Webinar- Back to School: Employment Law Update

school-suppliesAs fall approaches and students head back to school, The Employment Lawyers are taking a look back and a look ahead at issues in labor and employment law. Join us for an informational webinar to review developments over the past year and discuss tips to keep your workplace practices current in the coming year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm (CDT)
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

TOPICS

• Supreme Court developments, including the important decisions in Noel Canning and Hobby Lobby
• The EEOC’s new challenges to release agreements and steps you should take to ensure enforceability
• What Illinois and New Jersey employers need to know about new laws limiting questions about an applicant’s criminal record
• Developments under the Americans with Disabilities Act, including working at a home as a reasonable accommodation
• New guidance on how far employers need to go in accommodating religious beliefs and practices
• The Supreme Court and IRS weigh in on taxability of severance payments and health insurance reimbursements
• What to expect from the DOL’s fresh look at overtime requirements
• Continued rollout of the Affordable Care Act in the coming year
• Key changes to requirements for federal contractors

And more…

CLE Credit Available | This program has been submitted to the HR Certification Institute for review.

QUESTIONS

Contact Annie Darmofal at 312.476.7626 or adarmofal@lplegal.com

Illinois Joins Push to “Ban the Box”

btbEffective January 1, 2015, most Illinois employment agencies and private employers will be prohibited from asking about applicants’ criminal background until the applicant reaches the interview stage of the hiring process, or, if there is no interview, until the applicant has been given a conditional offer of employment.  The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (House Bill 5701) provides very limited exceptions.  For most Illinois employers, the Act will require changes to the application process.

The Illinois Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act is the latest in a surge of “Ban the Box” legislation around the country.   Illinois becomes the 5th state to enact such “Ban the Box” legislation that covers private employers, joining Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island.  Seven cities (Baltimore, Buffalo, Newark, Philadelphia, Rochester, Seattle, San Francisco) also have similar provisions.  

Illinois employers and employment agencies should review application materials to remove questions about criminal history by the end of the year.

The IRS Says (Again) That Certain Employer Payment Plans Won’t Fly

affordable-care-act-generic-graphic-hearstThe IRS recently issued two new Q&As to underscore that arrangements allowing employers to reimburse employees on a pre-tax basis for premiums used to purchase individual health coverage, either inside or outside of a public exchange, violate Affordable Care Act’s insurance market reforms. While duplicative of previous IRS publications on the subject, these Q&As are in plain English.

This rule applies only to individual premiums and not to pre-tax plans like HRAs and FSAs.

To drive the point home, the IRS notes that employers offering such an arrangements will be subject to a $100/day per covered employee penalty.

Federal Contractor Alerts

United States FlagLGBT Discrimination

White House officials announced this week that President Obama intends to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many states and local governments already have laws, applicable to all employers, banning this type of discrimination. Last year, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would have prohibited this type of discrimination against all workers in the United States, but the bill stalled in the House.

Obama’s executive order would protect up to sixteen million employees working for employers with federal contracts. In the meantime, federal contractor employers may wish to consider reviewing their non-discrimination and non-retaliation policies to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are explicitly covered.

$10.10 Minimum Wage for Employees of Federal Contractors

Seeking to fulfill President Obama’s executive order (issued in February), the Labor Department proposed a rule this week to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

The wage increase would benefit about 200,000 workers, an estimate that was not available when the executive order was announced. If enacted, the rate would apply to contracts issued on or after Jan. 1, 2015. The DOL is expected to issue the final rule on October 1, 2014.

Obama: FMLA Should Cover Same-Sex Couples

fmlaPresident Barack Obama announced today that he is directing the Department of Labor to propose a rule making legally married, same-sex couples eligible for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act in all fifty states regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes their marital status.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical purposes. Without the regulatory changes, gay couples cannot receive federal benefits in states that do not recognize their marriages. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nineteen states and the District of Columbia.

Obama’s announcement comes as a precursor to the Justice Department’s announcement this afternoon of findings from their yearlong review of how the landmark 2013 Supreme Court Windsor decision (that held that the survivor of a same-sex couple could claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses) affects federal rights and obligations linked to marriage and spousal rights and benefits. It is expected that, in almost all instances, same-sex married couples will receive the same federal benefits and obligations as their heterosexual counterparts, regardless of where they live. The two exceptions are Social Security and veterans benefits, which are determined by the law where the couples live. Obama, and gay and civil rights groups, are pressing lawmakers to extend these federal benefits to same-sex couples too.

For ACA, Check Your Handbooks and Intranet

affordable-care-actIf you are like most employers, you have been diligently revising your health benefit plans and working with your insurance providers to make sure your Summary Plan Descriptions comply with the Affordable Care Act. After those revisions are in place, if your handbook and intranet contain benefits-related information, you will need to make revisions there too.

For example, if you exclude “part-time” employees from your health plan, make sure to define that exclusion in your handbook. If your definition of “part-time” is different for health benefits than it is for other purposes (hours, compensation, or vacation for example), be sure to make a clear distinction and consider using a term other than “part-time” when referring to health benefits to avoid possible confusion. The level of detail you include will depend on your preference, but as with other benefit plan discussions it is best to avoid heavily detailed information about your benefits in a handbook.

Any handbook or intranet description of benefits should include language that:

  • Emphasizes that the handbook only summarizes benefits and directs employees to plan documents for detailed information.
  • States that the plan documents control if there are inconsistencies between them and the handbook or intranet.
  • Makes it clear that eligibility for participation in any plan is governed by the terms of that plan’s documents and specifies whether or not a waiting period applies and what it is.
  • States that the benefits described in the handbook may be modified or discontinued at the company’s sole discretion.

Special Open Enrollment Period Under Federal Health Care Marketplace for COBRA

insuranceA year ago, the Department of Labor (DOL) released model general notice and model election notice forms for providing COBRA notices to employees in anticipation of the availability of alternative individual health insurance coverage becoming available beginning January 1, 2014 through the new health insurance exchanges or marketplaces created under the 2010 health reform law.  But the interplay between electing COBRA coverage or coverage under the new marketplaces is complicated, and confusion has resulted among those eligible for COBRA coverage.

So, on May 2, 2014, the Department Of Health & Human Services announced a special open enrollment period of May 2, 2014 through July 1, 2014, under the federal marketplace allowing an individual currently on COBRA to voluntarily end COBRA coverage and get coverage through the federal Marketplace, if otherwise eligible for the federal marketplace coverage.  State marketplaces are encouraged, but not required, to also offer a special enrollment period.

At the same time, the DOL issued proposed regulations removing older model notices from appendices to the COBRA regulations and providing that the approved notices and future changes to the notices will be posted on the DOL website.  This will allow faster updating of the notices when needed because amendment of the regulations themselves will not be required.  The most recent model notices on the DOL website are here:  model general notice and model election notice.

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