by a vote of 232 to 186, after passing the Senate last month by a vote of 53-46.
 
“The NLRB’s ambush election rule is an assault on the rights and privacy protections of American workers," said Speaker of the House John Boehner. "With his veto, the president has once again put the interests of his political allies ahead of the small business owners and hardworking Americans who create jobs and build a stronger economy.”

“The President’s partisan veto will further empower powerful political bosses at the expense of the rights of middle-class workers,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Republicans believe workers have the right to make their own, informed choices when casting a ballot in the workplace; we don’t think powerful political bosses should rush or force that decision on them, as the ambush rule proposes. We’ll continue to stand strong against Obama Administration attempts to weaken workers’ rights in order to enrich its powerful political friends.”
 
“President Obama has decided to stand with his powerful friends in Big Labor, rather than America’s workers and job creators,” said Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “With his veto, the president has endorsed an ambush election rule that will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of working families. This fight isn’t over. Congress will continue to oppose this radical assault on workers and employers, and we will continue to demand a fair union election process.” 

“The NLRB’s new ambush election rule forces a union election in as little as 11 days—before an employer and most employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate labor committee. “I’m disappointed the president wasted this opportunity to prevent the board’s rule from infringing on every employee’s right to privacy and every employer’s right to free speech.”
 
“With this veto, President Obama has further proved his administration is more concerned with supporting union bosses than ensuring a fair and impartial process that respects workers’ privacy and right to make decisions that are best for them,” said Roe, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. “For far too long, we’ve seen the Obama administration’s activist NLRB – which should ensure fair and transparent union elections – put the interests of labor unions before those of job creators and American workers. This latest rule is nothing more than an attempt to speed up union elections, violating the rights of workers to make an informed decision and employers to communicate openly with their employees during a union organizing campaign.”
                                                                              
"It’s disappointing that President Obama chose to side with big labor over the rights of employees and employers,” said Enzi, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “With this rule the National Labor Relations Board has taken it upon itself to impose new regulations that would hurt businesses and undermine a process that is already providing fair and timely elections. The NLRB needs to know that this rule is out of bounds.”
                                                                           
BACKGROUND: The NLRB’s rule was finalized in December and would shorten the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held to as little as 11 days. In 2014, more than 95 percent of union certification elections occurred within 56 days. In addition, the median number of days from petition to election was 38 days. These numbers surpass the performance goals set by the NLRB itself. The rule gives employers no time to communicate with their employees before a union election and undermines the ability of workers to make an informed decision. In addition, it forces employers to provide employees’ personal information to union organizers without employees’ consent. The ambush election rule will go into effect April 14, 2015. 

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Walberg Statement: Hearing on H.R. 548, "Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2015"; H.R. 549, "Litigation Oversight Act of 2015"; H.R. 550, "EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act"; and H.R. 1189, "Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 12:00am

Today, the subcommittee will examine a number of legislative proposals intended to provide greater transparency and accountability to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I’d like to thank our witnesses for joining us. We have a distinguished panel to help us look at a number of complex and important issues.

All workers deserve strong protections against employment discrimination. Toward that end, there continues to be support for federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and others. There is no doubt that every member of the committee expects the fair and vigorous enforcement of these laws in our nation’s workplaces, and that is precisely why we are here today.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plays a vital role ensuring America’s workers are free to pursue employment without fear of discrimination based on their race, gender, disability, or religion. We need this agency to do its job effectively so that every American has a shot to succeed based on merit and hard work. Unfortunately, the enforcement and regulatory approach adopted by EEOC in recent years raises serious doubts about whether our nation’s best interests are being served.

For example, the commission has implemented controversial guidance on the use of criminal background checks that will make it more difficult for employers to protect their employees and customers. At a hearing held last Congress, the subcommittee received testimony from Ms. Lucia Bone, whose sister, Sue Weaver, was murdered by a man who months earlier had cleaned the air ducts in her home. A simple criminal background check might have saved this innocent woman’s life.

State and local policies requiring criminal background checks are intended to protect Americans who come in contact with workers in vulnerable situations, such as at home and in the classroom. As a result of EEOC’s misguided policy, more Americans will be put in

harm’s way, including women and children. The EEOC should scrap this misguided policy completely, but if it won’t, then Congress should take steps to rein it in and help provide families greater peace of mind the next time they invite a stranger into their home or child’s classroom.

Furthermore, EEOC has challenged employee wellness programs. Employers develop these innovative programs in order to improve the health of employees and their families, increase productivity, and reduce health care costs. Yet litigation pursued by the commission is actually discouraging employers from implementing these programs, even though Congress on a bipartisan basis has expressed its clear support for employee wellness programs.

Lastly, EEOC is spending more time and resources pursuing systemic or “class action” investigations, often without any allegation of wrongdoing. The commission has also been sanctioned in recent years for pursuing claims that are frivolous and without merit. This is how one federal circuit court described an EEOC enforcement action:

“EEOC brought this case on the basis of a homemade methodology, crafted by a witness with no particular expertise to craft it, administered by persons with no particular expertise to administer it, tested by no one, and accepted only by the witness himself.” 

Meanwhile, a backlog of discrimination claims filed by individual workers continues to plague the commission. This is no way to run an agency with a mission as important as the EEOC’s and we must demand better. To help workers succeed in the workplace without fear of discrimination, Congress has a responsibility to hold the commission accountable for its regulatory and enforcement policies.

We will examine today a number of legislative proposals to help us do just that. Together, these proposals will instill greater transparency and accountability in EEOC, improve its enforcement activities, and help more workers and employers enjoy the benefits of employee wellness programs. I look forward to discussing in greater detail with our witnesses the positive reforms in these bills and hope they will receive strong, bipartisan support.  

 

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TOMORROW: Subcommittee Hearing on Bills to Provide Greater EEOC Transparency, Accountability

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 1:00pm
On Tuesday, March 24 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), will hold a legislative hearing on the Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 548), the Litigation Oversight Act of 2015 (H.R. 549), the EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 550), and the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1189).The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
  • The Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2015, introduced by Chairman Walberg, provides a safe harbor to employers complying with a federal or state law mandating they perform criminal background checks before hiring for certain jobs.
                       
  • The Litigation Oversight Act of 2015, introduced by Chairman Walberg, requires EEOC commissioners to approve or disapprove, by majority vote, EEOC-initiated litigation involving multiple plaintiffs or an allegation of systemic discrimination. It also gives individual commissioners the power to require the commission, by majority vote, to approve or disapprove any litigation.
                         
  • The EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced by Chairman Walberg, requires – among other provisions – the EEOC to post on its website and in its annual report any case in which EEOC was required to pay fees or costs, where a sanction was imposed against it by a court, and whether the cases were authorized by the commission or brought solely on the general counsel’s authority.
                                   
  • The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, introduced by Chairman John Kline (R-MN), clarifies that if an employer-sponsored wellness program’s financial incentives comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its regulations, then the program is also in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

Tuesday’s hearing will provide members the opportunity to discuss the legislation and examine efforts to strengthen EEOC enforcement through enhanced transparency and accountability.

To learn more about the hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings

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ICYMI: Press Reports Highlight Legislative Action to Block Ambush Election Rule

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 12:00am

Congress recently took action to block the administration’s radical ambush election rule, which undercuts employees’ ability to make informed decisions in union elections while jeopardizing the privacy of workers and their families. Press reports highlight the ambush rule’s unprecedented changes and Republican efforts to stop it:

[The ambush election rule] represents one of the biggest procedural changes in decades to the federal union-organizing process. –  Wall Street Journal

[The] rule, which was finalized in December, shortens the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held from the current median of 38 days to as little as 11 days. – The Daily Caller

“The ambush election rule the NLRB finalized last year will deny workers the opportunity to gather all the information they need before deciding whether to join a union,” [House Speaker] Boehner said. “What’s worse, the rule will make all of their personal information — addresses, work schedules, email, phone numbers — available to union bosses without their consent, putting them at risk for harassment and identity theft.” – Washington Times

"Joining a union is a big choice," said Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) on the House floor Thursday. "But to make an informed decision, workers need time to decide what's best for them and their family, and they shouldn't be pressured or rushed." – Los Angeles Times

 “This is like March Madness,” Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), one of the sponsors of the bill, told The Hill. “We expect referees to be fair in the games we play, but the NLRB is not fair." – The Hill

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce … said the rules would "stack the deck against employers" and "virtually eliminate employers' opportunities to communicate their views, stifling a full and robust debate among employees about unionization." – Washington Post

“Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, declared after the vote. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.” – The Daily Caller

Republicans will continue to fight for the rights of workers and their families. As Chairman Kline noted after debate, “The House and Senate have firmly rejected this radical scheme. I urge the president to put away his veto pen, and stand with workers and employers by supporting this important resolution.”

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House Votes to Block NLRB Ambush Election Rule

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 12:00pm

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pension Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) issued the following statements after the House passed S. J. Res. 8, a resolution that will block an ambush election rule finalized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB):

“Today, Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” said Chairman Kline. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families. The House and Senate have firmly rejected this radical scheme. I urge the president to put away his veto pen, and stand with workers and employers by supporting this important resolution.”

“For far too long,” said Rep. Roe, “we’ve seen the Obama administration’s activist NLRB — which should ensure fair and transparent union elections — put the interests of labor unions before those of job creators and American workers. This latest rule is nothing more than an attempt to speed up union elections, violating the rights of workers to make an informed decision and employers to communicate openly with their employees during a union organizing campaign. As I’ve said before, this isn’t about whether you are pro or anti-union — the purpose of this resolution is to stop the NLRB from moving forward with policies that will effectively cripple the rights of workers.”

BACKGROUND: In December 2014, the National Labor Relations Board finalized new rules that significantly alter union elections. As a result of the board’s sweeping changes to policies that have been in place for decades, the right of employers to speak to employees will be stifled, the right of workers to make informed decision in union elections will be undermined, and the privacy of workers and their families will be compromised. In response, leaders in the House and Senate introduced a resolution (H. J. Res. 29/S. J. Res. 8) under the Congressional Review Act to block the board’s ambush election rule. The resolution will:

  • Stop the NLRB from rewriting union election policies that have served workers, employers, and unions well for decades;
                          
  • Ensure employers can continue to communicate with their employees before they cast their ballots;
                 
  • Preserve the right of workers to make informed decisions about whether to join a union; and
                                            
  • Safeguard the privacy rights of workers and their families.

The House passed the resolution by a vote of 232 to 186. Following today’s action by the House and earlier action by the Senate, the resolution will now go to the president. To learn more about S. J. Res 8/H. J. Res. 29, click here.

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