Comparable worth is the concept that different jobs should pay salaries if their value to an organization or society has as “comparable.” The concept should not be confused with “equal pay for equal work,” which requires that men and women performing the same jobs should be paid the same wage. ASA supports equal pay for equal work and equality of opportunity for women in the workforce. ASA opposes any effort to mandate comparable worth.
Substance abuse, both on and off the job site, results in decreased productivity, more work place accidents, increased health care costs and employee theft. ASA opposes any legislation that would limit unreasonably an employer’s right to test job applicants or employees for substance abuse and, thus, protect their employees and the public from the dangers of substance abuse. ASA supports legislation to require an employer to test for drugs and alcohol abuse any employee involved in a job site accident; such tests should be given not just to the injured employee but any employee, who in the employer’s judgment, may have contributed to the cause of the accident. In addition, ASA supports comprehensive employee programs to prevent drug abuse, including education and rehabilitation.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act is one of the most significant federal laws impacting business. Regulating every employee benefit plan offered by employers, it imposes a vast array of requirements that are cumbersome, costly and confusing to employers and employees. ASA supports efforts to reduce ERISA’s paperwork burden through fewer reporting and disclosure requirements.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended, prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion or disabilities. The Equal Employment Commission enforces the Act’s mandate through regulations and litigation. ASA favors a reexamination of EEO policy, which would accomplish the goals of the Act while removing unnecessary burden on employment practices.
Employer-provided health care benefits are the major source of health insurance for workers and their families. However, the spiraling cost of health care has made it increasingly difficult for businesses, particularly small businesses, to provide adequate health insurance for their employees. The increased cost of health care also has an impact on other employee benefits, including workers’ compensation. ASA believes that the government should take action to increase access to health care, while containing costs and improving quality. Specifically, ASA supports:
- Expand civil justice reform in conjunction with health care reform with respect to medical malpractice to limit awards to plaintiffs, limit attorney fees and reduce the number of law suits.
- Develop and implement standardized claims and data forms to reduce administrative cost in the health care system.
- Establish a voluntary federal certification program of managed-care programs (i.e., entities that oversee both the financing and provision of health services to members) and of utilization of review programs (i.e., programs that oversee the appropriateness of treatment decisions made by doctors and other health professionals) and prohibit states from passing laws restricting the activities of federally-certified plans.
- Establish a national public commission to collect and report data associated with public and private health care costs in the U.S. and make recommendations for health care cost containment.
- Encourage participation by small employers (i.e., those having 100 or fewer employees working at least 30 hours per week) to provide health insurance to their employees.
- Prohibit insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing health conditions.
- Restrict variations in premiums for small employers to factors such as health status, claims experience, length of time since the policy was first issued, industry or occupation.
- Establish rating bands under which premiums could only vary within specific price ranges.
- Prohibit insurers from excluding individuals in a group from coverage and from canceling policies due to claims experience or health status.
- Limit annual increases in premiums to the underlying trend in health care costs.
- Encourage the use of Health Insurance Networks or similar structures to allow smaller businesses to benefit from larger purchasing power and economies of scale.
- Establish federal parameters for a basic health plan, which would be exempt from any state-mandated benefits or coverage.
- Require the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research to produce practice guidelines for clinical treatment and conditions that significantly affect national health costs.
- Increase the tax deduction for health insurance costs for the self-employer from 25 to 100 percent.
- Ensure employee/employer cost sharing to cover health care costs if health benefits are provided.
- Offer pre-tax options for employers and/or employees contributions to medical savings accounts to be sued for preventive care, medical services and savings for long-term health care in conjunction with catastrophic health insurance.
- Ensure equal representations of all interested parties on state health care alliance boards, if implemented.
- Allow, at a minimum, an 18-month phase-in period for businesses that do not currently provide health care coverage to employees to comply with any federal mandates that may become law.
- Encourage competition among health care providers to ensure maximum choice for consumers and quality of services.
- Increase penalties for insurance fraud.
- Ensure adequate health care coverage for retired persons, the unemployed and those who are currently uninsured.
- Ensure that any costs incurred at the national level for health care coverage be paid from cuts in existing federal programs to ensure that the federal deficit is not increased as a result of those costs.
- Ensure that health care reform is fair and equitable for all consumers at a cost that is affordable to the average employer and employee.
- Ensure that the medical portion of workers’ compensation coverage be included as part of any national health care reform.
- Consolidate regulatory authority for health care issues into a single agency, while eliminating existing authority in current agencies.
- Include public employees and all other employee and employer entities in any national health care reform.
- Plan and prohibit exemptions for special segments of society.
- Allow a 100 percent tax deduction for all health costs paid by the employer.
- Establish a supervisory mechanism for pharmaceutical prices.
ASA believes that acts or threats of violence have no place in legitimate labor negotiations or disputes. Yet state prohibitions sometimes have proven unsuccessful deterrents and individual states are unable to deal with labor violence that crosses state lines. Thus, ASA supports legislation making violence or the threat of violence during a labor dispute subject to persecution by federal authorities.
Traditionally, the United States has relied on the voluntary, flexible free enterprise system to determine the majority of employee benefits. ASA views federally-mandated benefits as intrusive and impractical, particularly for small businesses. ASA believes that the trend in benefits toward flexible or cafeteria plan benefits that allows individual workers to select just those benefits appropriate to their circumstances is in the best interest of both employers and employees.
Historically, minimum wage increases have been inflationary, reduced entry-level job opportunities and contributed to the overall wage inflation by producing a ripple effect, which increased wages across-the-board. ASA supports maintaining the current minimum wage. ASA opposes setting the minimum wage at any specific ratio to any wage, cost-of-living or consumer index. ASA supports youth and student differentials.
ASA supports compensation for occupational disease as an integral aspect of a workers’ compensation program operating within the framework of state regulation. ASA opposes federal programs designed to control, supplement or supplant state job-disability programs.
While occupational disease is a major problem, it is being addressed comprehensively and effectively through OSHA. ASA supports employee notification and education and training regarding work place hazards. ASA is opposed to legislation that would unnecessarily duplicate OSHA’s extensive hazard communication requirements and escalate unnecessarily workers’ compensation, health and legal costs for employers.
The impact of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 on workplace fatality, injury and lost work time rates has been disappointing. Unfortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rulemaking has resulted in extensive paperwork requirements, onerous fine structures and little improvement in safety. To assure that OSHA achieves its goal of improving workplace safety and health, ASA supports and actively cooperatively with the agency’s Office of Construction and Engineering. But improvements are needed. ASA supports amendments to the OSH Act that provide for performance standards, less enforcement-driven methods, more outreach and education, easing the economic burdens of compliance, reducing the paperwork requirements and more cooperative enforcement procedures. Specifically, ASA supports amendments to the OSH Act to:
- Streamline OSHA’s reporting requirements in order to reduce the burden on contractors, yet improve the quality of information that OSHA receives.
- Adopt performance-based enforcement policies under which employers with good safety records would be exempt from OSHA inspections.
- Require OSHA to use appropriate due process, including timely notice, within its investigate and inspection authority.
- Amend the OSHA fine structure to allow employers to take corrective action and provide training to offset punitive fines.
- Target OSHA inspections based on hazard exposures and accident patterns.
- Train and use construction specialist inspectors.
- Establish a small business outreach program within OSHA to inform, educate and train small businesses about their responsibilities under OSHA standards.
- Establish specific training criteria for each of the standards that require competent persons and allow such training to be conducted by OSHA-approved third parties, such as associations.
- Make employees more accountable for their actions that could endanger themselves or others by allowing OSHA to fine employees for safety and health violations, which it can be demonstrated that the employer provided proper equipment and training.
- Allow OSHA to fine management personnel who willfully fail to enforce safety regulations.
- Permit employees who are alleged to have violated safety rules to participate in OSHA settlement conferences.
- Make against public policy and thus unenforceable subcontract clauses requiring subcontractors to hold harmless prime contractors from OSHA fines.
- Give OSHA the authority to shut down the portion of a job in which a fatality has occurred while OSHA conducts its investigations, as long as the agency is required to begin its investigation within 24 hours of the accident and to conclude its investigation with all due diligence.
- Establish a 24-hour hotline for reporting injuries and accidents.
ASA opposes amendment to the OSH Act that would:
- Require federal permits for construction operations.
- Increase the responsibility of the design professional for job site safety.
- Require safety plans or hazard analysis for each project.
- Increase recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
Current federal law stipulates that employers can hire permanent replacements for workers participating in an economic strike. During lock-outs or unfair labor practices strikes, strikers have the right to reinstatement. The rights of employers and employees in strike situations have been balanced to ensure fairness. Therefore, ASA opposes legislation to prohibit the hiring of permanent replacements in the context of an economic strike. ASA also opposes legislation to prohibit an employer from granting any employment preference to a worker who crosses the picket line and returns to work.
The unemployment compensation system, as it currently exists, is being threatened by federal proposals to raise benefits, eliminate experience-rating and saddle employers with responsibility for long-term, structural unemployment. ASA opposes federalization of the unemployment compensation system through federal benefit standards. ASA supports mandatory coordination of unemployment compensation with social security and other federal wage replacement programs. ASA also supports the tightening of eligibility requirements for extended benefits programs.
ASA supports workers’ compensation as a private enterprise program working with the framework of state regulation. ASA believes that the preservation of the present state system depends on a commitment by employers, employees and other interested parties. ASA opposes federal programs designed to control, supplement or supplant state job-disability programs. ASA supports the improvement of benefits of coverage of state laws in accord with modern concepts, and in keeping with the basic quid pro quo premise upon which the program was founded. ASA is opposed to any exemption from workers’ compensation for any construction employer. In addition, ASA supports state workers’ compensation reform to:
- Establish a limit to the definition of “at work.”
- Establish a limit on the definition of “personal injury.”
- Expand use of the definition of “managed care.”
- Establish a properly-funded and aggressive workers’ compensation administration in each state for prompt and timely payments, settlement of disputes and enforcement.
- Establish a knowledgeable claims dispute administration.
- Deny benefits to employees injured while impaired by drugs or alcohol when that impairment contributes significantly to the injury.
- Allow direct payment of small claims.
- Allow deductibles for workers’ compensation to help lower premiums.
- Establish state funds where appropriate to compete with private insurance.
- Curb third-party over lawsuits, including but not limited to statutory employer reforms that obligate parties granted immunity from suit to provide workers compensation benefits, but only as long as the rights of subcontractors to recover workers’ compensation benefits from those who actually cause workplace accidents are preserved.