DOL updates equal employment opportunity requirements

The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule Dec. 16, 2016, that updates equal employment opportunity (EEO) requirements to broaden career opportunities in registered apprenticeships for traditionally underrepresented groups.

The final rule amends existing requirements that were last updated in 1978 and extends current protections against discrimination to include disability, age (40 years and older), genetic information and sexual orientation. The rule's provisions simplify the steps employers and sponsors must take to make compliance easier, ensure equal opportunities in apprenticeships and help businesses leverage the program's benefits.

"The final rule adjusts existing regulations to streamline and clarify requirements for employers whereever possible," says Portia Wu, DOL's assistant secretary of labor for employment and training. "It extends protections against discrimination in apprentice hiring, better defines steps needed to ensure equal opportunity and provides apprenticeship programs with additional time to develop initial affirmative action programs. The department continues to look for ways to help states strengthen their workforce. This rule provides a more flexible framework for them and creates more opportunities for workers and employers to take advantage of modern apprenticeships."

Since 2014, an additional 125,000 U.S. workers have launched their careers through registered apprenticeships; there currently are more than 500,000 apprentices nationwide. The progress is a result of former President Obama's call to double and diversify the number of job-driven apprenticeships.

The final rule aligns with the $90 million funding strategy to grow and diversify apprenticeships announced in April 2016. It follows an unprecedented $175 million investment in apprenticeships announced in September 2015 by the Obama administration and includes partnership contracts that focus specifically on increasing access to apprenticeship opportunities for women, people of color and people with disabilities.

DOL says job-driven apprenticeships are among the best pathways to provide U.S. workers with the skills and knowledge they need to acquire good-paying jobs and grow the economy. Research shows 91 percent of workers who complete their apprenticeship programs find employment with average wages above $60,000. In addition, international studies find that for every dollar spent on an apprenticeship, employers get an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity and greater front-line innovation.

The regulation took effect Jan. 18—30 days following publication in the Federal Register—but the rule allocates additional time beyond the effective date for sponsors to come into compliance with the nondiscrimination and affirmative action obligations in the rule. After Jan. 18, DOL began providing a series of technical-assistance opportunities to state apprenticeship agencies and other key stakeholders.

The full text of the EEO final rule and additional information are available on the Office of Apprenticeship's EEO website, www.doleta.gov/oa/eeo/.

RCMA and NSF International create product category rule for roof coatings

The Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA) and NSF International have created the first product category rule (PCR) in North America for roof coating materials. PCRs enable products' environmental information to be more transparent and useful to the marketplace. Products addressed in the roof coatings PCR include fluid-applied and adhered coatings used for roof system maintenance or repair or as a component of a roof covering system or assembly.

A PCR is based on international environmental management guidelines and defines how to conduct a life cycle assessment for a particular product group and what to include in the resulting report. A life cycle assessment measures the inputs, outputs and environmental impacts of a product throughout its lifespan. An environmental product declaration (EPD) is a third-party-verified report that explains the data generated from a life cycle assessment. A PCR defines what to include in an EPD, and verified EPDs as defined by a PCR can help building projects qualify for points through LEED® v4 Material and Resource credits and comply with the International Green Construction Code.

The NSF International National Center for Sustainability Standards developed the PCR by using an open consultative process with participation from RCMA members, suppliers, regulatory agencies, environmental organizations and end users.

"Industries benefit from NSF International's open and transparent standards development process that was used to develop the first PCR in North America for roof coating materials," says Jessica Slomka, manager of the NSF International National Center for Sustainability Standards. "By engaging RCMA members and other stakeholders, we help ensure the most significant environmental impacts in the life cycle of a product are represented. The result is a defined set of rules that enable comparative data to be gathered and reported in a standardized fashion. This is crucial in helping builders source products that meet their environmental goals."

"This product category rule developed by RCMA and NSF International provides our industry with a much-needed guideline for calculating and reporting the environmental attributes of roof coatings," says Jim Kirby, RCMA's executive director. "The subsequent life cycle analyses developed by our members using the PCR can provide a basis for improvement to enable reductions in environmental impacts over time. We look forward to the positive impact this will have on the industry and those seeking more sustainable building products."

IRS releases 2017 standard mileage rates

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued the 2017 optional standard mileage rates for calculating deductible costs associated with operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

As of Jan. 1, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck is 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, a decrease of half a cent per mile from the 2016 rate. The standard mileage rate is 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes and 14 cents per mile driven in service of a charitable organization. The medical and moving standard mileage rate was 19 cents in 2016. The charitable standard mileage rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

IRS issues taxpayer reminders for 2017 tax filing season

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a reminder to taxpayers that claiming certain tax credits will result in a longer wait for refunds. The 2017 tax filing season began Jan. 23, and tax returns are due April 18.

A new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. Under the change required by Congress in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund, including the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. The change helps ensure taxpayers receive the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud. The IRS will begin releasing EITC and ACTC refunds Feb. 15 but cautions taxpayers the refunds likely won't arrive in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of Feb. 27 because of the additional time required by banking and financial systems to process deposits.

"For this tax season, it's more important than ever for taxpayers to plan ahead," says IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "People should make sure they have their year-end tax statements in hand, and we encourage people to file as they normally would, including those claiming the credits affected by the refund delay. Even with these significant changes, IRS employees and the entire tax community will be working hard to make this a smooth filing season for taxpayers."

In addition, the IRS would like to remind taxpayers the filing deadline to submit 2016 tax returns is Tuesday, April 18, rather than the traditional April 15 date. This year, April 15 falls on a Saturday, which usually would move the filing deadline to the following Monday. However, Emancipation Day—a legal holiday in the District of Columbia—will be observed Monday, April 17, which pushes the nationwide filing deadline to April 18.

The IRS is prepared to receive more than 153 million individual tax returns during the 2017 tax filing season and expects four out of five tax returns will be prepared electronically using tax return preparation software.

Taxpayers can find additional information about the 2017 tax filing season and resources for help preparing and filing tax returns at www.irs.gov.

Employers now required to use revised Form I-9

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. As of Jan. 22, all employers must use the new version of Form I-9 to verify the employment eligibility of potential new hires.

Form I-9 requirements were established in November 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The act prohibits employers from hiring people, including U.S. citizens, for employment in the U.S. without verifying their identities and employment authorization on Form I-9.

The revised Form I-9 includes changes designed to reduce errors and enhance electronic form completion. Among the changes are the addition of prompts to ensure information is entered correctly, the ability to enter multiple preparers and translators, a dedicated area for including additional information, and a supplemental page for the form preparer or translator. Electronic form enhancements include drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates, on-screen instructions for each field, easy access to the full instructions and an option to clear the form and start over.

The revised version of Form I-9 is available on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/i-9.

EPA conducts lead-based paint hazards survey

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is studying whether renovation, repair and painting activities in public and commercial buildings create lead-based paint hazards.

As part of this research, the EPA is conducting a national survey of renovation, repair and painting activities in public and commercial buildings and the steps being taken to control the dust created when paint is disturbed. The survey will collect information from three groups: contractors who perform renovation, repair or painting activities in public and commercial buildings; property managers and lessors of public and commercial buildings; and building occupants of public and commercial buildings (owners and tenants) who may use their own staff to perform renovation activities.

The EPA is mailing letters to randomly selected firms asking them to participate in the survey. The letter explains the survey and requests the recipient participate by contacting a survey research firm hired by the EPA. Recipients have two options to complete the survey:

  • Respond online using a web address and access code unique to each recipient provided in the letter
  • Complete the survey via phone by calling (866) 898-5283 (The first round of letters contained an incorrect phone number. The EPA sent a follow-up letter containing the corrected phone number.)

If the letter recipients do not choose either option, the survey research firm will attempt to contact them by phone. Mailing rounds began in December 2016 and will continue through the spring.


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