DOL Launches Benefits Compliance Tools

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The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) of the Department of Labor (DOL) has developed compliance assistance resources to help protect employee benefits. EBSA announced that its goal is to help workers by restoring plan assets and securing the payment of promised benefits, and to help employee benefit officials understand the law.

ebsa-launches-fiduciary-compliance-toolsThese tools give employee benefit plans the ability to self-correct violations, and further the goals of the recently announced Office of Compliance Initiatives (OCI) to encourage and facilitate compliance, according to the agency.

  • The Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program explains what corrective action is required and provides a mechanism for relief from enforcement actions and excise taxes under the Internal Revenue Code for 19 separate categories of fiduciary violations.
  • The Delinquent Filer Voluntary Correction Program explains the steps plan administrators who are filing overdue mandatory annual reports can take to avoid higher civil penalty assessments.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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OSHA Top Ten Safety Violations Welcome Newcomer

After years of a static Top Ten Safety Violations list from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the annual count has welcomed a newcomer: eye and face protection, which came in at number 10 and bumped out the electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment category.

osha-top-ten-safety-violationsThe top of the list remains unchanged, with fall protection registering 7,270 violations, according to Patrick Kapust, Washington, D.C.-based deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, who presented the list at the National Safety Council Congress and Expo in Houston.

Rounding out the list are:

2. Hazard communication: 4,552 violations

3. Scaffolding: 3,336 violations

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Proposed Rule Allows Employees to Purchase Health Insurance with HRAs

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The Departments of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor today issued a proposed regulation that expands the usability of health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). HRAs are designed to give working Americans and their families greater control over their health care by providing an additional way for employers to finance quality, affordable health insurance.

rule-to-allow-purchase-of-health-insurance-with-HRAsThis proposed regulation is in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States,” and will benefit hundreds of thousands of businesses and millions of workers and their families in the coming years.

HRAs allow employers to reimburse their employees for medical expenses in a tax-favored way. Current regulations, issued by the previous administration, prohibit employers from using HRAs to reimburse employees for the cost of individual health insurance coverage. Undoing that prohibition, the proposed regulation would permit HRAs to reimburse employees for the cost of individual health insurance coverage, subject to certain conditions. These conditions mitigate the risk that health-based discrimination could increase adverse selection in the individual market, and include a disclosure provision to ensure employees understand the benefit.

Because medical expense reimbursements from HRAs are tax-preferred, HRAs — that workers and their families use to purchase coverage of their choosing — provide the same tax advantage enjoyed by traditional employer-sponsored coverage. The proposed regulation would not alter the tax treatment of traditional employer-sponsored coverage. It would merely create a new tax-preferred option for employers of any size to use when funding employee health coverage. While the employer would fund the cost of individual health insurance coverage, the employee would own the coverage, allowing the employee to keep the coverage even if he or she left the employer and was no longer covered by the HRA.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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OSHA to Target Firms that Failed to Submit Electronic Data

Firms that failed to submit their 2016 Form 300A injury and illness reporting data electronically will be the target of a special emphasis program by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), meaning “prepare for an unexpected visit.”

Trump-OSHA-targets-non-filersThe construction industry and businesses with fewer than 20 employees are exempt from the program known as Site-Specific Targeting 2016 (SST-16), which began last week.

Businesses will be selected at random from those that failed to submit data and will be joined by other firms targeted for their high DART (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred) rates. The lists will then be shared with regional administrators and with administrators of state-run OSHA programs.

The agency will continue with its nine current National Emphasis Programs focusing on lead, shipbuilding, trenching/excavations, process safety management, hazardous machinery, hexavalent chromium, primary metal industries and combustible dust, as well as its 100 or so Regional and Local Emphasis Programs in place today.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Worksite Health Clinics Growing in Number and Popularity

A full one-third (33%) of U.S. employers with 5,000 or more employees offered general medical worksite clinics in 2017, up from 24% in 2012. This is according to a survey from Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and career. The Mercer Survey on Worksite Medical Clinics 2018 was conducted in collaboration with the National Association of Worksite Health Centers (NAWHC), a non-profit trade association for employers who sponsor worksite clinics.

worksite-health-clinics-growingSome of the nation’s major corporations that have opened or are opening onsite health clinics include Apple, Amazon and Utz Quality Foods.

Worksite clinics focused on occupational health are still slightly more prevalent (38%), but not growing as fast as those offering general medical services. While just 16% of organizations with 500-4,999 employees currently provide a general medical clinic, another 8% say they will add one by 2019 .

“More and more employers are finding measurable value in providing high quality healthcare and patient experience via worksite clinics,” said David Keyt, Worksite Clinics Consulting Group Leader, Mercer.

“Given the high rates of employee satisfaction and utilization, I think we will continue to see growth in offerings of clinics and expansion of the health services that clinics provide.”

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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CMS Expands Flexibility in ACA Waivers

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of the Treasury today issued new guidance so states can move their insurance markets away from the one-size-fits-all rules and regulations imposed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and increase choice and competition within their insurance markets.

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ACA Open Enrollment begins Nov. 1

The new guidance grants states more flexibility to design alternatives to the ACA and to give Americans more options to get health coverage that better meets their needs. Under this new policy, states will be able to pursue waivers to improve their insurance markets, increase affordable coverage options for their residents, and ensure that people with pre-existing conditions are protected.

These waivers are called State Relief and Empowerment Waivers to reflect this new direction and opportunity.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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DOL Launches New Online Compliance Resources

The Department of Labor (DOL) today announced the launch of the New and Small Business Assistance and the Compliance Assistance Toolkits webpages. These new online tools assist American small businesses and workers with simple, straightforward resources that provide critical Wage and Hour Division (WHD) information, as well as links to other resources, according to the announcement of the launch.

dol-launches-compliance-tools-onlineThe webpages were established in response to feedback received from new and small business stakeholders voicing their need for a centralized location to secure the tools and information they need to comply with federal labor laws. These new webpages provide the most relevant publications and answer the questions most frequently asked by new and small business owners. These tools, in conjunction with worker.gov and employer.gov, ensure greater understanding of federal requirements and provide tools to help employers find resources offered by other regulatory agencies.

“The Wage and Hour Division has long understood that the majority of employers want to do the right thing and comply with the law, but they need to know how,” said the Wage and Hour Division’s Acting Administrator Bryan Jarrett. “These new webpages demonstrate our ongoing commitment to proactively help employers comply with the law and provide them the tools they need to understand their responsibilities. We encourage all employers to visit these new webpages and reach out to us for assistance at any time.”

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Proposed New Overtime Rules Now Due in March

The Department of Labor (DOL) initially said it expected to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on overtime in January, but in its just-released fall regulatory agenda, that date has been pushed back until March.

The agenda says the NPRM “will propose an updated salary level for exemption and seek the public’s view on the salary level and related issues.”

dol-to-issue-new-overtime-rules

Secretary Acosta meets with DOL employees

The current overtime rules on the books date to 2004 and the George W. Bush administration, and those were an update from the previous rules, which were issued in 1975.

The Barack Obama administration took a stab at rewriting the rules, which included a provision raising the salary threshold for overtime pay exemption to $47,476 a year (currently $23,660). But a federal district judge in Texas, just days before the Dec. 1, 2016 start date of the new rules, issued a nationwide injunction, questioning among other things if the DOL had the authority to use salary as a determinant.

When the Trump administration took over in 2017, that judge’s injunction was up for review by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, but Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) chose not to defend the appeal initiated under Obama. However, it later asked the court for clarification on whether using a salary threshold is permissible.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Anthem On the Hook for $16M to U.S., $115M to Consumers

As a result of a single data breach of protected health information (PHI), albeit one affecting 79 million consumers, Anthem Inc. is now being fined $16 million by the government and owes an additional $115 million to those affected, who won a class action lawsuit that was approved by a judge this past August.

anthem-fined-$16-million-for-hipaa-breachThe $16 million HIPAA violation fine is the largest ever. The $16 million settlement eclipses the previous high of $5.55 million paid to the regulatory agency, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in 2016. OCR is the branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that monitors and regulates companies governed by the HIPAA privacy and security rules.

The $115 million to consumers will cover any expenses suffered from the breach and will also provide two free years of credit monitoring and identity theft protection for all 79 million. (Those who can show they already pay for such services will receive a cash reimbursement.)

On March 13, 2015, Anthem filed a breach report with OCR detailing that, on Jan. 29, 2015, the company discovered cyber-attackers had gained access to its IT system via an undetected continuous and targeted cyberattack for the apparent purpose of extracting data, otherwise known as an advanced persistent threat attack.

After filing its breach report, Anthem discovered cyber-attackers had infiltrated its system through spear phishing emails sent to an Anthem subsidiary after at least one employee responded to the malicious email and opened the door to further attacks. OCR’s investigation revealed that between Dec. 2, 2014 and Jan. 27, 2015, the cyber-attackers stole the PHI of almost 79 million individuals, including names, social security numbers, medical identification numbers, addresses, dates of birth, email addresses, and employment information.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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11th Circuit Court Reins In OSHA

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) a setback when it ruled recently that the agency couldn’t expand a single-incident investigation into a wall-to-wall, search-everything investigation based solely on records in the company’s OSHA Log 300.

mar-jac-poultry-wins-OSHA-caseEven if these injury-illness records are filled with incidents, the court said, such “logs on their own fail to establish reasonable suspicion of … violations.”

The case, involving Mar-Jac Poultry in Georgia, began when an employee was hospitalized from an electrical panel accident. The company informed OSHA, which sent out an inspector to investigate. The inspector, citing Mar-Jac’s inclusion in a Regional Emphasis Program (REP), then obtained a warrant for a comprehensive inspection. Company officials, however, rejected the warrant and agreed only to the single-incident investigation.

Mar-Jac appealed to the magistrate who issued the warrant, and he then withdrew it. A federal district court was the next stop, and there too Mar-Jac prevailed, the court ruling that being part of a Regional Emphasis Program was not sufficient to warrant a total facility inspection.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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