The regulatory world is changing fast – don’t be caught flat footed. Get in the know and prepare for how the new regulations might affect your business.

Welcome to edition 2 of the new 2010 regulations. Last week we discussed the FMLA expansion and new cell phone and texting restrictions. In this week’s edition, we’ll be taking a look at:

  •  Jury Awards skyrocket in 2008
  • Department of Labor Announces Goals for 2010
  • New IRS Mileage Rates for 2010
  • COBRA Subsidy Extended

Jury Awards Skyrocket by as Much as 60%

The median employment-related award rose 60% in 2008, from $204,000 to $326,640, while discrimination awards rose 16% from $208,000 to $241,119 according to Employment Practices Liability:

Jury Award Trends and Statistics 2009 Edition. As noted in a recent blog, Limit Your Legal Exposure During Layoffs, this trend may be directly related to the economic downturn and recession. With unemployment above 10%, and prospects for new positions slim, juries may be more inclined to award larger settlements to plaintiffs struggling to find work elsewhere. According to Jonathan A. Segal, a partner with Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia, “…until the economy improves, you’re going to see more claims and higher verdicts”.

Department of Labor (DOL) announces 2010 goals to support Solis’ vision of “good jobs for everyone”.

The DOL is seeking to enact 90 new rules and regulations in 2010 to “ensure workers are paid a fair wage, have a voice in the workplace, are provided a safe workplace and have a secure retirement” according to a statement by Solis. Although it’s been quiet since President Obama’s election mainly due to the healthcare debate, the union fight is likely getting ready to heat back up. As noted in a previous blog, Are you Ready for the Next Wave of Union Activity?, the Employee Free Choice Act is looming on the horizon and could be used to meet Solis’ stated goals for 2010.  Don’t forget, big labor invested over $400 million getting democrats elected to office and they expect to be repaid.

IRS Announces New Mileage Rates for 2010

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The new rates for business, medical and moving purposes are slightly lower than last year’s. The mileage rates for 2010 reflect generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.

Obama Extends the COBRA Subsidy

Just before the holidays Obama signed legislation to extend the government’s popular 65% subsidy of COBRA benefits. Laid-off workers are breathing a little easier—and so are HR pros, who would have had to untangle a logistical knot if the extension hadn’t been enacted.

The subsidies, which helped make continuation health care coverage more affordable for involuntarily terminated workers, were set to expire on Dec. 31. Under the extension—bundled into the annual Department of Defense appropriation—most eligible workers will be able to benefit from the subsidies through Feb. 28, 2010. The legislation Obama signed on Monday:

  • Expands the maximum subsidy period from nine months to 15 months. It includes people currently receiving the subsidy.
  • Extends the qualifying time during which workers must have been laid off. The previous cut-off was Dec. 31; now it’s extended through Feb. 28, 2010.
  • Closes a COBRA coverage hole that would have opened if the legislation hadn’t been enacted. Previously, if workers had been laid off in December 2009 but weren’t eligible for COBRA coverage until January 2010, they wouldn’t have been eligible for the subsidies at all. Now they are.
  • Extends coverage for people who had already used up nine months of subsidy eligibility under the original legislation. Now they qualify for the subsidies if they retroactively pay back for COBRA coverage during the lapsed months.
  • Requires plan administrators to notify eligible former employees of the subsidies’ availability.

 It’s no secret the regulatory landscape is changing fast. For the latest information on these changes, visit our website at