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Labor Report

We Remember 9/11

Nineteen years have passed since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and yet, despite the time, most of us remember these horrible events vividly. Much like other poignant historical events and traumas we experience, we recall every detail of what we were doing and what was happening around us.

This is something most of us may carry for the rest of our lives, and that can be a healthy thing. It should remind us and encourage us to treat others with respect and dignity always because life can be so fragile and fleeting.

This annual remembrance is also a tremendous opportunity to teach these lessons to our young people. After all, today’s high school students weren’t even born when 9/11 occurred.
And please take a moment to give special thanks to the heroic first responders in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, many of whom lost their lives helping victims, as well as those who continue this noble work throughout the United States.

-- Senator Tartaglione

Six Weeks In, Feds End Supplementary Benefits Program for Unemployed; First Payments to Arrive Next Week

On September 10, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notified the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) that the federal agency had ended the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program that was to provide $300 per week in benefits to workers who have become unemployed or have suffered reduced income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was officially ended as of Saturday, September 5.

“Although the LWA program has ended, L&I will continue paying eligible claimants retroactively for claim weeks between August 1 and September 5,” L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said. “We will continue making these payments until the funding we’ve already received from FEMA for this program is depleted. I urge anyone who is partially or fully unemployed because of COVID-19 and hasn’t yet applied for LWA benefits to do so right away.”

To receive these retroactive benefits, all eligible claimants must first certify one time only that their unemployment or under-employment is due to COVID-19. Claimants can certify themselves by completing the LWA application. Individuals who are collecting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Shared Work benefits are already certified and don’t need to apply. Their LWA benefits will be distributed automatically.

Eligible claimants who are certified may begin to receive LWA payments in one lump sum as early as September 14. Receipt dates may vary depending on bank processing times and other factors outside L&I’s control. Payments will be made for six claim weeks: the week concluding August 1 through the week concluding September 5.

To be eligible, claimants must have a benefit rate and dependence allowance totaling $100 or more per week in other qualifying benefits. They must receive a benefit for each qualifying week from one of the following programs:
● Regular Unemployment Compensation (UC)
● Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
● Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
● Pennsylvania Extended Benefits (EB)
● Shared Work or Short-Time Compensation (STC)
● Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA)

Applicants with computer and internet access should apply for LWA benefits online (excluding those who have automatically certified through PUA or Shared Work benefits). The application will become available when claimants log on as they normally would to file their biweekly claims. Claimants who did have not provided their email address to L&I will be sent applications through U.S. Mail.

U.S. Bank Adjusts Daily ReliaCard Limits to Reduce Pandemic Unemployment Fraud

In an effort to further reduce fraud targeting unemployment benefits programs, U.S. Bank recently modified certain card limits for ReliaCard users in Pennsylvania.

The aggregate total amount that cardholders can transfer or access, in any fashion, from their ReliaCard has been reduced to a maximum of $2,500 per day. This daily total applies to all cash withdrawals, external transfers to private bank accounts, bill payments made to third parties from the card, and point-of-sale purchases.

In addition, the $2,500 per day limit includes within it a maximum withdrawal from ATMs of $500. For example, if a cardholder withdraws the maximum $500 in cash from an ATM, they would be able to access a total of no more than an additional $2,000 that same day through any combination of transfers to bank accounts, bill payments to third parties, and/or point-of-sale purchases.

Pennsylvania is one of several states that has been targeted by an international fraud scheme focused on exploiting the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Pennsylvania Treasury, the Department of Labor & Industry, and U.S. Bank have all enacted measures to reduce unacceptably high levels of fraudulent activity.

The current widespread use of the ReliaCard is a result of the Department’s request to Treasury to stop making PUA payments to beneficiaries via direct deposit and to make all payments via ReliaCard. While the removal of the direct deposit option has cause some frustration for beneficiaries, the use of debit cards exclusively has thwarted many of the most damaging fraud schemes.

As a result of the changes related to the daily limits, ReliaCard users may experience some disruptions. They may contact U.S. Bank directly at 888-233-5916 is they experience any service issues with a ReliaCard. The call center is staffed 24/7. Upon initiating a call, the user may be asked to provide information to verify their identity. This request for information is legitimate, secure, and in keeping with best practices for preventing identity theft. The ReliaCard user should not provide information to anyone who initiates a telephone call to the user claiming to represent U.S. Bank. (or any other financial institution or agency).

Grant Funding Available for Direct Care Training, Career Development Programs

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) has made $4 million in Direct Care Worker Training Grants (DCWTGs) available statewide to improve the quality of care provided by direct care workers while creating opportunities for them to build new careers and earn family-sustaining wages. The application deadline is October 2, 2020.

“Direct Care Workers assist and support patients who are not able to look after themselves in long-term care facilities like nursing homes,” L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said. “The majority of these jobs – nearly 90 percent – are filled by women who earn relatively low wages and receive limited health benefits. The Direct Care Worker Training Grants benefit our loved ones who need this type of assistance and the workers who care for them.”

Grants may be used to create and develop training programs that increase the quality of services, offer specialty certifications, and create viable career opportunities for personal care assistants, home health aides, and certified nursing assistants. As demand increases in Pennsylvania for long-term care services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the quality of care and safety of workers must be maintained.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council recommended the creation of standardized core training for direct care workers to provide career pathways throughout the continuum of long-term services and supports.

Eligible applicants for DCWTGs include workforce development boards, non-profit and non-governmental entities, community-based organizations, education and post-secondary organizations, healthcare organizations, labor organizations, business associations, trade associations of long-term services and supports providers, and economic development entities.

Additional details on the grant program and the application can be accessed through the Grants page on the L&I website.

Federal Judge Strikes Down U.S. Labor Department Rule Hindering Joint Employer Liability Claims

A New York federal court has struck down a significant portion of a historic business-friendly rule that the U.S. Department of Labor issued earlier this year to changed how joint-employer status is determined.

According to, U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods rejected the portion of the rule applying to “vertical” joint employment relationships, that is, those situations where “an employee has an employment relationship with one employer (typically a staffing agency, subcontractor, labor provider, or other intermediary employer) and the economic realities show that he or she is economically dependent on, and thus employed by, another entity involved in the work. This other employer, who typically contracts with the intermediary employer to receive the benefit of the employee’s labor, would be the potential joint employer.”

The same website noted: “The Judge concluded that, as it related to vertical relationships, the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act, improperly revised the (Fair Labor Standards Act’s) long-recognized definition of ‘employer,’ applied the test differently to ‘primary’ and ‘joint’ employers, and failed to justify why (the rule’s) benefits outweigh the costs to workers, including the inability to collect back wages.”

The distinction of what entities qualify as a worker’s employer or joint employers is vital in determining liability for workplace violations such as unpaid wages and overtime, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The Department’s guidance has changed several times in recent years. The latest interpretation took effect on March 16 and was widely viewed as a move toward a pro-business agenda.

The new rule simplified the FLSA’s joint employer evaluation into a four-factor test and that an employer must actually exercise one or more of the factors to be considered a joint employer. The criteria were:
● Whether the employer hires or fires the employee.
● Whether the employer supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment to a substantial degree.
● Whether the employer determines the employee’s rate and method of payment.
● Whether the employer maintains the employee’s employment records.

BloombergLaw reported that the rule was issued “against the backdrop of conflicting judicial interpretations of the matter – a significant business concern for restaurant franchise owners and large companies that enter into contracts with third parties for janitorial services and temporary staffing, among other arrangements. Corporations such as McDonald’s, Amazon, and Comcast have faced private lawsuits arguing the companies are jointly responsible, along with third-party contractors, for workers’ unpaid minimum wages and overtime.”

Soon after the rule’s introduction, 17 states and the District of Columbia sued the Department.

Judge Woods’ ruling does not apply to so-called “horizontal” joint employer relationships where the employee is employed by two or more employers that are “sufficiently associated” and exercise control over any of the four factors.

Amazon, UPS Announces Plans to Fill Tens of Thousands of Temporary and Permanent Jobs Inc. has announced it will hold its 2020 Career Day on Wednesday, September 16, as a nationwide virtual event, where it will share information about the 33,000 corporate and tech jobs that it is seeking to fill across the country, as well as thousands of additional hourly positions in the company’s operations network that it will announce soon.

Web users can participate in Career Day by visiting to register and book an appointment with a recruiter.

The company announced that all new employees will be paid at least $15 per hour with healthcare from Day One, retirement plan availability, up to 20 weeks of parental leave, and career development opportunities. CNN reported that a company spokesperson said the average compensation for corporate and tech positions will be $150,000 a year including salary, stock-based compensation, and benefits.

CNN further reported that Amazon has hired more than 175,000 people this year to help meet its surging demand for delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has not announced its plans for temporary hiring for the holiday season.

Separately, UPS announced it will hire over 100,000 seasonal workers for the holidays. It expects a “record peak” package volume starting in October and continuing through January. The company expects to retain many new hires as permanent employees after the season.

As Tesla CEO’s Personal Wealth Soared with Stock Prices, Employees Absorbed Pay Cuts, Layoffs

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich engaged in a war of words on social media after Musk’s company imposed a 10% across-the-board pay cut while the boss’ stock value soared, Bloomberg reported.

On September 8, Reich – who served under President Bill Clinton and now researches public policy at the University of California, Berkeley – tweeted, “Tesla forces all workers to take a 10 percent pay cut from mid-April until July. In the same period, Tesla stock skyrocketed and CEO Elon Musk’s net worth quadrupled from $25 billion to over $100 billion. Musk is a modern-day robber baron.”

A day later, Musk replied, “All Tesla workers also get stock, so their compensation increased proportionately. You are a modern day moron.”

Musk’s net worth plunged an estimated $16.3 billion in a single day September 8 when Tesla shares plummeted more than 20%, but they gained 6% the following day. Since the mid-April pay cuts, the company’s shares have more than tripled.

Tesla also furloughed non “essential” workers in April, while some salaries were cut by as much as 30%, according to a leaked email sent by the company’s HR boss to employees. The email made no mention of enhanced stock awards to employees.

Tesla ended the reduced-pay period on June 29 and announced a forthcoming performance review process, according to CNBC.

“Throughout the past decade, Tesla has switched schedules for its performance reviews, causing some employees to miss out on months of higher pay, or chances to receive bonuses or more-senior titles before layoffs eliminated their roles entirely,” the network reported.

Tesla has been publicly traded on the Nasdaq exchange for a decade but has yet to achieve a full year of profitability.

“Earnings reports from Tesla usually follow their vehicle delivery reports by about a month. Steep cuts to headcount have followed performance reviews at Tesla in the past,” CNBC reported.