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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

DOL Regulations - Live Q&A Session with Secretary Solis

The live chat with Secretary Solis has concluded. Please view the archive of the chat below or join us for one of the other live chats scheduled for this week.




Archived Q&A Session with Secretary Solis

Monday December 7, 2009

2:04 Secretary Solis: Welcome! I am really looking forward to this Web chat, and I want to thank each of you for logging on today. I've always believed that people deserve to know not just what their government is doing on their behalf, but also what they can do to participate actively in the process. That includes regulations, of course. So, if you've never weighed in on a proposed regulation, I hope you'll choose to do so on one of ours (first tip: go to www.regulations.gov to comment on a regulation.) After all, true progress is not something that happens to people. It happens because of them.

Okay we're going to do a full eight hours of Questions and Answers on this regulatory agenda (see the left hand navigation bar for the full schedule), and I can see we have a lot of questions coming in already, so let's get started!

2:06 Comment From Daniel Glucksman: what's new on DOL's agenda?

2:07 Secretary Solis: Hello, Daniel. There are 22 new regulatory items on the agenda. I would like to encourage you to go to the DOL Web site, www.dol.gov, where you can view the entire regulatory agenda. Take a look at the Web site to learn about other new projects that have started like green jobs, more reinforcement, protection of workers, and helping returning veterans received employment assistance and job training. Thank you for your question.

2:08 Comment From Colin: Please provide provision fro foreign national nurses to work within medical facilities while studying RN

2:09 Secretary Solis: Colin, we appreciate your comment. The Department has submitted to OMB a draft final regulation (H-1C) governing employment of foreign nurses in certain limited hospitals. These individuals are not students studying to become nurses; they already are nurses.

2:09 Comment From Press question via email: Do you envision an airborne infectious diseases standard that would be modeled after the California standard? It took years for California to achieve a consensus among employers, labor and other stakeholders. How long and contentious do you think this would be nationally? Also, can you give us an update as to enforcement of the H1N1 infection control guidelines. Have any citations been issued related to protection of health care workers from 2009 H1N1?

2:10 Secretary Solis: The California infectious disease standard will certainly be one important piece of information that OSHA will consider in deciding whether to propose or issue a standard. We can't predict at this point how long it will take to issue a final standard. The H1N1 compliance directive was issued several weeks ago, and although we have conducted several inspections, we have not yet issued any citations since the directive was issued.

2:15 Comment From Melissa C.: Is there any way to improve the job outlook for people who are currently homeless due to lack of employment? What is being done to improve the job situation.

2:15 Secretary Solis: Melissa, we appreciate your concern. The Department of Labor has a number of programs that can help the homeless acquire skills to obtain good jobs and move towards the middle class. For example, we have a program that targets veterans, including homeless women veterans. And programs that help homeless workers who are low-skilled or have lost their jobs. Youth who are homeless or whose families are homeless can also benefit from programs that are administered by the Department. You can find more information by going to www.doleta.gov.

2:15 Comment From David Pittman: The Pension Protection Act of 2006 required the DOL to issue several new regulations within one year. Does the new Regulatory Agenda address the status of all of the PPA regulations that have not already been issued in some form? If not, which ones are not on the agenda, and when might we expect to see some action on those other topics?

2:16 Secretary Solis: David, thank you for your question. We are working hard on the PPA-related regulations. I have referred your specific question to Assistant Secretary Phyllis Borzi who will address this during the EBSA Web chat on Wednesday morning at 10:00. You can participate at http://www.dol.gov/regulations/chat-ebsa.htm.

2:17 Comment From Guest: When are the final regulations expected on GINA?

2:17 Secretary Solis: Interim final regulations were issued on October 7, 2009. Any future regulatory agenda will list the date for the final, final regulations.

2:17 Comment From Nancy Dorset: Do you expect to hire more OSHA inspectors? I heard at a recent seminar that a hospital would not be targeted for inspection unless it NFLD's was over 17.0. Compare that to the mining industry where anything over 5.0 is targeted

2:17 Secretary Solis: Nancy, yes we are planning on hiring over 100 new OSHA inspectors after our fiscal year 2010 budget is approved by Congress. For more information please contact OSHA at www.osha.gov.

2:18 Comment From Press question via email: My question for the chat is linked to the secretary's comments about ensuring that workers have a voice on the job via the labor management disclosure act section 203C. She said the department is concerned that its current policy regarding the scope of this act is too broad and excludes information that should be reported. She said that when workers or union members have more info about what arrangements have been made by their employers to persuade them whether or not to join a union, they can make a better decision. “ CAN SHE ELABORATE ON THIS AND EXPLAIN IN MORE DETAIL HOW THE DOL PLANS TO ADDRESS IT?

2:18 Secretary Solis: Under the LMRDA, an employer must report an agreement with a consultant hired to persuade employees as to their collective bargaining rights. An exemption to these reporting requirements is the advice exception. It provides that no report must be filed by reason of a consultant's giving or agreeing to give advice to the employer. The department believes that the exemption may be overly broad because indirect efforts to persuade are considered advice and not reportable under the current interpretation of the exemption.

2:20 Comment From Allen: How many proposed rules is the OFCCP expected to have in the coming fiscal year?

2:21 Secretary Solis: Allen, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will be publishing a proposed rule to amend the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act regulations in December 2010. OFCCP will also be publishing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the Section 503 regulations in December 2010, and we will be publishing a proposed rule to amend the regulations related to affirmative action requirements of construction contractors at 41 CFR Part 60-4 in January 2011. There is also a specific web chat with OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu tomorrow at 3:00.

2:21 Comment From Dan T: What are your thoughts on Target Date Funds? Are participants using them correctly? What is the future of lifecycle funds?

2:21 Secretary Solis: Dan, the Department is currently reviewing a number of issues concerning target date funds. It is clear from our public hearing on TDF that there is a lot of confusion on the part of participants concerning the use of these funds. We are working on guidance to assist both plan sponsors and participants to better understand these funds and how they work. You may participate in the Wednesday, EBSA Web chat. Find this Web chat at http://www.dol.gov/regulations/chat-ebsa.htm.

2:22 Comment From Jim: Now that he is confirmed, when will David Michaels be sworn in and assume his duties?

2:22 Secretary Solis: Dr. Michaels will be sworn in later this week.

2:22 Comment From Ryan Hess, ETR: Will there be substantial changes to the TAA Merit Staffing regulations, given the feedback submitted about the proposed rule?

2:22 Secretary Solis: Ryan, we appreciate the question. As you know, the formal comment period has closed. We will consider all comments submitted during the formal comment period. To view comments, visit www.regulations.gov.

2:22 Comment From William Hoffman: Will the department be proposing regulations to implement the qualifying exigency and military caregiver leave provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010? If not, why not?

2:22 Secretary Solis: William, thank you for your question. Yes, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 includes amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act that will require the Department to define additional terms for qualifying leave available to family members of military service members.

2:28 Comment From Greg Hellman, BNA: Hello Secretary Solis, OSHA announced it plans to publish a proposed rule on adding column on its 300 log for recording musculoskeletal disorders. Is this a prelude to a broader ergonomics regulation?

2:28 Secretary Solis:

Greg, thank you for the question. No. This is not a prelude to a broader ergonomic standard. We are simply putting the MSD column back on the OSHA log as was originally intended in the 2001 issuance of OSHA's record keeping standard. MSDs continue to be a major problem for American workers, but at this time, OSHA has no plans for regulatory activity.

2:30 Comment From Brian Dreisbach: Secretary - I was curious as to the reasons for such great delays in the determinations for Trade Adjustment Assistance. Some of these petitions were filed over 6 months ago, and still waiting determinations

2:31 Secretary Solis: Brian, we appreciate your concern. The new Trade Adjustment Assistance Act went into effect this Spring and as a result we have received around 2,000 petitions since May 18. Because of more generous benefits and services the Department experienced a surge in applications. We are working hard to reduce the backlog and have hired and trained new staff to help us do this.

2:34 Comment From Robyn: When do you expect the final regs to be issued on GINA?

2:34 Secretary Solis: Robyn, interim final regulations were issued on Oct. 7, 2009. A future regulatory agenda will list the date for a final final regulation.

2:34 Comment From Michael Wyand: Do you support and stand ready to implement if passed S. 2832, Lifetime Income Disclosure Act, introduced on Dec. 3 by Sens. Bingaman, Isakson, and Kohl, that would require 401(k) plan sponsors to inform plan participants on an annual basis of the projected monthly income they could anticipate receiving if the took distributions as annuities? A plan sponsor annual statement similar to that which the Social Security Administration now provides was given as an example.

2:34 Secretary Solis: Michael, thanks for the question. We believe that participants need to better understand the importance of how to ensure that their 401(k) savings last throughout their retirement. We are currently reviewing the legislation introduced by Senators Bingaman, Isakson and Kohl. You can hear more about the this topic in our EBSA Web cast on Wednesday, http://www.dol.gov/regulations/chat-ebsa.htm.

2:35 policylink via twitter:

@HildaSolisDOL How can we make sure low-income and comms of color get job help they need? #dolregs (live chat question)

2:35 Secretary Solis: This is one of my top priorities, My goal is to ensure good jobs for everyone, and to do that we are focusing the resources of our youth and adult programs to help workers acquire the skills they need for 21st century jobs. This includes a number of programs like YouthBuild, which targets low-income youth and young adults ages 16-24. Many of our new Green Jobs programs are also aimed at helping low-income and disadvantaged individuals increase their skill sets and job security.

2:37 Comment From Allen: What is the most substantive proposed change to Affirmative Action regulations for Federal contractors?

2:37 Secretary Solis:

Allen, that is a good question. With respect to the construction regulation, which was last updated 30 years ago, the OFCCP is reviewing the affirmative action regulations and expects to update these affirmative action requirements. With respect to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, the OFCCP is actually doing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to allow the agency more time to gather information and be fully informed about employment barriers that job applicants and employees with disabilities face. OFCCP is also examining more effective methods that might be used by contractors to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Finally, OFCCP's VEVRAA regulation will be proposing methods for increasing employment opportunities for protected veterans.

2:38 Comment From Daniel Glucksman: Thank you for mentioning Green Jobs. Will the Labor Dept. include OSHA in that effort -- to make sure Green jobs are safe?

2:38 Secretary Solis: Yes, Daniel. The Labor Department will include OSHA in the effort to make green jobs safe jobs. As far as OSHA is concerned, green jobs are only good jobs if they are safe jobs.

2:39 Comment From Fred Schneyer: Can you discuss why the department (through EBSA) pulled back the investment advice rule to recast it and when you expect the work on it to be finished?

2:39 Secretary Solis:

Thank you for your question, Fred. As you may know, a number of concerns were raised regarding the investment advice regulation published by the prior administration. In an effort to address these concerns, we decided the best course of action is to take a fresh look and publish a new proposal more closely following the statutory provision enacted by the Congress. We hope to have this proposal published in the very near future.

2:40 Comment From K. Hicks: How will the FLSA record keeping revision work - will employers be required to send detailed records out with each paycheck or make it available if requested? FLSA covers small businesses - is DOL considering how they will be impacted by this change?

2:40 Secretary Solis:

K.Hicks, thanks for your question. We are re-examining the existing record keeping requirements and will propose changes for public comment. Once decisions are made, the regulations will be available on regulations.gov. Watch for their expected release in August of 2010 to submit public comments. We encourage your participation at that time.

2:41 Comment From Brent: Hello. I am Deaf American. I born and grew up in Wichita, Kansas. I am living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Where can I find a Federal Building in San Juan? I am looking for Federal Disabilities and Employment Program.

2:41 Secretary Solis: Brent, I suggest that you visit the OneStop center located in San Juan. The address is Avenida Ponce de Leon #1205, Santurce, PR, 00907. You may want to have someone contact them to schedule an appointment at 787-289-0470. If you need any more help please visit www.doleta.gov or call 202-693-2700.

2:44 Comment From Sabrina Eaton: What is the status of efforts to regulate diacetyl in the workplace?

2:44 Secretary Solis: I appreciate your question, Sabrina. OSHA held a stakeholder meeting on diacetyl in 2007 and completed the small business review panel report in July 2009. OSHA is currently working on the proposed regulatory text and developing the health, risk and feasibility analysis. The agency plans to initiate a peer review of the health effects and risk assessments in October 2010.

2:46 Comment From Jerry Laws: The next step in the diacetyle rulemaking, initiate peer review of health effects and risk assessment, is later (October 2010) than I would have expected. Why will it take that long?

2:46 Secretary Solis: Jerry asks another good question about diacetyl, which is a priority for OSHA and DOL. Developing a sound assessment of health risks is critical for the success of the rulemaking. The agency's analysis for diacetyl is particularly challenging given the nature of available health studies and ongoing research in this area. We believe the projected October 2010 date for the peer review reflects a reasonable timeframe in which to meet this challenge and develop a scientifically sound assessment.

2:47 Comment From Press question via email: What is your estimate of the cost to employers of the new transparency and record-keeping requirements? Did you get any feedback from business in advance of this proposal?

2:47 Secretary Solis: As to the question from the Press, we have not yet invited feedback on a proposed rule. It will be published later this next year (August 2010). We will estimate the projected impact of the proposed rule when it is published for public comments, when input will be solicited from all parties and perspectives. If interested, you may want to follow the WHD Web chat on Tuesday at 10:30 AM, http://www.dol.gov/regulations/chat-whd.htm.

2:50 Comment From Doug Toyryla: Good Afternoon, Madam Secretary. What, if any, new initiatives does the Office of Disability Employment Policy plan to enact in the upcoming year?

2:50 Secretary Solis: Thank you, Doug, for your concerns. ODEP is not an enforcement or regulatory agency, and so does not issue regulations. It does promote policies to encourage the hiring of workers with disabilities. You can see the work that we are doing by visiting our Web site, http://www.dol.gov/odep/.

2:52 Comment From Susanne: 2) You have and are still planning to hire more investigators. However, do you think a rise in investigators will be able to prevent future findings like the GAO's (nine month report) or the report on "violations of employment and labor laws in U.S. cities"? I believe numbers alone will not help. Is there any improved training they will go through, e.g.?

2:52 Secretary Solis: Susanne, yes the Wage and Hour Division now has a Director of Training and a staff that has done a comprehensive review of the Wage and Hour training programs and materials. Specifically for new 250 investigators Wage and Hour has developed a 12- weeks of written course work materials that the new investigators complete under the guidance of their district director, which is followed by three-weeks of intensive classroom instruction.

2:57 Comment From robin: When is the department going to do something about keeping young farm workers out of the fields?

2:57 Secretary Solis: Robin, this is a major concern of mine. While not in the current Department of Labor regulatory agenda, we are reviewing ways to address child labor in agricultural employment.

2:58 Comment From Bob Bennett: Secretary Solis, could you explain what technology will be utilized for assessing risk and exposure for coal hazards?

2:58 Secretary Solis: Bob, MSHA is exploring the use of new technology in the regulatory process. For example, proximity detection devices in underground mines, dust sampling devices, revising electrical product approval, and upgrading intrinsic safety requirements to recognize new technology such as wireless communication and electronic tracking systems.

2:58 Comment From Celeste Monforton, DrPH: I am impressed with some of the DOL items listed in the new regulatory agenda, but others are troubling. For example, OSHA's agenda does not yet offer a timeline for proposing a standard to protect workers from exposure to the food-flavoring agent diacetyl, even though we've known for 10 years of the devastating lung damage caused by inhaling this chemical. In addition, OSHA is not expecting to publish a final rule on crane safety until mid-2010, even though that will be more than a whole year since the rulemaking record closed. What are you doing to streamline the rulemaking process, because workers' lives remain at risk when these proposals remain in the pipeline.

2:58 Secretary Solis: Celeste, there are a number of time-consuming hurdles that the OSHA Act, Congress and the courts have said OSHA must overcome in order to issue a standard: determining whether the risk of a hazard is "significant" and whether the standard adequately addresses that risk; whether or not the new standard is technologically and economically feasible, what the benefits are expected to be, etc. There also must be peer reviews of risk assessment, small business review, public review and comments, public hearings, and then review of the information collected in the review, comment and hearing processes. Unfortunately, all of this takes a lot of time. While OSHA has no discretion in fulfilling these obligations, the agency is working very hard to ensure that the internal deliberation moves as quickly as possible, we limit our steps to those absolutely necessary to fulfill our obligations and we move in the most aggressive way possible.

2:59 Comment From Christina: What specific actions in 2010 are designed to help achieve the first strategic outcome you've set of "increasing workers' incomes and narrowing wage and income inequality" particularly for women and for low-wage workers?

2:59 Secretary Solis: Thank you for your question, Christina. The entire Department of Labor is committed to this goal, and we are working together collaboratively within our respective agencies. For example, the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) is working on three new regulatory efforts designed to increase the income of low wage workers and narrow income inequality. The OFCCP is committed to enforcing Executive Order 11246 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, color and national origin, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA).

2:59 Comment From Sarah Payntaxes: Secretary Solis: Will EFCA pass next year!

2:59 Secretary Solis: The president and I are both on the record that we support the Employee Free Choice Act. It's now up to the Congress.

3:00 Comment From Anonymous: Is it too late to submit valid ("official") comments for Diacetyl?

3:00 Secretary Solis: No. It's early in the process. There will be many opportunities for people to comment as we move forward.

3:01 Comment From Pam: Will transcripts of all scheduled web chats be posted online?

3:01 Secretary Solis: Yes, Pam. At the end of this and all of our Web chats, you will be able to view the transcript at the end of the session.

3:02 Comment From Sarah Payntaxes: How about Solis 2012 for Pres?

3:02 Secretary Solis: Sarah, thanks for the vote of confidence but i like my current job and support our President Barack Obama 100%.

3:03 Comment From John Rickert: Why not install explicit language into the new crane standard that allows for local governmental entities to have more strict requirements than federal OSHA? Would that action keep court-ordered preemption from affecting those areas where the local citizenry deem it fit to incorporate stricter standards (such as the hurricane-inspired concerns of Miami-Dade county for its structurally wind-vulnerable tower cranes, that were preempted by a Federal District Court)?

3:03 Secretary Solis: John, thank you for your question concerning the Cranes and Derricks standard. Although the comment period has closed in this rulemaking, it is possible that similar questions were entered into the record -- and are currently being considered by OSHA staff. You can look for these comments on regulations.gov.

3:08 Comment From Doug Toyryla: What measures do you and your Assistant Secretaries plan to take to ensure that persons with disabilities have better access to jobs and training programs?

3:08 Secretary Solis: Doug, this is a very important issue and question. We will be publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in December of this year seeking information about the barriers that people with disabilities face in the workplace and how to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The OFCCP is working with ODEP (Office of Disability Employment Policy) on this effort and to explore new and more effective mechanisms for helping people with disabilities get good jobs with federal contractors. Thank you for asking about this.

3:09 Comment From Chuck from Detroit: Does anybody care about small businesses? Where is the bailout for us??? http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/26/smallbusiness/small_business_credit_cards_loans/index.htm?postversion=2009102705

3:09 Secretary Solis: Chuck, the Labor Department offers technical assistance through our e-laws, which help level the playing field. We also do careful small business impact analysis before issuing regulations, as well as trying to level the playing field for small firms that are playing by the rules. We've reached out to the Small Business Administration to explore ideas on how we can get unemployed workers to be entrepreneurs.

3:09 banditelli via twitter:

Secretary Hilda L. Solis answering questions live

I kinda wanna see the pictures 'behind the scenes' of #dolregs.. bet its like 20 people behind a 50" LCD running around...

3:10:

3:10 Secretary Solis: Here you go!

3:11 Comment From John Morrison: Secretary Solis, what are you doing to insure labor has a voice in our employment. Management has taken over our labor unions. Where can labor turn to be heard?

3:11 Secretary Solis: John, these are good questions. The Office of Labor-Management Standards enforces the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). You can learn more about your LMRDA rights at our Web site, www.dol.gov/olms/. We also invite you to participate in our Web chat on Tuesday morning at 9:00AM, http://www.dol.gov/regulations/chat-olms.htm.

3:12 Comment From Brett Banditelli: Is there a plan to increase DOL community outreach into schools and town hall meetings so people understand their rights and how to make sure when being treated poorly they get justice? How will you accomplish this?

3:13 Secretary Solis: Bret, one of my priorities is to better connect the Department of Labor to individuals who could benefit from our services and the communities in which they reside. One-Stop Career Centers provide information about both benefits and rights and individuals can access information on the Department of Labor's Web site at www.dol.gov. However, we need to do more to connect people with the information they need and your idea of reaching into schools and being active participants in community meetings is a good one.

3:14 Secretary Solis: I'm sorry to say it, but that's all the time we have today. I realize we were not able to get to all of your questions, but as I noted at the beginning of our chat, the Department will have a total of eight hours of Q&A Web chats on this agenda and its various components. So don't worry, if I couldn't get to your question during the last hour, I will give it to the appropriate DOL agency head to address during his/her upcoming Web chat (OSHA's is coming up at 4:00 pm EST). In fact, I encourage you to join us again during each of those forums (see the left hand navigation bar of this page for the full schedule.)

Thank you again for spending the last hour with me. I hope you've found it productive "I know I certainly have. Until next time!"

Please note that input received during the course of this web chat is not part of the formal rulemaking process. You can find DOLís proposed regulations, and submit comments, by visiting www.regulations.gov.

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