Posted in elder abuse, fraud, White House
Last week the White House Conference on Aging brought together a panel to discuss the problems of elder abuse and how to protect senior citizens from financial fraud.
“Often, victims are fearful of reporting abuse from a caregiver because the caregiver is the one they depend on for the activities of daily living,” said panelist Lynne Person, the D.C. Department of Health Care’s long-term care ombudsman.
During the panel, the White House presented three initiatives that they hope to work toward, moving forward. The administration hopes these initiatives will prevent families and individuals from becoming victims to financial or personal abuse.
The first initiative was that, this fall, National Institutes of Health will begin hosting workshops aimed at helping researchers and clinicians to understand, prevent and intervene in all forms of elder abuse. The second is that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will distribute materials to help banks do the same for cases of financial abuse, which will happen by the end of 2015.
One panelist — Scott Dueser, who is the president and CEO of First Financial Bank — shared that his bank has already begun cracking down on elder abuse. Not only do First Financial branches partner with law enforcement and Adult Protective Services, its employees have all undergone training about how to detect abuse-related suspicious activity and how to stop financial fraud.
“To date, we’ve stopped over one million dollars worth of fraud in our bank,” Dueser said. “When we see problems, families expect us to call. We’ve never had a family scream ‘privacy’ when we were doing the right thing.”
Finally, the last initiative was a project funded by the Department of Justice, which will study the best ways to avoid elder mistreatment and what the best course of action is to prosecute those who attempt to take advantage of those citizens. Prosecutors will also get training to deal with situations of elder abuse.
“[We] need to be proactive, not just reactive,” said panelist Elizabeth Loewy, senior VP of Industry Relations for elder fraud prevention service Eversafe.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, Federal law
Since Oregon’s recreational marijuana legalization laws went into effect at the beginning of July, many state employers have begun releasing memos re-stating their drug policies and reminding employees that nothing is likely to change in those policies.
Employers are still allowed to conduct drug tests, and ensure their employees show up for work sober, though some acknowledge that what an employee does on his or her own time is their own business.
“If an employee wants to smoke a joint at home at night with their dinner, okay, as long as they don’t come to work impaired,” said Anna Kanwit, Portland’s human resources director.
However, some job positions do not have that flexibility. Under Oregon and federal laws, some positions are prohibited from using medicinal or recreational marijuana under any circumstances. Those who were previously prohibited from using marijuana — including law enforcement officers, firefighters and commercial drivers — must still eschew legal marijuana in order to keep their jobs.
Oregon’s largest transit agency, TriMet, issued a statement to employees that said, “[O]ur policy still prohibits the consumption of marijuana by any employee at any time for any purpose.” Employees of TriMet include railway conductors, mechanics and maintenance crews, bus drivers and other transportation positions where employee actions can affect public safety.
Even if one’s position doesn’t fall under that prohibition umbrella, that doesn’t mean that drug usage will be tolerated, even if it’s legal. Portland’s school district maintains its zero-tolerance drug policies for all on-campus or school-related events, as well as field trips. Many other schools have similar drug-free district policies.
Despite the recreational legality, if an employee shows up for work high and fails a drug test, an employer may still enact disciplinary measures.
Oregon is an at-will employment state. All marijuana usage, including medicinal, is still illegal under federal law.
Posted in Office of Personnel Management, OPM
It had been previously reported that the Office of Personnel Management’s security breach had affected up to 14 million citizens. Now, it looks like those numbers were vastly underestimated; allegedly up to a whopping 32 million former, current and prospective federal employees may have been affected, according to the latest numbers. Those numbers may also include those who enlisted — or attempted to enlist — in the military.
This latest statistic was shared at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing at the beginning of July. At that hearing, former OPM Director Katherine Archuleta did not confirm how many people had actually been affected because it was still not clear exactly how many people’s information had been stolen.
Between 2009 and 2014, the number of security-related incidents has more than doubled, according to testimony presented by Gregory Wilshusen, the Director of Information Security Issues for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Over that time period, 27,624 security incidents were reported.
“The danger posed by the wide array of cyber threats facing the nation is heightened by weaknesses in the federal government’s approach to protecting its systems and information,” Wilshusen said in his testimony.
Posted in background check, background legislation, background screening, potential babysitter, school background checks
On July 1, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed off on updates to the state’s previously approved child-protective background checking law. Despite the original law’s intention to protect children from sexual predators by requiring volunteers to undergo criminal history and state police background checks, there was much confusion regarding who the law should apply to, and which types of jobs required mandatory screening.
“We thought we’d been specific … giving kind of generalized definitions of who would need a background check,” said. Rep. Kathy Watson. “We really weren’t. It still confused people.”
Under the tweaked law, the only people that are required to be fingerprinted and undergo the two mandatory background check processes are those who directly supervise children and those who are responsible for a child’s welfare. Family caregivers will also require screening.
Gov. Wolf also clarified that volunteers will not be responsible for paying for their own background checks, and that those fees will be waived.
University employees, administrative staff, and non-supervisory school volunteers will not require mandatory fingerprinting or either of the two background checking processes mentioned. Some universities and schools are continuing to take caution and conduct those checks anyway, but the law clarified that those checks are not required by state law.
Hopefully these clarifications will make it easier for schools, employers and public service offices to determine who must be screened and who may not require screening.
For more information about background screening, and particularly criminal background checks for child welfare, contact Mind Your Business today.
Posted in Federal law, public service
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry was one hard-fought battle won for the LGBT community. However, the U.S. still has a ways to go in protecting the rights of every one of its citizens, especially when it comes to employment discrimination.
“We have a crazy quilt of laws in this country when it comes to protections for LGBT people,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects individuals from being discriminated against in hiring based on race, age, gender, national origin and religion, but it does not protect individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Griffin said that the country’s next focus will need to be on comprehensive, nationwide non-discrimination laws, in order to allow all citizens equal opportunities at jobs, housing, education and services.
Currently, only 22 states have laws specifically protecting individuals from discrimination based on those characteristics. That means that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals can — legally — be denied employment, housing and other services because of sexual orientation or gender identity in 28 states.
Of those states, some have considered legislation allowing for employment protection, but ultimately have had the bills blocked in one government branch or another. Ohio is one such state; despite several municipalities having anti-discrimination laws on the books, similar laws have not been able to pass statewide.
However, lobbyists and equality organizations are not finished fighting for state and nationwide legislation reform.
“We are committed to working with our legislators to pass statewide non-discrimination protections,” said Alana Jochum, Equality Ohio’s northeast director.
Posted in Department of Labor, DoL, employment
According to a release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has dropped 0.2 points down to 5.3 percent, the lowest the unemployment rate has been since April 2008.
Last month, 223,000 new non-farming jobs were created, dropping the number of unemployed people down to 8.3 million. The majority of the new positions were available in financial industries, health care, transportation, and professional and business services.
The number of part-time workers, discouraged workers, and those marginally attached to the labor force all saw little change in June.
Professional and business services saw 64,000 new jobs, mainly in temporary help (20,000 jobs). The health care industry also saw above-average gains (compared to the previous 12 months) with 40,000 new jobs last month. Twenty-three thousand of those jobs were in ambulatory care services, and 11,000 jobs were added for hospital workers.
Food services added 30,000 new jobs, and retail trade saw 33,000 new jobs, mostly in general retail stores. The financial sector increased by 20,000 jobs (with 9,000 of them insurance-related positions).
Despite June’s gains in some financial fields, 6,000 jobs were lost in commercial banking employment. The mining industry continued to see job losses (of 4,000 support jobs) in June. That industry has seen losses of more than 71,000 jobs since December 2014.
Construction, manufacturing, trade and government saw little change from previous months.
Posted in Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, DOI, DoL
Seven states on the west coast — including California, Oregon and Washington — are set to receive aid from various federal agencies due to extreme drought conditions. The Obama administration has already earmarked $110 million for the relief efforts, to be distributed through various federal agencies with varying goals for the funds.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture all have concerns regarding drought conditions. The latter agencies are concerned about the increased risk for fire in extremely dry weather, and the steep cost that wildfires could incur.
The DoL will be distributing $18 million in funds throughout drought-stricken states for temporary help and training for farm workers. The Department of Ecology is waiting for approval for its relief funding, and in the meantime is using its own budget to provide aid.
“Impacts are already severe in several areas of the state,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish.”
A statewide emergency was declared in Washington due to drought conditions, as the state Department of Agriculture estimates that $1.2 billion in crops will be lost to lack of water.
Funds have been earmarked for various relief efforts, including drilling new wells, installing well pumps and pipes, and improving irrigation and grazing practices in an effort to conserve water.
Washington state has already requested almost $10 million for relief, and is waiting for approval by the legislature. Nineteen of the 36 counties in Oregon have been granted emergency status, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has proposed $56 million in funding for community aid.
Posted in background checking, ban the box, criminal record
In late June, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a statewide “ban the box” law, which would prevent employers from asking job applicants if they have a criminal record prior to an interview or — sans interview — a conditional offer of employment.
Most employers in the state would be required to remove any questions about a candidate’s criminal history from its job applications, and may not ask questions about a candidate’s convictions prior to an interview. (If a candidate is not interviewed, questions may not be asked about convictions until a conditional offer has been extended.)
Only a few employers are considered exempt from Oregon’s proposed ban-the-box law, including law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, and those positions where state and/or federal law requires a clean criminal history.
The proposed law does not specify which employers must conform to ban-the-box practices. It is also not specified whether the law applies to those hiring private contractors.
If applicants feel they are being discriminated against, they may file a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which can fine employers up to $1,000 per incident for violating ban-the-box practices.
Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill into law. If passed, the new law would go into effect on January 1, 2016, and would make Oregon the 17th state to pass a statewide ban-the-box law.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, failing drug tests
In a 6-0 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that employers may lawfully terminate employees that fail drug tests due to marijuana usage, even if the drug is only used outside of working hours. The Court determined that zero-tolerance policies trump the legal usage of medical marijuana within the state.
The case was brought before the Court by Brandon Coats, who was fired from Dish Network in 2010 after failing a drug test due to medical marijuana usage. Coats had a medical marijuana card, and used the drug after he was in a car accident that left him a quadriplegic.
While the ruling is a disappointment for those who use medical marijuana legally in Colorado, the Court’s decision provides some much-needed clarity to employers. This ruling will allow employers to craft drug policies without the fear of being sued if they terminate a job due to a failed drug test. Employers are still allowed to determine whether they want or require a drug-free work zone, and can decide for themselves whether to instate zero-tolerance policies. (Some Colorado employers have eliminated THC from the list of drugs screened for during the pre-employment process.)
Coats and his attorneys have no current plans to take this case to a higher court. Medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and the U.S. Supreme Court would not be likely to side with employees who utilize marijuana when off the clock.
“You need the Colorado Supreme Court to stand up for its own laws,” said Michael Evans, Coats’ attorney. “The U.S. Supreme Court is not going to do that.”
Posted in Department of Energy, federal contractors
The U.S. Department of Energy recently conducted an audit of two nuclear weapons facilities in New Mexico — Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories — and has brought down stiff fines on government contractors at those labs for failing to secure nuclear information and materials, and putting national security at risk.
The audit found that, in 2007, Los Alamos National Laboratories was supposed to destroy nuclear materials at a disposal site in Nevada. It could not be confirmed that the materials ever left the facility, nor could it be confirmed that they ever arrived in Nevada. Five years passed before anyone noticed that the nuclear components had been misplaced.
Due to this event, the company that operates Los Alamos laboratory must pay $247,000 in fines, in addition to unrelated fines for safety violations.
Meanwhile, Sandia National Laboratory (which is run by managing contractor Lockheed Martin) was fined $577,500 for allowing classified nuclear weapons information to be accessed between 1997 and 2011 via unsecured web servers and PowerPoint demonstrations, which were handed out on CDs. Nuclear weapons design information was available to the public, due to 47 instances of a classified PowerPoint presentation online.
According to last year’s performance evaluation of the lab, “Sandia continues to experience a significant number of security incidents, topping out at 190 incidents of security concern in fiscal year 2014.”
Lockheed Martin was granted more than $26 million in government bonuses in 2014 for operating the lab.
These two missteps alone could have had severe consequences for national security. However, these are not the first incidences of trouble for labs in New Mexico. Los Alamos’ activities had previously been suspended in both 2004 and 2006 after classified information was lost or taken by lab employees.
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