US Supreme Court Rules – Federal Law Protects LGBTQ at Work

Posted June 17, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

By: Cindy Wagner, AssuredPartners’ Director of HR Professional Services

On Monday, June 15, 2020, by a vote of 6-3, and for the third time since 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that existing Federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. And, this time, by applying the workplace protections inscribed in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to gay and transgender employees. The ruling takes effect immediately. This action is a major victory for advocates of gay rights and for the emerging transgender rights movement.

Previously, the Supreme Court addressed this matter on October 8, 2019, at which time they were closely divided after hearing two (2) hours of courtroom arguments on the important issues of the term – whether existing Federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Court was to decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex (among other protections – see below), also covers sexual orientation and transgender status. One case was presented on behalf of Gerald Bostock, who was fired from a county job in the state of Georgia after he joined a gay softball team. An attorney argued the employer discriminated against the man because it treated him worse than women who were doing the same work and the discrimination was because of sex. It was further explained that when an employer fires a male employee for dating men, but does not fire a female employee who dates men, the employer violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, sex, color, religion or national origin. Specifically, all companies with fifteen (15) or more employees are required to adhere to the rules set forth by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. An employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires (or refuses to hire) an individual based in part on sex. It is irrelevant if other factors, aside from the individual’s sex, contribute to the employer’s decision. This is because it is a Title VII violation if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual’s sex when taking negative employment action against them.

In Bostock, the Georgia case, the court held that because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individuals differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an individual for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII.

The Supreme Court said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also covers sexual orientation and transgender status. They upheld rulings from lower courts that said sexual orientation discrimination was a form of sex discrimination.

The Supreme Court also provided firm clarification and guidance regarding the following:

  • It’s considered irrelevant what an employer might call its discriminatory practice, how others might label it, or what else might motivate it. When an employer fires an employee for being homosexual or transgendered, it intentionally discriminates against that individual in part because of sex.
  • An individual’s sex does not need to be the sole or primary cause of the employer’s adverse action. It’s of no significance if another factor, such as an individual’s attraction to the same sex or presentation as a different sex from the one assigned at birth, might also be at work, or even play a more important role in the employer’s decision.
  • Employers cannot escape liability by demonstrating how it treats males and females comparably as a group. An employer who intentionally fires a homosexual or transgender employee in part because of their sex violates the law even if the employer is willing to subject all male and female homosexual or transgender employees to the same rule.

Across the United States, we now have twenty-two (22) states that have passed their own laws which prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, there are seven (7) states that provide protection only to public employees. Those laws will continue to remain in force. However, with Monday’s ruling, Federal law now provides similar protections for LGBTQ employees throughout the rest of the United States.

Gay rights advocates celebrated the ruling as gay and transgender rights groups considered the case and outcome a major victory. Many describe this ruling as more important than the fight for the right to marry, as nearly all LGBTQ adults have or need employment. The groups also acknowledged that sexual orientation was not on the minds of anyone in Congress when the Civil Rights Law was first passed.

Also, on June 15, 2020, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) issued the following statement: “SHRM applauds the U.S. Supreme Court today for its ruling making clear employment discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal. The ruling provides much needed clarity and finality on the interpretation of Title VII’s protections from the Court giving HR professionals clear guidance and a greater opportunity to create a world of work that works for all.”

So, you may be asking – how does this impact my company or my employer?

Human Resources Compliance is now more important than ever!

It’s time to:

  • Review and update your employee handbooks
  • Review and update your policies and procedures (e.g., hiring and termination)
  • Update your employment law posters
  • Train your HR professionals, managers and employees in all aspects of HR compliance, sensitivity, civility in the workplace, and diversity and inclusion

And when in doubt, contact your AssuredPartners Human Resources Consultant and/or legal advisor.

Resources:


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

PCORI Fee Increased for Plan Years Ending After October 31, 2019

Posted June 8, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

Today, the IRS Released the new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)/Comparative Effectiveness Research Fee (CERF) rate for plans ending after October 31, 2019.  That new rate is $2.54 per person.  IRS Notice 2020-44 can be viewed here.

You may recall that PCORI was previously due to sunset in 2019, but was extended by Congress through 2029 (see prior guidance/updates here).

And, if you are looking for details on how to calculate PCORI, please read our prior guidance here or contact your Account Manager.

Links:


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved Webinar | In Times of Challenge, Embrace the Change: Drive Lower Costs & Better Outcomes in Your Health Plans

Posted June 4, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

Sick of hearing about COVID-19? We all are. Yet, one “silver lining” to these difficult times is that adversity often illuminates new ways of doing things and new methods for greater efficiency. Some of those changes you can embrace are ones that can drive lower costs and better outcomes in your health plan.

Join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as Scott Mayer, AssuredPartners’ Director of Data Analytics, outlines strategies (some old, some new) that employers are exploring to improve cash flow, enhance benefits, lower claims/premiums and drive more favorable outcomes.

Webinar Details:

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2020
  • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

Register Now


*The use of this official seal confirms that this Activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®)  criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.

**AssuredPartners is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC.


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

IRS Releases 2021 Limits for HSAs

Posted May 21, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

On May 20, 2020, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2020-32.  It provides the 2021 inflation-adjusted amounts for HSA-qualified high deductible health plans (HDHPs).

The inflation-adjusted increases for 2021 are:

  • HSA-Qualified HDHP Self Coverage: Annual deductible must be $1,400 or more in 2021 (up $50 from 2020), and annual out-of-pocket expenses cannot exceed $7,000 (up $100 from 2020).
  • HSA Contribution Limit for Self Coverage: Increases to $3,600 in 2021, up $50 from 2020.
  • HSA-Qualified HDHP Family Coverage: Annual deductible must be $2,800 or more in 2021 (no change from 2020), and annual out-of-pocket expenses cannot exceed $14,000 (up $200 from 2020).
  • HSA Contribution Limit for Family Coverage: Increases to $7,200 in 2021, up $100 from 2020.
  • No change to the Age-55+ HSA catch-up limit.  That value remains at $1,000 per year.

Please contact your Sales Executive or Account Manager for additional details about how this may affect your 2021 HDHP-HSA offerings.    And, don’t forget to review our 2021 non-HDHP plan limits here.

Links:


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

HHS Provides 2021 Benefit Payment Out-of-Pocket Limits

Posted May 19, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published finalized 2021 Benefit Payment Parameters with an $8,550 out-of-pocket maximum for self-only coverage and $17,100 for family coverage for health plans beginning in 2021. See, the 5/14/2020 Federal Register publication here.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), non-grandfathered health plans are required to comply with an overall annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses for essential health benefits. The current limits, for 2020 plan years, is $8,150 for self-only coverage and $16,300 for family coverage.

The IRS has also released information on what the 2021 requirements will be for high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). The HDHP/HSA requirements include a minimum deductible, a maximum out-of-pocket limit and a maximum HSA contribution amount. These requirements apply to both grandfathered and non-grandfathered group health plans.

Here’s a summary of both traditional plans and HDHP/HSA plans for the 2020/2021 plan years:

If your plans offer both traditional and HDHP/HSA plans (that are not grandfathered), your plans are subject to both sets of requirements and you must ensure compliance with the lowest applicable out-of-pocket maximum.  Plus, the ACA requires that a per person (individualized/imbedded) out-of-pocket maximum doesn’t exceed the ACA limit, even if you are in the larger (family) tier.

The rule also finalizes the treatment of drug manufacturer support, including coupons, as it relates to the participant’s maximum out-of-pocket exposure. We previously shared guidance (Sept. 4, 2019) about this.  Health plans have the ability/the option to determine whether they will count the value of a drug manufacturer’s coupons/other assistance when determining if a participant has satisfied his or her cost-sharing obligations (provided that this is consistent with state law).

Links:

Prior guidance:


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

AssuredPartners Town Hall Webinar | Insurance Expense Reduction and Cost Control Solutions

Posted May 14, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

AssuredPartners is pleased to continue our Town Hall meeting series this week with a focus on Insurance Expense Reduction and Cost Control Solutions. Based on feedback surrounding the topic this week, we will cover the following topics for discussion with our presenters:

  • Cost Control Solutions for your Business
  • Insurance Expense Reduction Options
  • COVID-19 and Workers Compensation Insurance
  • Increased Business Liability and Employment Matters

Please join us for a one-hour, town-hall style meeting.

Webinar details:

  • Friday, May 15, 2020
  • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

Submit a Question & Register


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

AssuredPartners Webinar | Emergency FMLA: What is it and What Now? HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved

Posted May 12, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

COVID-19 legislation is changing the landscape of regulatory compliance for the remainder of 2020. Please join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as ERISA Consultant, Olivia Ash, JD, reviews details of federal emergency FMLA legislation and covers essential benefit plan considerations impacted by COVID-19.

Webinar Details:

  • Thursday, May 21, 2020
  • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

Register Now

Presenter Bio:
Olivia Ash, JD, MS, brings fifteen years of management experience to regulatory compliance education. After receiving her BS in Exercise Science and an MS in Physical Education from Indiana University, Olivia spent a decade advising employers on wellness program implementation. She completed her JD at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law. Presently, Olivia is a Compliance Consultant with ComplianceDashboard, LLC, focusing on ERISA’s application to health plans. She creates and presents live webinars, writes content, conducts national continuing education courses, and speaks at various conferences. Olivia is an experienced educator; she holds an Indiana state teaching license and currently serves as Adjunct Faculty at the Indiana University School of Health and Human Sciences. To maintain wellness, Olivia paints abstract art and enjoys road cycling.


*The use of the HRCI seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.

**AssuredPartners is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC.


 For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

AssuredPartners Town Hall Webinar | State Reopening Orders & Employee Return to Work Measures

Posted May 6, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

AssuredPartners is pleased to continue our Town Hall meeting series this week with a focus on State Reopening Orders and Employee Return to Work Measures. Based on significant demand from our customers, we will cover the following topics for discussion with our presenters:

  • Recent DOL and IRS Changes for COBRA, Special Enrollments, and Claims Deadlines
  • State Reopening Orders & Return to Work Employee Screening
  • Health Screenings & Employee Wellness for Return to Work

Please join us for a one-hour, town-hall style meeting.

Webinar details:

  • Friday, May 8, 2020
  • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

Submit a Question & Register


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

DOL Issues COVID-19 Relief and Guidance for Employee Benefit Plans

Posted April 29, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

The Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued deadline relief and other guidance under Title I of ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) to help employee benefit plans, plan participants and beneficiaries, employers and other plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, and other service providers impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

“EBSA will continue to safeguard the employee benefits of American workers while ensuring that employers and plans have the flexibility they need to continue delivering benefits during this challenging time,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for EBSA, Preston Rutledge.

The DOL notice was issued jointly with the Departments of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service, and it extends certain time frames affecting participants’ rights to healthcare coverage, portability, and continuation of group health plan coverage under COBRA, and extends the time for plan participants to file or perfect benefit claims or appeals of denied claims. These extensions provide participants and beneficiaries of employee benefit plans additional time to make important health coverage and other decisions affecting their benefits during the coronavirus outbreak. The joint notice can be accessed here.

Commentary:   Basically, this guidance provides the actions that must be taken during the time period of March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the time the federal government declares the COVID-19 emergency to have ended.  The 60th day being considered the end of the “Outbreak Period” as the notices refer to it.  While we are sharing this with you as soon as possible, we expect that more concrete action plans will be shared in the next few days and weeks.  The impact here affects both fully-insured and self-funded health plans, and while the guidance can be relied upon now, fully-insured plans can expect to see significant input, feedback and guidance from their respective carriers shortly.

COBRA Timing
Standard timing provides 60 days from a Qualifying Event (loss of coverage) to make a COBRA election, and 45 days from that first election to make your first COBRA premium payment. All other months require COBRA payments on the first of the month, or post-marked by the last day of the month in order to be “timely”. Those timelines still apply, but they “clock” on them doesn’t begin to run until the specified days after the National Emergency ends.  This means the time period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the national emergency (“Outbreak Period”) must be disregarded.

COBRA Election – Example 1
Let’s assume the National Emergency ends on April 30, 2020.  That means the “Outbreak Period” ends on June 29, 2020 (the 60th day after the end of the National Emergency).  Additional guidance is expected to address different “Outbreak Period” end dates for different parts of the country.

    • Individual A works for Employer X and participates in X’s group health plan. Due to the National Emergency, Individual A experiences a Qualifying Event for COBRA purposes as a result of a reduction of hours below the hours necessary to meet the group health plan’s eligibility requirements, has no other coverage, and is therefore eligible to elect COBRA under Employer X’s plan.
    • In Example 1, Individual A is eligible to elect COBRA coverage under Employer X’s plan. The Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual A’s COBRA election period. The last day of Individual A’s COBRA election period is 60 days after June 29, 2020, which is August 28, 2020.

New Baby Example – Example 2 (Special enrollment period)
Individual B is eligible for, but previously declined participation in, her employer-sponsored group health plan. On March 31, 2020, Individual B gave birth and would like to enroll herself and the child into her employer’s plan; however, open enrollment does not begin until November 15. When may Individual B exercise her special enrollment rights?

    • Under traditional rules, “B” would have 30 days from March 31, 2020 to add her new baby to her employer’s plan.
    • In Example 2, the Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual B’s special enrollment period. Individual B and her child qualify for special enrollment into her employer’s plan as early as the date of the child’s birth. Individual B may exercise her special enrollment rights for herself and her child into her employer’s plan until 30 days after June 29, 2020, which is July 29, 2020, provided that she pays the premiums for any period of coverage.

COBRA Premium Payments – Example 3
On March 1, 2020, Individual C was receiving COBRA continuation coverage under a group health plan.  More than 45 days had passed since Individual C had elected COBRA.  Monthly premium payments are due by the first of the month.  The plan does not permit qualified beneficiaries longer than the statutory 30-day grace period for making premium payments.  Individual C made a timely February payment, but did not make the March payment or any subsequent payments during the Outbreak Period.  As of July 1, Individual C has made no premium payments for March, April, May, or June.  Does  Individual C lose COBRA coverage, and if so for which month(s)?

    • In Example 3, the Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining whether monthly COBRA premium installment payments are timely.  Premium payments made by 30 days after June 29, 2020, which is July 29, 2020, for March, April, May, and June 2020, are timely, and Individual C is entitled to COBRA continuation coverage for these months if they make timely payments.  Under the terms of the COBRA statute, premium payments are timely if made within 30 days from the date they are first due.
    • In calculating the 30-day period, however, the Outbreak Period is disregarded, and payments for March, April, May, and June are all deemed to be timely if they are made within 30 days after the end of the Outbreak Period. Accordingly, premium payments for four months (i.e., March, April, May, and June) are all due by July 29, 2020.
    • Individual C is eligible to receive coverage under the terms of the plan during this interim period even though some or all of Individual C’s premium payments may not be received until July 29, 2020. Since the due dates for Individual C’s premiums would be postponed and Individual C’s payment for premiums would be retroactive during the initial COBRA election period, Individual C’s insurer or plan may not deny coverage, and may make retroactive payments for benefits and services received by the participant during this time.

The additional examples are no less noteworthy and each should be read and discussed with your employee benefits and/or pension plan professionals.  They include:

    • Ex 4 – COBRA premium payment
    • Ex 5 – claims for medical treatment under a group health plan
    • Ex 6 – internal appeal – disability plan
    • Ex 7 – internal appeal – employee pension plan

EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 extends the time for plan officials to furnish benefit statements, annual funding notices, and other notices and disclosures required by ERISA so long as they make a good-faith effort to furnish the documents as soon as administratively practicable. The notice explains that good faith includes the use of electronic alternative means of communicating with plan participants and beneficiaries who the plan fiduciary reasonably believes have effective access to electronic means of communication, including email, text messages, and continuous access to websites. The notice also includes compliance assistance guidance on plan loans, participant contributions and loan payments, blackout notices, Form 5500 and Form M-1 filing relief, and other general compliance guidance on ERISA fiduciary responsibilities. The Disaster Relief Notice is posted on EBSA’s website.

The department also issued a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on health benefit and retirement benefit issues to help employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries, plan sponsors, and employers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak understand their rights and responsibilities under ERISA.

Please contact your AssuredPartners Account Manager or Sales Executive for additional information or to discuss how these changes impact your plans.

Links:

Updated Model COBRA Notices from the USDOL

 


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.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.
AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

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