2017 is in the books and 2018 is now upon us. A dramatic close to 2017 on Capitol Hill ushered in sweeping changes to the tax code that will begin to impact both employers and employees in a number of ways – some more immediately – from employers losing deductions for sexual harassment settlement payouts, to penalties for high nonprofit executive compensation, to tax deferral on exercise of stock options for public company executives, to employee benefit plans. Wage and leave-related issues are also likely to dominate in 2018, as more states (and employers on their own initiative) increase wage thresholds and broaden employee paid and unpaid leave entitlements (even for some smaller employers). Salary history bans, such as those already enacted in New York City, Massachusetts, and California, will continue to get traction in 2018 as more states and municipalities jump on that bandwagon. We also expect to continue to witness a significant shift in the NLRB’s enforcement policy and decision-making; the NLRB’s new General Counsel has already announced a number of changes that are sure to make employers sigh with relief. Also in 2018, employers could continue to face rising uncertainty with respect to health plans in the wake of the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate that was central to keeping health plans affordable under the Affordable Care Act. Finally, so that we can help keep you accountable to the five New Year’s resolutions we made for you over the holidays (that we know you were eager to adopt as your own), we have collected them for you here: (1) review and refresh your non-harassment policies and training; (2) update your leave policies; (3) make sure your job applications comply with new state ban-the-box laws and salary history inquiry bans; (4) assess the strength and enforceability of your post-employment covenants under changing state law; and (5) make sure your employee benefit plans are compliant.
On April 2, 2018, significant changes to ERISA’s disability claims procedures will take effect. These new rules will require all ERISA-covered plans which provide disability benefits to make significant modifications to the way disability benefit claims are reviewed and decided. This post describes what is changing and why, and the steps employers must take now to ensure compliance.
Massachusetts employers with 6 or more employees will soon be required to prepare and file a new health care reporting form referred to as the “healthcare coverage form.” While reminiscent of the now repealed “Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure” or “HIRD” form requirement, the new form differs significantly. This post explains this new reporting rule.
In the case of DiFiore v. CSL Behring, LLC, the Third Circuit ruled for the first time that the more demanding “but for” causation standard applies to retaliation claims under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), rejecting the lower “motivating factor” (also commonly known as the “mixed-motive”) standard. The Third Circuit’s ruling is a welcome result, especially for employers who deal with the federal government and may, therefore, be exposed to FCA retaliation claims. But, employers need to be mindful that different causes of action have different causation standards. For example, the more stringent “but for” standard applied by the Third Circuit to FCA retaliation claims also applies in Title VII retaliation and ADEA cases, but the lower “mixed motive” standard applies in other cases, including “status based” Title VII and ADA discrimination claims. So, employers are left with a mishmash of different causation standards to consider when assessing risk around employment decisions and defending cases.
Happy New Year! It’s that time when we all vow to better ourselves in the months ahead. Resolutions abound, and they need not be limited to individual self-improvement. Employers too have many opportunities for betterment in the New Year. In the area of employee benefits, we offer these four goals for 2018.
On January 3, 2018, the Department of Labor issued proposed regulations that will make it easier for small employers to band together to form “association health plans” (“AHPs”), thereby providing access to more liberal underwriting and other rules governing large groups. This post provides context for, and summarizes the changes made by, these proposed regulations.
After a long delay, the IRS has begun enforcing the Affordable Care Act’s rules governing shared employer responsibility (a/k/a the “employer mandate”). This mandate imposes “assessable payments” on Applicable Large Employers (i.e. those with 50 or more full-time and full-time equivalent employees in the prior calendar year) that either fail to offer coverage, or offer unaffordable or insufficiently robust coverage, and where at least one employee qualifies for subsidized coverage from an ACA exchange/marketplace. Demand letters have been issued for 2015 to a number of employers, and in many instances, the assessable payment amounts are substantial. But as Alden Bianchi and Christopher Condeluci argue in Why the IRS May Be Unable to Assess ACA Employer Shared Responsibility Penalties for 2015, a recently published article by Bloomberg/BNA, the IRS may be on shaky ground as it endeavors to assessable payments for 2015, due to the Department of Health and Human Services’ failure to provide notices required by the statute. To read the full article, please click here.
As we reported in a previous post, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in August 2017 signed into law H. 3822, “An Act Further Regulating Employer Contributions to Health Care” (the “Act”). Among other things, the law increases the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (“EMAC”) and also imposes a tax penalty—or “EMAC supplement”—on Massachusetts employers with more than five employees. The supplement is 5% of a covered employee’s unemployment insurance taxable wages up to the $15,000 per year (i.e., a cap of $750 per covered employee) for each nondisabled employee who receives health insurance coverage through the Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance (i.e., MassHealth) or subsidized insurance through the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority (i.e., ConnectorCare).
The EMAC supplement take effect as of January 1, 2018. The Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) previously issued a draft regulation, which we discussed in our post of November 20, 2017. The DUA has now issued a final regulation, which is the subject of this post.
Prior to the effective date of the tax bill recently signed by the President, Section 164 of the Internal Revenue Code permitted individuals who itemized deductions to deduct state and local income and other designated taxes (SALT) in calculating their Federal taxable income. Congress amended Section 164 for years beginning after 2017 and prior to 2026 to limit SALT deductions to $10,000 per year and, as a practical matter, to sharply reduce the number of taxpayers who will be itemizing deductions and thus able to take advantage of even this limited deduction. By contrast, the new tax legislation does not restrict the ability of employers to deduct payroll taxes to which they are subject.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act makes some notable, though targeted, changes to the employee benefits landscape. We summarize some of the more significant changes in the Question and Answers set out below.