Jul 29, 2019

New Requirements: Foreign Trademark Applicants and Registrants Must Use U.S. Licensed Attorneys

Photo of USA Flag and Lady Justice

Effective August 3, 2019, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) will require trademark applicants, registrants, or parties to a proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that are domiciled outside of the United States or its territories to be represented by an attorney who is an active member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of a U.S. state (including the District of Columbia or any Commonwealth or territory of the U.S.).  See https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-07-02/pdf/2019-14087.pdf. The PTO’s new rule is intended to combat the recent, significant increase in fraudulent filings by foreign claimants, who fail to… Read more

Jul 29, 2019

The DOL’s Opinions Letters Regarding FLSA – Calculating Employee’s Regular Rate of Pay and Rounding Hours Worked

Employee Hours of Regular Pay

On July 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), issued several opinion letters regarding compliance issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including (a) the calculation of overtime pay for non-discretionary bonuses, and (b) permissible rounding practices in recording employees’ hours worked. Calculating an employee’s regular rate of pay When paying a nondiscretionary bonus that is a fixed percentage of straight-time wages received, an employer may retrospectively recalculate the regular rate for each workweek of the bonus period by averaging the bonus earnings across the workweeks. This means the FLSA does not require the employer to include the… Read more

Jul 18, 2019

IRS Allows High Deductible Health Plans to Provide Pre-Deductible Benefits for Chronic Care Management

Glucose Monitoring Image

Earlier this week, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued guidance expanding the list of “preventive care benefits” that a high deductible health plan (“HDHP”) may cover before a participant has met the plan’s deductible.  Preventive care benefits now include the following services and items when prescribed to treat the specified chronic conditions: Preventive Care for Specified Conditions For Individuals Diagnosed with Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors Congestive heart failure, diabetes, and/or coronary artery disease Anti-resorptive therapy Osteoporosis and/or osteopenia Beta-blockers Congestive heart failure and/or coronary artery disease Blood pressure monitor Hypertension Inhaled corticosteroids Asthma Insulin and other glucose lowering agents… Read more

Jul 12, 2019

Georgia Department of Agriculture Accepting Comments on Proposed Hemp Rules

On July 10, 2019, the Georgia Department of Agriculture issued a Notice of Intent to Consider the Adoption of Hemp Growers and Processor Rules. The proposed rules are being promulgated pursuant to the Georgia Hemp Farming Act (HB 213), which was signed into law by Governor Kemp on May 10, 2019. The proposed rules outline the application requirements for hemp grower licenses and the duties and restrictions on licensees. They provide that applications will be accepted for the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons immediately upon the USDA’s formal approval of the Georgia Hemp Plan and for ninety (90) calendar days… Read more

Jun 27, 2019

Executive Order on Health Care Transparency May Impact Employer Sponsored Group Health Plans

executive order photo

Earlier this week, President Trump signed an executive order that directs the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services (“Departments”) to seek to improve price and quality transparency in health care. The most contentious part of the order requires the Department of Health and Human Services to propose a regulation within 60 days that would require hospitals to publically post standard charge information, including discounted rates negotiated with insurers or network providers, in an easy-to-understand format that will allow patients to compare prices across hospitals. The order also directs the Departments to take the following action directly related… Read more

Jun 24, 2019

Supreme Court Rejects Registration Restrictions for Offensive Marks

Supreme Court Photo

On June 24, 2019, the United States Supreme Court held that prohibiting registration of scandalous or immoral trademarks violates the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. Iancu v. Brunetti, 588 U.S. ___ (2019). This ruling joins the Court’s 2017 companion decision in Matal v. Tam, which invalidated the Lanham Act’s restriction on disparaging trademarks. We previously wrote about the Matal v. Tam decision here. These decisions mean that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) can no longer deny registration on the basis that others may find the mark offensive. In this morning’s decision in Iancu v. Brunetti, the Supreme… Read more

Jun 14, 2019

Final Regulations Allow Employers to Reimburse Premiums for Individual Medical Insurance

Health Reimbursement Arrangements

Yesterday, the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services issued final regulations allowing health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”) to reimburse premiums for individual medical insurance purchased by employees, provided certain conditions are met. The regulations are effective January 1, 2020, and are an about-face to the rules adopted by the Obama administration strictly prohibiting such arrangements. The final rules also outline new standards for when an HRA will be considered an “excepted benefit” that is exempt from many federal group health plan requirements that are generally inconsistent with account-based plans such as HRAs (for example, the prohibition on annual… Read more

Jun 5, 2019

U.S. Supreme Court Holds Title VII’s Charge-Filing Requirement With the EEOC is Not Jurisdictional

In a unanimous ruling this week, Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis, No. 18-525, the U.S. Supreme Court resolved a conflict among the Courts of Appeals over whether Title VII’s charge-filing requirement is jurisdictional.  The Court held that the requirement that plaintiffs file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) before commencing suit is not jurisdictional; rather, the requirement, while mandatory, is merely a claim-processing rule. The decision means that employers must timely raise any defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies or risk forfeiting their right to assert it later.  This is distinguishable from jurisdictional requirements, which can… Read more

May 31, 2019

SECURE Act – House Overwhelmingly Passes Retirement Reform Bill

Photo of Retirement Plan

The House of Representatives recently passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act by a vote of 417-3. The current version of the SECURE Act would, among its numerous provisions: Change the required minimum distribution rules so that required minimum distributions begin following age 72 instead of age 701/2. Change the maximum automatic contribution rate for safe harbor qualified automatic contribution plans from 10% to 15%. Eliminate the safe harbor notice requirement for nonelective safe harbor 401(k) plans and extend the deadline for sponsors to amend their plans to take advantage of the nonelective safe harbor.  Safe… Read more

May 28, 2019

HHS Proposes to Revise ACA Section 1557 Rule: Impacts Transgender Benefits and Group Health Plan Notices

Affordable Care Act Photograph

On May 24, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule to revise regulations implementing and enforcing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 is a civil rights provision in the ACA that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in any health program or activity that receives federal funding. According to Office of Civil Rights Director, Robert Severino, the proposed rule would remove $3.6 billion in regulatory burdens that are ultimately being passed down to patients. Employer-Sponsored Plans Subject to Section 1557.  The HHS… Read more