Blog Archives

Workers Compensation
Hawaii Insurers Council Workers’ Comp Panel

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel for the Hawaii Insurers Council to discuss current workers’ compensation trends.  The panel discussion was a part of the Insurers Council’s two-day 2015 Annual Planning Meeting.

Clearly, workers’ compensation is a very hot topic, both locally and nationally.  And, with the costs of running a business being incessantly on the rise, employers are constantly concerned about increased costs and obligations under Hawaii and federal labor and employment laws.

For this particular panel discussion, I discussed some of the hot topics I thought would be of particular interest to employers and insurance carriers.  For example, medical marijuana is currently a very hot topic, especially with the passage of Act 241 SLH 2015, which legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in the State of Hawaii.  (Although medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for 15 years, individuals had no way of legally purchasing medical marijuana.  Rather, they either had to grow their own or purchase it from the black market.)  With medical marijuana being readily available within the next year or so, employers in Hawaii will have to face some key questions – i.e. can they terminate the employment of an employee who uses medical marijuana and are they required to cover the costs of medical marijuana for the purposes of workers’ compensation treatment?

Another topic I discussed is the possible vulnerability of the “exclusive remedy” provision for workers’ compensation cases, especially in light of such legal challenges that have been posed on the mainland.  In addition, there is also a growing trend for workers’ compensation opt-out provisions, whereby an employer can be excused from providing workers’ compensation insurance if they provide equivalent benefits in some other way.

Finally, due to the lack of time (there were four panelists total for just an hour of discussion), I didn’t have a chance to discuss issues related to the employee vs. independent contractor dichotomy in the context of the new “sharing economy” (e.g. Uber, Yelp, etc.)  This discussion is certainly worthy of its own blog post, which I will surely write one day, but one thing is clear – the way people obtain certain services is changing rapidly, and employers need to keep apprised of their legal obligations in light of such changes.

2014 Legislative Session: Final Report

On July 8, 2014, we passed the final deadline of the 2014 Legislative Session, the Veto Deadline.  The Veto Deadline is the date by which the Governor must either sign or veto a bill.  Any bill that is not vetoed becomes law “without the governor’s signature.”  This year, the Governor did not veto any of the employment-related bills.

Some of the bills that have became law include those addressing the following areas:

  • Minimum Wage (Act 82) – increases the states minimum wage
  • Private Guards (Act 94) – relaxes CE requirements for private guards
  • TDI (Act 160) – adds “organ donation” as an eligible disability to Hawaii’s TDI law
  • Organ, Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Donation (Act 161) - creates new leave law
  • Direct Deposit or Pay Cards (Act 208) – updates Hawaii payment of wages law
  • WC Drugs (Act 231) – sets price for repackaged, relabeled or combined WC drugs
  • Hawaii Health Connector (Act 233) – changes the operations of the Health Connector

A full list of bills that may be of interest to employers can be viewed on the HEC Legislative Digest, which can be accessed on the Legislative Updates section of the HEC website.  The Legislative Digest is currently available to the public.  In addition, HEC members can also access a Highlights article that discusses several of these new laws in more detail.

2014 Legislative Session: The End is Near(ing)

Let the conference games begin!

Just last week, we passed the Second Crossover deadline, which is the date that the Senate must complete its review of bills submitted by the House of Representatives, and vice versa.  Bills that have survived the Second Crossover deadline are now either (a) sent to conference or (b) sent to the Governor for his review/approval/veto.

At this point in the legislative session, there are still several bills remaining that would have an impact on how employers conduct business here in Hawaii.  Such bills include measures that address:

  • Minimum Wage
  • Payment of Wages
  • Temporary Disability Insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Healthcare Issues
  • Smoking in the Workplace
  • Criminal Background Checks
  • And others…

As I’ve noted in the “Running Updates” post here, the HEC Legislative Digest following Second Crossover is now available for viewing on the Legislative Updates section of the HEC Website.   In addition, HEC members can also access a Highlights article that discusses several of these key measures in more depth.

Conference hearings will begin this week.  As the Senate and House wrestle over the language of the pending bills, it will be interesting to see what type of concessions are made by either side and what type of legislation is ultimately passed.

2014 Legislative Session: Running Updates

Each year, the Hawaii Employers Council provides its members with updates on labor and employment law bills that are being addressed by the legislature. One of those documents, the Legislative Digest, is actually currently available to the general public, and can be accessed here:  HEC Legislative Updates.

Bills that are still alive as of the Second Lateral deadline address (1) the minimum wage, (2) payment of wages via direct deposit and pay cards, and (3) workers’ compensation drugs, fee schedule and settlements.

For the 2014 Legislative Session, the Legislative Digest is available for the following key deadlines:

  • Bills Introduced (available)
  • First Lateral (available)
  • First Crossover (available)
  • Second Lateral (available)
  • Second Crossover (available)
  • Sine Die  (available)
  • Veto Deadline (available)

As more deadlines pass, I will update this blog entry to indicate when the most recent Legislative Digest is available.

Other updates, such as articles providing a detailed explanation of several of the significant measures and talking points on certain bills, however, are available only to HEC members.

2014 Legislative Forecast

The 2014 Legislative Session begins on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 and runs through May 1, 2014.  This year, the legislature will likely address several labor and employment law bills that could have a significant impact on companies doing business in Hawaii.  Some of those bills include those affecting the following areas of law:

  • Minimum Wage
  • Prevailing Wage Violations for Public Works Projects
  • Successor Employers and Employee Retention
  • Paycheck Withholding Requirements
  • Independent Medical Examinations for WC Cases
  • Social Media Privacy
  • Meal Breaks
  • Sick and Safe Leave
  • Organ Donor Leave
  • Family School Leave
  • Discrimination Against Unemployed Individuals
  • GET Increase

I recently conducted a webinar for HEC members discussing each of these bills and what they could mean for employers. During the webinar, I (a) discussed the proposed changes or additions to Hawaii’s laws and (b) shared my thoughts on the impact that each of these proposed bills could have on companies doing business in Hawaii.  (HEC members can contact me for a copy of the handouts.)

In addition, I was also recently interviewed by the Pacific Business News (“PBN”) on some of the bills we anticipate will be heard during the 2014 legislative session, and their write-up ended up being the cover story for today’s edition of the PBN.  In addition to discussing employment law bills, the PBN article also discussed bills related to other issues affecting Hawaii employers.  PBN subscribers can access the article here:  Major Business Issues Facing the State Legislature in 2014.

On a final note:  To anybody who goes to the Capitol during session, if you see me there (and I will be there often), please feel free to say “Hi.”  Oh, and Happy New Year everybody!