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.
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.
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.
The “intermediate sanctions” rules under Section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code have long governed the payment of compensation to executives of public charities. While these rules are highly prescriptive, if followed, they offer taxpayers a significant advantage in the form or a rebuttable presumption of reasonableness. While there was concern among tax-exempts that the tax bill might reduce or even eliminate the presumption of reasonableness, that turned out not to be the case. But the final version of the legislation for the first time imposed a tax on certain excess compensation and excess parachute payments, which we discuss in more detail below.
Last year New York State made significant changes to its wage orders resulting in increases to the State’s minimum wage, white collar overtime exemption salary thresholds, tip, meal and lodging credits, and uniform allowances. The latest changes go into effect on December 31, 2017. We quickly summarize the minimum wage and overtime salary threshold changes below, but urge you to visit our prior post here for more in-depth coverage, including best practices for compliance.
On December 1, 2017, two weeks after being sworn in, NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb issued his first GC Memorandum. When the General Counsel’s office changes hands from one party to the other, some disruption is expected. Here, Mr. Robb made quite clear that his agenda would not support many of the Obama-era initiatives. In fact, he called into question fifteen significant legal issues that will now be subject to “alternative analysis” (i.e., seeking reversal of earlier precedents that Mr. Robb deems to be wrongly decided), rescinded seven memoranda, and revoked five initiatives.
As Mr. Robb’s agenda continues to unfold, we will track significant developments to explain how these decisions will impact employers. Here is the list of his actions so far plus an added bonus – NLRB decisions overruling Obama-era NLRB rulings: