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This HR Alert addresses the following topics:
  1. REMINDER: H-1B Filing Season Begins April 3, 2017
  2. New Privacy Training Requirements for Certain Federal Government Contractors
  3. OSHA’s Continuous Recordkeeping Rule is Overturned
  4. OSHA Releases Preliminary Top 10 Workplace Safety Citations
  5. California: Reminder – Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care Industry Effective April 1, 2017
  6. Georgia: District Court Defines the term “Modify” Under the Restrictive Covenants Act


REMINDER: H-1B Filing Season Begins April 3, 2017

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B visas for foreign workers petitions for fiscal year 2018 on April 3, 2017. H-1B visas grant foreign workers with highly specialized knowledge (e.g., science, engineering, information technology) temporary employment eligibility.

In addition, the USCIS announced a temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions, beginning April 3, 2017, and lasting up to six months. Form I-907 will not be accepted during the suspension period, and any combined check for both Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees will result in rejection of both forms. The USCIS will announce when premium processing will be permitted again.

For more information on H-1B filing for fiscal year 2018, visit the USCIS website.


New Privacy Training Requirements for Certain Federal Government Contractors

Effective January 19, 2017, federal government contractors and subcontractors must provide annual privacy training to certain covered employees. “Covered employees” include those who:
1. Have access to a system of records
2. Handle personally identifiable information (“PII”)
3. Design, develop, maintain or operate a system of records

Employees are prohibited from accessing, retaining access, or otherwise handling PII (including collection, creation, processing, storage, maintenance, disclosure, etc.) unless they receive privacy training.

The privacy training must address “key elements” to safeguard PII or the system of records, and must be tailored to the role. It must also contain measures to test the knowledge level of users, and must cover certain prescribed topics. Covered employees are required to receive initial privacy training, then annually thereafter, and employers may either develop their own training or utilize training available from other sources, unless the contracting agency mandates its own agency-provided training. Employers will also need to keep records of providing the privacy treatment.

Employers can view the text of the rule here.


OSHA’s Continuous Recordkeeping Rule is Overturned

On March 23, 2017, Congress overturned OSHA’s requirement that employers continue to make and maintain accurate records of recordable injuries and illnesses during the 5-year document retention period. OSHA’s continuous documentation rule went into effect on January 17, 2017, in part, to allow OSHA to issue citations for failing to comply with the 5-year continuous documentation requirement. With the rule overturned, OSHA is limited by the existing 6-month statute of limitations to bring claims against employers for applicable OSHA violations. Covered employers should continue to review documentation practices and procedures for compliance.


Federal OSHA Releases Preliminary Top 10 Workplace Safety Citations

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published its preliminary list of the top 10 safety and health violations from fiscal year 2016. The list consists of:

1. Fall protection
2. Hazard communication
3. Scaffolds
4. Respiratory protection
5. Lockout/tagout
6. Powered industrial trucks
7. Ladders
8. Machine guarding
9. Electrical wiring
10. Electrical, general requirements

According to OSHA, this top 10 list rarely changes from year to year. Employers must strive to prevent safety and health violations and, in certain states such as California, may be required to develop an injury and illness prevention program that addresses workplace hazards.


California: Reminder – Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care Industry Effective April 1, 2017

The first phase of the new Cal/OSHA standards for workplace violence prevention, affecting certain California employers in the health care industry, takes effect April 1, 2017.

Initially, certain health care employers must keep a record of violent incidents. Later, such employers must create a violence prevention plan and provide workplace violence training. Certain hospitals must follow additional reporting requirements. The standard also introduces new recordkeeping requirements.

Covered employers should be prepared to begin recording violent incidents no later than April 1, 2017, and begin working on the second phase of compliance for completion by April 1, 2018.


Georgia: District Court Defines the term “Modify” Under the Restrictive Covenants Act

Recently, a District Court Judge has defined the scope of ability for Georgia courts to modify unenforceable agreements under the Georgia Restrictive Covenants Act. Currently, non-compete agreements that unreasonably limit parties are unenforceable under the Restrictive Covenants Act. However, the Act allows courts to modify agreements to make them enforceable.

In hearing LifeBrite Laboratories, LLC v. Nina J. Cooksey, Judge Thrash defined the term “modify” to refer only to striking out unreasonable restrictions or narrowing overbroad, existing terms, rather rewriting, reforming or adding new terms to agreements. Employers should have legal counsel review existing non-compete agreements in view of the recent ruling.


Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2017 ManagEase, Incorporated.

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