HHS recently issued guidance, in a Q&A format, to clarify when the HIPAA privacy rules apply to disclosures and requests for information about an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status. Among other questions, the guidance addresses whether HIPAA prohibits an employer from requiring its employees to disclose to the employer whether they have received a COVID-19 vaccination. In its answer, HHS confirms the important distinction under HIPAA between (i) an individual’s health information an employer receives in its capacity as the plan sponsor of its group health plan (generally, a “covered entity” under HIPAA), and (ii) individualized health information received by the employer in its capacity as an employer (i.e., as related to employment functions referred to by HIPAA as “employment records”). HHS confirmed that HIPAA does not apply to employment records and thus does not regulate the information, such as vaccination status, employers are permitted to request from employees as part of… Continue Reading
ERISA Lawsuit Alleging Worker Misclassification Is A Reminder to Employers to Monitor Their Employee Classifications
A plaintiff recently filed suit against Yum! Brands, Inc. (“Yum”), Taco Bell Corp. (“Taco Bell,” together with Yum referred to herein as, the “Employers”), and various other defendants under ERISA over the alleged misclassification of his employment status. The complaint states that common law employees were eligible to participate in certain retirement plans maintained by the Employers (collectively, the “Plans”) pursuant to the Plans’ governing documents. The plaintiff alleges he met the common law test for employee status but was classified as an independent contractor, instead of an employee, during his 25 years of employment. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that during the relevant employment periods, the Employers controlled the work he performed and the manner and means by which he performed his work, such as by directing the specific order and sequence of his work and requiring him to attend employee-only events and meetings. The plaintiff further alleges that other… Continue Reading
In our prior blog post here, we discussed the case of Anastos v. IKEA Property, Inc., which highlighted the importance of an employer?ÇÖs understanding of how its group term life insurance coverage is impacted by changes in employment status, such as termination of employment, retirement, or a leave of absence. This understanding is necessary for the employer to correctly communicate to employees when life insurance coverage will end, when evidence of insurability will be required, and the requirements necessary to convert coverage. In Anastos, the employer drafted its retiree benefit plan to state that eligible retirees could continue life insurance and that, in most cases, coverage would be guaranteed with no medical certification required. When a retiree attempted to obtain this coverage, the employer admitted that its plan was misleading and that it could not obtain underwriting to provide that kind of life insurance continuation benefit. The retiree sued, and… Continue Reading
The safe harbor rules for hardship withdrawals from a retirement plan permit such withdrawals for expenses and losses incurred by a participant due to a natural disaster declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (?Ç£FEMA?Ç¥) under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, provided the participant?ÇÖs principal residence or principal place of employment at the time of the disaster was located in an area designated by FEMA for individual assistance related to that disaster. FEMA issued a series of disaster declarations as a result of the February 2021 winter storms that impacted portions of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. A list of counties that have been designated by FEMA for individual assistance in those states can be found on FEMA?ÇÖs website here. Those disaster declarations mean that affected participants may be eligible for hardship distributions from their 401(k) plan accounts. Plan sponsors with participants who live or work… Continue Reading
Our world is filled with paper and electronic records, and the HR departments at most companies are no exception. Enrollment forms, notices, plan documents, summary plan descriptions, benefit statements, and service records are just a few of the records that fill the HR department?ÇÖs file cabinets and computer storage. While it might be tempting to clean out files, plan sponsors should exercise care before disposing of any files relating to benefits under a plan. A clean desk today could create headaches tomorrow. Generally, ERISA requires an employer to retain plan records to support plan filings, including the annual Form 5500, for at least six years from the filing date (ERISA ?º107) and to maintain records for each employee sufficient to determine the benefits due or that may become due to such employee (ERISA ?º209), with no time limit on such requirement. In addition, HIPAA requires retention of the policies and… Continue Reading
Pursuant to Section 274 of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, the IRS recently issued Notice 2021-11 which extends the repayment dates for the payroll tax deferral relief provided under IRS Notice 2020-65 (discussed in our prior blog post here). Under IRS Notice 2020-65, deferred employment taxes had to be withheld and remitted to the IRS in substantially equivalent installments from wages or other compensation paid to employees between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021, with interest and penalties on unpaid deferred taxes beginning to accrue on May 1, 2021. Under Notice 2021-11, the timing for withholding and payment of these taxes is extended through December 31, 2021, and the date that interest and penalties begin to accrue on unpaid deferred taxes is delayed until January 1, 2022. Notice 2021-11 is available here.
Employee Payroll Tax Holiday or Looming Tax Nightmare: Unanswered Questions on the Payroll Tax Deferral Executive Order
Employee Payroll Tax Holiday or Looming Tax Nightmare: Unanswered Questions on the Payroll Tax Deferral Executive Order.
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the ?Ç£CARES Act?Ç¥). This historic $2 trillion relief package received bipartisan support and is part of the third wave of federal government support as the nation copes with the acute economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some of the key provisions of the CARES Act that apply to health and welfare plans, educational assistance programs, retirement plans, executive compensation programs, and employment and payroll taxes are outlined below. Health and Welfare Plans Q1. What COVID-19 testing and treatment is our company?ÇÖs employer-sponsored group health plan required to cover? The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (?Ç£FFCRA?Ç¥) requires an employer-sponsored group health plan (including a grandfathered plan under the Affordable Care Act (?Ç£ACA?Ç¥)) (a ?Ç£Plan?Ç¥) to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services related to the diagnostic testing without any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and… Continue Reading
Once an employer is comfortable it can handle some exposure to fluctuating claims costs, it may opt to self-insure its group health plan in order to save money in the long run by avoiding paying the profit margin insurance carriers build into the premiums of fully-insured coverage. Some employers will forego some of the expected savings and purchase stop-loss coverage from an insurance carrier to help limit claims cost volatility. Under a stop-loss insurance policy, the insurance carrier will reimburse claims costs that exceed an agreed-upon dollar threshold. The employer is usually the insured on the stop-loss policy, although sometimes the group health plan itself is the insured under the policy instead. There are two primary types of stop-loss coverage: (i) individual; and (ii) aggregate. Stop-loss coverage will always include individual stop-loss and frequently includes aggregate coverage. (i) Individual stop-loss ?Çô Also referred to as specific stop-loss, individual stop-loss coverage… Continue Reading
As we have detailed in this blog and elsewhere, the National Labor Relations Board (?Ç£NLRB?Ç¥ or the ?Ç£Board?Ç¥) made social media cases a priority in 2011.?á As demonstrated in a recent memorandum released by the Board?ÇÖs Acting General Counsel, this trend is set to continue in 2012.?á Memorandum OM 12-31 summarizes 14 recent social media complaints received by the Board, and details the General Counsel?ÇÖs conclusions on each case.?á While the report reiterates many of the Board?ÇÖs previous pronouncements regarding social media, it also raises new questions about employer regulation of employee social media use, as well as permissible social media policy language. A New Standard to Evaluate Employee Social Media Comments? Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (?Ç£NLRA?Ç¥) gives employees the right, among other things, ?Ç£to engage in . . . concerted activities for the purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection?Ç¥ (emphasis… Continue Reading