Viewing posts from: October 2015

Employees + Allergies = Accommodation

Posted October 30, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

Peanut allergy. Conceptual image.A Baltimore, Maryland-based company is facing an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit for having failed to accommodate an employee with a severe peanut and tree nut allergy. In this case, the allergy could result in anaphylactic shock or death. The employee had requested the company supply her with vinyl gloves to handle items at the headquarters exposed to peanuts and to alert any hotels and airlines about the allergy when they make her travel arrangements. The company declined to make any accommodations for the employee and asked her to sign a form waiving her rights under ADA.

Employers who do not provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified employee under the ADA must be able to prove that the accommodation would create undue hardship (i.e. resulting in significant expense or business difficulties).

Source: The Employer Handbook by Eric B. Meyer | ADA and accommodating peanut allergies at work

For more information contact info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

2016 Limits for 401(k), HCFSA, Parking/Transit & Same-Sex Marriage Guidance

Posted October 27, 2015 by PHaynes

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Update 12/23/2015

Congress’ Consolidated Appropriations Act permanently increases the combined limit for transit and vanpooling benefits provided under a qualified transportation plan, making it equal to the limit for qualified parking benefits. (That equivalence is often referred to as “transit parity.”) The increase is retroactive and applies to any month after 2014. Transit parity has been extended three times before. Prior to the legislation, the 2015 combined limit for transit pass and vanpooling benefits was only $130 per month, while the 2015 limit for qualified parking benefits was $250. As a result of the legislation, the combined transit pass/vanpooling limit for 2015 rises to $250; for 2016, the combined limit will be $255.

The IRS was busy last week.  They provided us with guidance in three major areas:

  • Same-Sex Marriages
  • COLA – Cost of Live Adjustments (affecting Health FSA, Transportation Benefits, etc.)
  • Retirement Plan Dollar Limits (for most of you—the 2016 401(k) rates)

Same-Sex Marriages

The Windsor decision (see our 2013 article) and the Obergefell decision (see our 2015 article) changed the law for same-sex marriages throughout the United States. But, those changes weren’t incorporated into the regulations, nor was solid guidance available until now. With the IRS’ release of regulations implementing the Supreme Court’s decision they have clarified and strengthened their prior guidance.

US Dept. of the Treasury Press Release: “The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today announced proposed regulations providing that a marriage of two individuals, whether of the same sex or the opposite sex, will be recognized for federal tax purposes if that marriage is recognized by any state, possession, or territory of the United States.  The proposed regulations would also interpret the terms “husband” and “wife” to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses.  These regulations implement the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Since publication of the 2013 revenue ruling, legally married couples generally must file their federal income tax return using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.”

COLA – Cost of Live Adjustments (affecting Health FSA, Transportation Benefits, etc.)  

Well, we’re sorry to burst anyone’s bubble here, but there’s not much good news here.

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2016 Retirement Plan Dollar Limits Largely Unchanged

For Benefit Plan professionals – here’s the nutshell version, 401(k) limits hold at $18,000 and the limitation used in the definition of an “HCE” (Highly Compensated Employee) under Section 414(q)(1)(B) remains unchanged at $120,000.

 

Links:

 

 

Paid Leave for Federal Contracts

Posted October 26, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

Flu cold or allergy symptom. Closeup of sick young woman girl with fever sneezing in tissue. Health care. Studio shot. Black and white photo.On September 7, 2015, President Obama ordered paid leave for federal contractors and subcontractors. Federal contracts may earn a maximum of seven days paid sick leave each year. The workers can earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours that they work. This law will also allow workers to use their paid sick leave to care for themselves and family members.

This law does not provide small contractors with an option to provide unpaid sick leave. It allows individuals to take leave that results from typical paid-sick-leave reasons, which can include physical or mental illness, domestic violence incidents, etc.

Companies must determine their contractor status and review their Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state mandated sick leave laws and local mandated sick leave laws.

Source: SHRM | Strong Reactions to Requiring Contractors to Give Paid Leave

For more information contact info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Is Attendance an Essential Job Function?

Posted October 23, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

Four candidates competing for one position. Having CV in his handEmployers have found the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to be a painful compliance pill to swallow. Regulations include a voluminous list of conditions that may be considered disabilities and recent emphasis has changed from determining if a disability exists to whether the accommodation is reasonable.

Even workplace attendance has come under fire as an essential function of the job, according to recent court cases.

Employers should carefully review job descriptions and define the essential functions of the job, including where job functions are to be performed.

 

For more information contact info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

D.C. Council Introduces Act to Give D.C. Employees Up to 16 Weeks Paid FMLA

Posted October 19, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

capitol-buildingD.C. employees have had a generous year full of employee-friendly laws that have taken effect – the Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Wage Theft Prevention Act – so why not introduce another? As of October 6, 2015, the D. C. Council introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2014, which would allow D.C. employees to take up to 16 weeks of paid Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) in a 12-month period. The proposed law would also set up a system, which would be paid into by employers, for filing claims for paid FMLA – similar to that of filing claims for unemployment benefits.

In the meantime, the public can attend hearings to provide insight or doubts to the proposed Act.

Source: Employment Matters Blog | D.C. Council Introduces Legislation That Would Give D.C. Employees Up to 16 Weeks of Paid Family and Medical Leave

For more information contact info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

IRS Increases PCORI/CERF Fee Again

Posted October 16, 2015 by PHaynes

IRS-logoPCORI Fees

With the release of IRS Notice 2015-60,  the IRS provided the adjusted applicable dollar amount for the next filing of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute fee [Research Fee, PCORI or CERF (Comparative Effectiveness Research Fee)].

The adjusted dollar amount for will increase to $2.17 from plan years November 1, 2015 through October 1, 2016 (that’s up from the prior years’ rate of $2.08).

As you will recall, for self-insured plans and HRAs, the Research Fee is due by July 31st of the calendar year following the end of the applicable plan year. It is paid on the 2nd quarter Form 720 filing. The next payment and filing deadline is July 31, 2016.

PCORI fees are used to fund research on patient-centered outcomes and apply to plan and policy years ending after October 1, 2012 and before October 1, 2019.

 

For insured plans, the insurer is responsible for paying PCOR fees and reinsurance contributions.

For self-insured plans, PCORI fees are imposed on the plan sponsor and generally cannot be paid from plan assets, while reinsurance contributions are imposed on the plan itself and may be paid from plan assets (if otherwise permitted).

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Obama Administration Interested in Reducing Self-Insurance

Posted October 16, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

congressSelf-insurance – the practice of employers assuming the financial risk to provide health care benefits to their employees – seems to be under the scrutiny of the Obama Administration as they are more interested in endorsing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance exchanges.

With self-insurance, employers are able to tailor their benefits based on employee demographics. For instance, an employer with younger employees may increase their family-planning coverage for better pregnancy care compared to a company with an older workforce that may hire on-site health coaches to assist with administering more healthy habits.

Larger companies with more employees enrolled in their self-funded plan have an easier time predicting medical expenses than a small company with fewer than 50 enrolled where it is difficult to predict costs as one year the employees face no health problems and the next year several employees fall ill and require long-term care. In the later case, the rates would increase drastically.

But small employers can protect themselves with stop-loss insurance. Meaning, if the employer’s medical claims surpass a set threshold then the insurer will reimburse the employer for all additional claims.

With that being said, some Democrats on Capitol Hill want to regulate stop-loss as health insurance making it subject to the same rules that govern exchange plans. That in turn makes stop-loss insurance, as well as self-insurance, unaffordable.

In March 2015, the Self-Insurance Protection Act was introduced to both chambers of Congress in hopes to allow employers to continue to purchase stop-loss insurance without classifying it as health insurance.

Source: The Wall Street Journal | Remaking Companies for ObamaCare

For more information contact info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

President Obama Signs the PACE Act

Posted October 14, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

hero_healthreform_signing_PS-0386Last week the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) announced that both chambers of Congress passed the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act with anticipation of President Obama signing off. The wait is over – President Obama signed the PACE Act on October 7, 2015.

Prior to the PACE Act, the definition of small group market was expanded to include employers with up to 100 employees. Beginning January 1, 2016, and on, states will now have the flexibility of defining small group markets to the previously established definition of up to 50 employees, but also have the option of defining the small group market as up to 100 employees.

The Maryland Insurance Administration has already released a bulletin on October 8, stating they are following the federal law’s definition of a small group market.

As stated in the Maryland Insurance Administration bulletin – “for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2016, small employers will be those that during the preceding calendar year employed an average of not more than 50 employees.”

Source: Cherry Bekaert Benefits Consulting – President Signs PACE ACT Changing Small Group Market Definition | Maryland Insurance Administration Bulletin 15-27

For more information contact info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Stop Employees from Sharing Trade Secrets

Posted October 9, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

finger on her lips. silence gesture

A filtered picture … 140 characters … an emoji or two … #simplehashtag … boom!  Your secret is out and already liked, commented on and shared before you even have a chance to lookup what a #hashtag means! Social media makes it just that simple for anyone to spread a trade secret or confidential information that you thought was under lock and key.

 

So how do you stop a disgruntled employee, or just an over-sharer, from spreading your trade secret on social media?

1. Protect your trade secrets
Cover all your bases. Place a provision in your employee handbook. Have a training session with all those privy to the trade secret. Compose a non-disclosure agreement that must be signed prior to divulging any confidential information.

2. Label trade secrets and confidential information
Labeling the exact information deemed top secret will prevent your employees from trying to guess what they can and cannot discuss.

3. Remind your employees not to share trade secrets and other confidential information
Don’t just assume all your employees know what is and isn’t confidential information. Tell them!

4. Limit access to confidential information
Keep it on a need-to-know basis, and only share with those that you feel need to know and make sure they safeguard those trade secrets.

5. Have a plan for off boarding
Make sure that all soon-to-be former employees return all materials, including copies, of confidential information and sign a document reaffirming their obligation to not share. And just one more “shhhhh, don’t tell,” before they go couldn’t hurt.

Taking these steps doesn’t guarantee a trade secret leak won’t happen, but at least it covers you just in case.

Source: The Employer Handbook by Eric B. Meyer | When your recently-fired employee shares the secret sauce on Twitter

For more information contact info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

ACA Documents and Requirements Review

Posted October 7, 2015 by Megan DiMartino

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Employers Prepare!

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in full force, now is the time for employers and plan sponsors to comply with documentation and distribution rules. Failure to comply may result in costly penalties!

1. Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs)
Companies often assume the insurance carrier will provide the SPD or mistake the insurer’s benefits booklet for the SPD. It is the plan sponsor’s responsibility to prepare the SPD and ensure routine and timely distribution to their plan participants.

An SPD must include participant rights and responsibilities under ERISA, eligibility rules, cost-sharing, deductibles, specific notices, and benefit limitations and exclusions, to name just a few provisions. Generally, the SPD must be distributed to each plan participant, including dependents, within 90 days of enrollment and within 30 days of any request.

  • Potential Fines: The plan administrator/employer/plan sponsor may be charged up to $110 per day if the document is not provided within 30 days of a request.

2. Plan Documents
Separate from the SPD, the plan document describes the plan’s operation, funding, tax ID, plan number(s), and more. The SPD comprises a portion of the plan document, but does not replace it. This document must be available within 30 days of request and must be kept current and on file at all times. Without a plan document, it can be difficult to prove plan terms and thus enforce plan provisions.

  • Potential Fines: The plan administrator/employer/plan sponsor may be charged up to $110 per day if the document is not provided within 30 days of a request.

3. Notice of Health Insurance Marketplace
This notice informs  your employees about the federal or state health insurance marketplace, otherwise known as the insurance exchange (now called Marketplaces). Yes, the federal government requires you to advertise the Marketplaces’ open enrollment periods. In addition, it provides general information about the medical coverage provided by the employer. The notice must be delivered to new employees within 14 days of their hire date.Businessman with money in purse in hands on a gray background

  • Potential Fines: While the
    ACA has a $100/day penalty for noncompliance with its provisions (unless otherwise specified in the statue), it has been generally assumed that it would not apply to a failure to deliver a notice like this one. That assumption was confirmed by the DOL in late 2013. If you’d like to read more about the risks associated with failing to provide this notice, here’s an excellent article from SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) on this topic.

4. Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC)
The SBC is intended to help the plan participant understand how the plan covers certain treatments and if out-of-pocket expenses are incurred. SBCs follow an HHS-approved format and provide an “apples-to-apples” way of comparing one health plan to another health plan (think of them like you would a food label – an easy way to compare the calories and nutritional value of one food to another food). It also provides a glossary of benefits and insurance terms to assist with insurance terminology. The insurance carrier will provide an SBC to the employer for distribution at enrollment. Self-funded plans must develop the SBC and distribute accordingly.

  • Potential Fines: A penalty of up to $1,000 per failure can be assessed on insurers (for insured health plans) and plan administrators (for insured and self-insured health plans) that “willfully fail” to timely provide the SBC. A failure with respect to each participant or beneficiary constitutes a separate offense.

Now is the time to comply! Please discuss your plan’s document requirements with your Account Manager today.

Links:
Health Insurance Marketplace Notice – for Employers that offer a plan
Health Insurance Marketplace Notice – For Employers that do NOT offer any plans
— Remainder of the Affordable Care Act timeline for compliance

For more information contact your Account Manager, info@crawfordadvisors.com or info@hrtactix.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.