Viewing posts from: October 2017

Trick or Treat! Test Your Halloween Knowledge

Posted October 31, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

1. Halloween’s origins come from a Celtic festival for the dead called…
a. Oireachtas na Gaeilge
b. Samhain
c. Bharraigh
d. Saline

2. Which of the following were originally used to carve Jack o’ Lanterns? …could be more than one answer.
a. Beets
b. Oranges
c. Potatoes
d. Turnips
e. Apples
f. Eggplants

3. Jack o’ Lanterns earned their name from the legend of “Stingy Jack,” about a man named Jack tricking the Devil from stealing his soul.
a. True
b. False

4. It is projected that Americans will spend this record-hitting amount on Halloween this year…
a. $898 million
b. $1.9 billion
c. $9.1 billion
d. $11.4 billion

5. If Brach’s laid out the candy corn kernels it sells each year end-to-end, how many times would they wrap around the Earth?
a. 1.75 times
b. 3.6 times
c. 4.25 times
d. 6.3 times

6. From the point to the base, what is the order of colors in a piece of candy corn?
a. Yellow, orange, white
b. Orange, white, yellow
c. White, yellow, orange
d. White, orange, yellow

7. According to superstition, what does it mean if you see a spider on Halloween?
a. The spirit of a loved one is watching over you
b. There will be misfortune
c. There are witches nearby
d. Money will be coming your way

1. b. Samhain – (pronounced SAH-win) is a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year, celebrated Oct. 31 – Nov. 1. Celts believed that ghosts of the dead roamed Earth on this holiday, so people would dress in costumes and leave “treats” out on their front doors to appease the roaming spirits.
2. a, c & d. Beets, Potatoes & Turnips – Irish carved scary faces into these vegetables to scare away spirits of the night.
3. a. True – The legend of “Stingy Jack” is quite interesting. Check it out!
4. c. $9.1 billion – This breaks down to $3.4B spent on costumes, $2.7B spent on candy, $2.7B spent on decorations, and $.4B spent on greeting cards.
5. c. 4.25 times – Candy corn was invented in the 1880s by George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderle Candy Company in Philadelphia. It was originally called “Chicken Feed” with a slogan that read “Something worth crowing for.”
6. d. White, orange, yellow
7. a. The spirit of a loved one is watching over you – There are many superstitions revolving around spiders, both good and bad. But in many countries, they are regarded as mystical creatures due to their web-making abilities. In folklore, they are described as storytellers and oracles of fate, wealth, and sometimes death.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Huffpost | 8 Super Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween
NRF | Halloween Headquarters
Mental Floss | 25 Fun Size Facts About Classic Halloween Candy
USA Today | Halloween fave: 10 spookily sweet candy corn facts
deBugged | Spiders: A Web of Superstitions on Halloween

For more information contact 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 Announces 2018 Contribution Limits for 401(k)s, FSAs, and More

Posted October 20, 2017 by Megan DiMartino







IRS has announced the 2018 cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) with respect to retirement plan limits. Many limits, which are adjusted by reference to Code Sec. 415(d), are changed for 2018 since the increase in the cost-of-living index met the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. However, others remain unchanged. Certain dollar limit changes keyed to Code Sec. 1(f)(3), some of which were previously calculated by Thomson Reuters Checkpoint editors, have also increased. IR 2017-177; Notice 2017-64, 2017-45 IRB.

Complete list of contribution changes:


  • Annual contribution limit – changes to your election can be made any time during the year
    • 2017 – $18,000
    • 2018 – $18,500
  • Catch-up limit
    • 2018 – stays the same at $6,000 for employees age 50+

SEP IRAs and Solo 401(k)s

  • Contribution limits for self-employed and small business owners
    • 2017 – $54,000
    • 2018 – $55,000

After-tax 401(k) contributions

  • 2018 – $55,000 (overall cap, including the $18,500 (pre-tax or Roth) salary deferrals plus any employer contributions (but not catch-up contributions))

SIMPLE retirement accounts

  • 2018 – stays the same at $12,500, as well as the same catch-up limit of $3,000

Defined benefit plans

  • 2017 – $215,000
  • 2018 – $220,000

Transportation and parking benefits – for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle or any transit pass, as well as qualified parking

  • 2017 – $255
  • 2018 – $260

Health FSA

  • 2017 – $2,600
  • 2018 – $2,650

IRS Rev. Proc. 2017-58
IRS Notice 2017-64

For more information contact 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.

Our Comprehensive On Demand Benefits Webinar Library

Posted October 20, 2017 by admin

Employee Benefits Webinars





If you haven’t taken advantage of our comprehensive Employee Benefits Webinar Library, you’re missing out on dozens of important webinars on topics like:

  • Voluntary Benefits – Choosing the Right Fit
  • Understanding the Intricacies of PBM Contracts, Language, & Opportunities
  • Change That Sticks: Holistic Benefit Communications for Better Acceptance & Higher Uptake
  • Violence in the Workplace in 2017 – Are You Protected
  • There’s an App for That? Features that Can Empower Healthcare Consumers

And many more! View them here:

There is no cost to view these educational webinar, just create a login and view as many as you like. They are open to all HR professionals, but not other agents, brokers, TPAs, etc.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved AP Benefit Advisors Webinar | 2018 Open Enrollment: Top 12 Critical Mistakes to Avoid this OE Season

Posted October 17, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Join AP Benefit Advisors’ General Counsel and VP of Compliance, Patrick Haynes, and AssuredPartners’ VP of Compliance, Caroline Smith, for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as they review the top 12 critical mistakes to avoid during your 2018 open enrollment.

Topics include:

  • Failure to Communicate
  • Neglecting Technology
  • Cutting Corners
  • Limited Enrollment Options
  • Unused Benefits
  • And More!

Mistakes may be inevitable, but missing out on this important webinar doesn’t have to be one of them!

Webinar Details:

  • Thursday, October 26, 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.

*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has meet 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.

**AP Benefit 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

For more information contact 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.

Sexual Harassment Has No Place in the Office, But Most Importantly, Has No Place At All

Posted October 13, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Most everyone is likely aware of the headlines in the news as of late regarding U.S. film producer, Harvey Weinstein, and his unwarranted sexual advances and harassment toward a countless number of women. This isn’t the only instance within the Hollywood industry, or within the world, or even among just women.

Sexual harassment has no place to be taken lightly. A recent study found that 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-34 have been sexually harassed at work. And in 2013, a study found that over 17% of the EEOC sexual harassment charges filed were filed by men. You need to be aware of what constitutes as sexual harassment, how to report it, and how to be an ally when witnessing it.

What is sexual harassment?

Per the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”

To better understand and identify acts of sexual harassment, here are some examples:

  • Sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos, such as pornography, with co-workers
  • Sending suggestive letters, notes, or e-mails
  • Displaying inappropriate sexual images or posters in the workplace
  • Telling lewd jokes, or sharing sexual anecdotes
  • Making inappropriate sexual gestures
  • Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, or whistling
  • Making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts
  • Inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person
  • Asking sexual questions, such as questions about someone’s sexual history or their sexual orientation
  • Making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity

The list could go on and on, but these are some top examples of sexual harassment. But it should be known that any sexual action that creates a hostile work environment is considered sexual harassment. The victim may not be just the target of the offense, but anyone who is affected by the inappropriate behavior.

What to do if sexually harassed?

If you feel like you’ve been sexually harassed, first report it to your Human Resources department. Take detailed notes of the date(s), time(s), and nature of the incident(s). Your employer should then intercept and remedy the situation, but should that fail and if the employee continues to persist with their inappropriate behavior, then a claim should be made with the EEOC. You must file your claim with the EEOC within 180 days of the incident by mail, in person, or by calling 1-800-669-4000.

If you see something, say something – to the victim.

It’s probably been ingrained in your brain that if you see something, then you need to say something. Which, that’s absolutely correct, but in sexual harassment incidences, talking to the victim is key. They’re the one that has been sexually harassed, they’re the one dealing with the emotions of what happened, and they’re the one that needs to bring light to the situation.

Sexual harassment is not be downplayed or minimized, so if you see something, say something to the victim. Show support, create a safe environment, lend an ear, and just be there. Encourage them to go to their supervisor to report the sexual harassment so these lewd acts can be stopped for not only that victim, but anyone else that may have been affected.

Speak up and speak out.

The Daily Dot | How to be a good workplace ally when you see sexual harassment
Atlantic | Stats Say THIS Is Still Too Common in the Workplace
Psychology Today | When Men Face Sexual Harassment
The Balance | Examples of Sexual and Non-Sexual Harassment
EEOC | How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination

Photo Credit: | Jad Limcaco

For more information contact 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.

Large Employers Aren’t the Only Ones Dealing with FMLA Claims

Posted October 9, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is applicable to employers with 50 or more employees, so when it comes to small employers, they never really give it any thought. This doesn’t mean smaller employers are off the hook from any employee legal allegations though. In Tilley v. Kalamazoo County Road Commission, the small employer was at fault for telling an employee they were eligible for protected leave when the employer did not meet the requirements of FMLA.

To meet the requirements for FMLA, an employee must meet the following criteria:

  1. they have been employed by a covered employer for 12 months;
  2. they have worked for 1,250 hours during the 12-month period before their requested leave begins; and
  3. they work at a location where their employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of that location.

But in the Tilley v. Kalamazoo case, the employer’s policy failed to mention anything regarding the requirement that 50 or more employees must work within 75 miles of the specified work location. So the employee filed a claim against their employer under the FMLA after he was terminated for missing work for his serious health condition.

Tilley filed age and FMLA discrimination charges against his employer, but the age discrimination was thrown out since the employer claimed to have fire him due to his inability to submit work on time. But the FMLA charge is a whole other issue. The District Court granted summary judgement for the employer on the basis that the employee was not eligible for FMLA leave, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this decision. The Appellate Court stated that since the explanation of the 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius was omitted that a “reasonable person in the employee’s position could fairly have believed that he was protected by the FMLA.” The Court did however allow the FMLA claims to be heard by a jury even though he was not eligible for protected leave under the law.

Equitable estoppel was applied, which prevents a party from asserting a legal claim or defense that is inconsistent with his or her prior action or conduct. So in FMLA context, equitable estoppel prevents an employer from defending an FMLA case by arguing that the employee is not entitled to leave when the employer previously misrepresented to the employee that they were.

The Sixth Circuit stated that since the employer granted the employee FMLA rights, even though they did not have to, that they could not take back those FMLA rights that were already granted.

The following are scenarios that employers need to be aware of in regards to FMLA misrepresentation:

  • Company miscalculates number of employees in approving FMLA request.This may be difficult when dealing with temporary or seasonal employees, so it is important to understand who qualifies as an “employee” under FMLA.
  • Company miscalculates total number of hours worked in the previous 12-month period.An accurate time-keeping system is crucial for not only calculating FMLA hours, but for calculating FMLA eligibility.
  • Company with more than 50 employees that also has a distant satellite location.An employee in a small satellite location may not be eligible even if the employer has over 50 employees. The requirement is location specific, so the 50 or more employees need to be within 75 miles of that location.
  • Employer with less than 50 employees offers discretionary leave.Small employers often offer leave of absences for employees to deal with their own serious health issues. This needs to be made clear to employees so they realize it is not covered by FMLA.

Review your policies and procedures, clearly state the requirements, and make sure that all personnel fielding FMLA requests are trained and qualified to do so.

Source: vonBriesen | FMLA – Not Just A Large Employer Concern

For more information contact 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.

Subscribe to Our Blog