Vapooling Benefits and the 80/50 Rule

Posted June 6, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Question: Some of our employees have organized carpools to commute to work, and we provide those carpools with parking benefits under our qualified transportation plan. Could our transportation plan also reimburse those employees for all or a portion of their other commuting costs as a vanpooling benefit? All of the carpools use employee-owned vehicles and some of those vehicles are quite large (ex: minivans and SUVs).

Answer: It is possible, but under very certain circumstances. To start, “vanpooling” means transportation between the employee’s residence and their place of employment in a commuter highway vehicle, which must have a seating capacity for six or more adults (not including the driver), and at least 80% of the vehicle’s annual mileage must be used for said vanpooling means. To make things sound more difficult, commuting miles count toward the 80% only if the number of employees transported to or from work is at least half of the vehicle’s adult seating capacity (not including the driver). This is referred to as the “80/50 rule.” For example, if the vehicle is carrying six passengers (not including the driver), at least three of them have to be employees in addition to the driver for the commuting miles to count toward the 80% requirement.

While many family-owned vehicles have the capacity capabilities needed to qualify it as a vanpooling vehicle, it is generally unable to satisfy the 80% usage requirement. So many employers don’t offer vanpooling benefits to employee-owned vehicles as it is difficult to determine if they meet the requirements. Instead, some employers provide high-seating capacity vehicles specifically for vanpooling which makes it more likely that the requirements are met.

Another way that vanpooling benefits can be used is if employees use private or public transit-operated vanpools, which are not subject to the 80/50 rule. Private or public transit-operated vehicles are either owned and operated by public transit authorities or by any person which is in the business of transporting people for hire.

Source: Thomson Reuters | Can a Qualified Transportation Plan Reimburse Employees’ Expenses for Carpooling With Their Own Vehicles?

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.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.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-approved AssuredPartners & Crawford Advisors Webinar | Straight from the Department of Homeland Security: Insight into the Form I-9 and E-Verify

Posted May 25, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is committed to the best customer service and transparency in the management of Form I-9 and E-Verify. Please join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, one-hour, complimentary webinar as our speaker, Henry W. Nash, Jr., Management Program Analyst from the DHS, presents a review of recent changes and new resources available to assist employers with the employment eligibility verification process. Even the most ‘seasoned’ business professionals will walk away from this presentation with something new. This is a rare opportunity to learn from the expert, so come prepared with any questions or concerns you may have related to the Form I-9 or E-Verify.

Topics include:

  • Resource Service Information
  • Employer Verification Process
  • Completing Form I-9 (Sections 1-3)
  • Storage & Retention
  • E-Verify Overview Process

Webinar Details:

  • Thursday, June 8, 2017
  • 2:30 – 3:30pm EDT
  • No Cost to Attend
  • This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals – but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.

 

 

 

About our presenter:

Mr. Harry “JR” Nash joined the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services on August 29, 2011. He is assigned to the Public Relations and Education Section of the Outreach Branch which falls under The Immigration Records & Identity Services Directorate. Mr. Nash’s highly decorated and successful professional career also includes 28 years of honorable active military service in the United States Army. Mr. Nash has served as a First Sergeant and the Senior Enlisted Advisor for five (5) U.S. Army medical headquarters command organizations before retiring in January 2007. Additionally, he has served as a Senior Program Specialist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 2008 to 2011.

*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.

**Crawford Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit shrmcertification.org.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.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.

Well, Isn’t it Ironic?

Posted May 23, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is currently suing their staffing company, Diverse Lynx, for age discrimination. In the words of Alanis Morissette…”Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?”

Diverse Lynx, a Princeton, NJ-based IT staffing firm, failed to refer a job applicant based on his age. The EEOC’s lawsuit is based on learning that Diverse Lynx sent the applicant an email stating that he was no longer being considered for the job because he was “born in 1945” and that “age will matter” in regards to the position.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employment discrimination based on age, which also includes discrimination in referrals by employment agencies.

The EEOC’s New York District Director, Kevin Berry, stated “The firm told the man, ‘age will matter.’ Actually, the only things that matter are abilities and qualifications, and the EEOC is here to help make sure that’s the way it is in American workplaces.”

To follow more on the lawsuit: EEOC v. Diverse Lynx, Civil Action No. 17-cv-03220

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA forbids age discrimination against anyone age 40 or older. Anyone under 40 is not protected under the law, although some states do have laws protecting those younger individuals against age discrimination.

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

It is also unlawful to harass a person based on their age. The law doesn’t prohibit teasing, offhand comments, or isolated comments, but it does become serious if the harassment is frequent or so severe that it creates a hostile work environment or when it results in adverse employment decisions, such as the victim getting fired or demoted.

Source:
EEOC | EEOC Sues Its Staffing Company Diverse Lynx for Age Discrimination
EEOC | Age Discrimination

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.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.

How Long to Maintain Company Personnel Records

Posted May 19, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

You may think you’re keeping yourself safe by saving all company personnel files, but to be honest, you could be doing more harm than good.

The Federal Trade Commission requires that you remove and securely dispose of certain data on job applicants’ records within a certain timeframe. So your “safe keeping” could potentially cost you a lawsuit or more.

To truly keep yourself safe, inventory your records and create a company retention schedule. It is necessary to know what documents and information you have and how long you should keep it – legally and for business purposes – before you’re able to put an efficient records system in motion.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be a “just in case” hoarder; store records only for legal, operational or archival reasons.
  • Retain and destroy documents systematically.
  • Segment records according to a retention timetable.
  • Don’t retain unscheduled temporary materials, such as drafts, reminder notes, worksheets, or extra copies.
  • Don’t hang onto documents just for their sentimental or public relations value. Information must earn its keep, like any other asset. A comprehensive record of the past that fosters a “company memory” can be an asset, but be sure to minimize your legal liability while doing so.

Sometimes laws don’t state a specific retention period. Statutes and regulations can often contain a phrase, “The following records shall be maintained…,” but never mention a retention period. This can be taken as the records need to be maintained permanently.

What to do?
The Uniform Preservation of Private Business Records Act (UPPBRA) states that whenever a law does not specify a specific retention period then the business should keep their records for three years. If destroyed before then, you could be subjecting your company to legal problems. As of now, there are only eight states following this policy or something equivalent.

Source: Business Management Daily | Company records: What to keep and for how long

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.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.

Update: House of Representatives Allows for Comp Time in Lieu of Overtime Pay

Posted May 18, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

As we discussed back in our April 18 blog, Congress was mulling over the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 which would allow employees the option to choose comp time in lieu of overtime pay. Well, as of May 2, the House of Representatives have voted to allow most employers to offer this option to their nonexempt employees.

This now allows employees of organizations that are choosing to offer comp time to either bank one-and-a-half hours of unpaid leave per hour of overtime worked or take the usual time-and-a-half of overtime pay.

Hurdles and Solutions
As this is a great solution for employees that often struggle balancing work and family, there is fear that employers will try to coerce their workers into accepting comp time instead of overtime pay. But the bill has been worked to address this by allowing employees to cash out banked comp time. Employers would have 30 days following an employee’s request to pay out the value of their banked comp time.

The bill lets employees bank up to 160 hours of comp time within a year, but employers would be allowed to require employees to accept overtime pay after they have accumulated 80 hours of comp time. Employees can carry over their previous year’s comp time, but only up until January 31. After that, employers would pay out the value of the leave.

Also, in the bill it is stated that employers are banned from “intimidating, threatening, or coercing or attempting to intimidate, threaten, or coerce an employee” into taking comp time instead of overtime pay.

Source: Business Management Daily | House approves comp time instead of overtime pay

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.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. Law Bans Request for Credit Information During Background Checks

Posted May 16, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Credit checks have been part of comprehensive employment background checks for quite some time, but D.C. is now prohibiting the use of any credit information pertaining to prospective and current employees.

Credit information is broadly defined as any information which is written, oral, or any other communication on an employee’s creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, or credit history.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers utilizing credit reporting agencies to adhere to a number of notice and consent requirements. But as of March 17, 2017, the Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act does not allow D.C. employers to:

  • Require, request, suggest or cause any employee or applicant to submit any credit information;
  • Use, accept, refer to or inquire about credit information, unless an exemption from the law applies; or
  • Take any discriminatory action against prospective and current employees based on their credit information.

There are only a few circumstances where the law exempts certain positions:

  • Positions with financial institutions where the position involves access to personal financial information;
  • Positions where the employer is required by D.C. law to collect credit information;
  • Some positions within the D.C. government, such as those in the office of the D.C. Chief Financial Officer;
  • Positions that require security clearance under D.C. law; and
  • Situations where an employer receives credit information through a subpoena, court order, or law enforcement investigation.

Applicants or employees may file complaints with the D.C. Commission on Human Rights if they feel there have been violations of the law, just like D.C.’s 2014 Ban-the-Box law. This could impose monetary penalties from $1,000 to $5,000, based on the number of violations. But unlike Ban-the-Box, applicants or employees can also pursue a claim in court.

What Should D.C. Employers Do?

  • Contact your background check vendors to remove all credit information inquiries from the onboarding process for applicants and employees in the District;
  • Remove all questions regarding credit history and any that would elicit credit information from your job applications, background check authorization forms, and any general employee information forms; and
  • Consider adding a policy to your employment handbooks regarding the law and that you will not inquire about, use or discriminate based on any credit information, as well as training HR and any individuals that interview about the new law’s prohibitions.

Source: Foley & Lardner LLP | Is Your Background Check Too Broad? New D.C. Law Bans Requests for or Use of Credit Information 

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.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.

The American Health Care Act Passes the House

Posted May 5, 2017 by PHaynes

On May 4, 2017, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by a vote of 217 to 213. This was a big step for House Republicans in fulfilling President Trump’s campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill must also pass in the Senate for it to become law.

Back in March when the legislative language of the AHCA was first released, we reported the changes that the bill would make to the ACA. Notably, it would repeal both the individual and employer mandates, delay the Cadillac tax, replace income-based subsidies with tax credits based on age, reform certain aspects of health savings accounts, allow for a surcharge if individuals do not maintain continuous coverage, and discontinue Medicaid expansion in 2020, among other provisions.

Please see our March 23 Web-Seminar for a complete briefing on the AHCA and the other plans that influenced its design.  We will provide a breakdown of the final bill if it passes the Senate, where further changes are expected.

The AHCA was able to garner enough support in the House due to the introduction of the MacArthur and Upton amendments, respectively. Notably the MacArthur amendment permits states to obtain waivers from the following provisions:

  • The ACA essential health benefit requirement, allowing states to define the categories of services that health plans must cover;
  • The AHCA age-based premium rating of 5:1, allowing states to set their own age band; and
  • The prohibition against engaging in health-status underwriting, but only for those individuals who did not maintain continuous coverage in the past 12 months (i.e. had a break in coverage for at least 63 days) and only if the state has established an AHCA-approved high-risk pool. The Upton amendment appropriates additional funds to be allocated to states that obtain this waiver to assist individuals who may see a rise in premiums.

It is very important to note that the waiver allowing states to take into account health status in underwriting does not allow them to exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. Indeed, the pre-existing condition coverage requirement would remain. Additionally, those ACA provisions that were not addressed in the original AHCA (or in any subsequent amendment) such as the dependent coverage requirement and other plan mandates, employer reporting requirements, and the PCORI fee, among others, remain in the law. Finally, the AHCA does not cap the employee tax benefit for employer-sponsored coverage.

We will be watching closely as the AHCA makes its way through the Senate and will keep you apprised of any new developments.

Please contact your Account Manager or Sales Executive, or any member of your employee benefits team if you have questions or need assistance with this or other compliance matters.

Links:

IRS Increases PCORI/CERF Fee for 2017

Posted May 5, 2017 by PHaynes

With the release of IRS Notice 2016-64, issued on Nov. 4, 2016, the IRS provided that the PCORI fee (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute fee) also called the CERF fee (Comparative Effectiveness Research Fee) for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2016, and before Oct. 1, 2017, including 2016 calendar year plans, is $2.26 per each person covered under the applicable health plan, up from $2.17 for the previous plan year.

As you may 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, 2017.

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 PCORI 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).

LINKS: 

 

HRCI & SHRM Pre-approved AssuredPartners & Crawford Advisors Webinar | Change That Sticks: Holistic Benefit Communications for Better Acceptance & Higher Uptake

Posted May 3, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Comprehensive communication planning can increase employee use of benefits. Vendors are offering an increasingly wider range of services, making it hard for employees to know where to go, and for what type of service. Tax-advantaged benefits have extended beyond 401(k) plans to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) – who is looking at the bigger picture for employees? Additionally, it’s becoming increasingly important to integrate wellness plans, without overwhelming employees.

Join subject matter experts Kip Soteres, Founder and President of Soteres Consulting, and Beth Archie, Change Communications Consultant, for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, one-hour, complimentary webinar and learn strategies to effectively communicate information about your employer-sponsored benefits to your employees.

Training will provide:

  • Templates for year-round strategic communication planning tied to employee benefits
  • Tactical planning templates for more effective mini-campaigns and a simple checklist methodology to follow when filling them out
  • Tips to demonstrate how strategic communicators can be partners in developing benefit programs that are easier for employees to understand and use
  • Examples from health care and other industries

Webinar Details:

  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm EDT
  • No Cost to Attend
  • This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals – but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.

 

 

About our presenters:

  • Kip Soteres is the Founder and President of Soteres Consulting. Prior to beginning Soteres Consulting, Kip had VP, Director and Manager Roles at companies including Highmark Health, PNC Bank and BCBS of TN. Kip has many large clients utilizing his services in this area including BCBS Association. Kip has been frequently published on change management and communication topics and has led dozens of M&A communication efforts across multiple industries.
  • Beth Archie is a Change Communications Consultant at Soteres Consulting. Prior to her role with Soteres, Beth had both Manager and Consultant roles at companies such as Highmark Health, Honda Aircraft Company and Advanced Home Care. Beth is an experienced HR communicator for complex HR technology platform implementations in high-change environments and has led employee engagement initiatives resulting in multiple Top 5 “Best Place to Work” recognitions.

*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.

**Crawford Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit shrmcertification.org.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.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.