Showing posts with label employee benefits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label employee benefits. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Employers are making new dog ownership a little less ruff by offering “pawternity” leave

In three days, my family grows by one. We’re adding a puppy.

My wife and kids have been clamoring for a new dog for a year. Loula (our current dog) is seven years old, and they don’t want to be in a position of not having a dog in our family. Plus, we don’t want to wait until Loula’s too old to tolerate the energy of a new puppy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New surveys reveal that most employees favor paid leave and flexible schedules

America remains the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate some level of paid maternity and/or family leave for employees. Meanwhile, while the FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave, many will tell you that benefit is woefully inadequate for employees. Indeed, more than 40 percent of employees are not covered by the FMLA and are not eligible to take FMLA leave.
Thus, the results of a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center should surprise few.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Swapping DNA for lower insurance costs is one wellness step too far

It is no secret that health care costs for employers and their employees are out of control. Many employers have attempted to hold down these rising costs by offering wellness-program incentives. The EEOC has signed off on these programs as legal as long as employee participation remains voluntary, which the agency defines as financial incentives for employee participation at or below 30 percent of the cost of coverage. Thus, employees have a choice—participate in the wellness program, or pay a surcharge of up to 30 percent.

One area that has remained off limits for employers under these wellness programs, however, has been genetic testing and other personal and family medical histories. A new bill moving through the House of Representatives, however, aims to change that.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Paw-ternity leave is a great idea, but please don’t forget about us humans

This is Loula, our vizsla.

We love our dog. And, when we brought her home four summers ago, it was a great benefit to our family that my wife had yet to return to work. She was home for Loula’s first two months, to acclimate her to our house and family. What if, however, you lack the luxury of not working during your puppy’s first few weeks at home?

BrewDog, a Scottish brewery set to open up in Columbus this Spring, has your answer—paw-ternity leave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

OSHA publishes final rule on whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act

As I’ve previously documented in this space, OSHA does a whole lot more than just regulate workplace safety. Its other responsibilities include enforcing the anti-retaliation whistleblower protections of a veritable alphabet soup of federal laws.

One such law is the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare). And, just last week OSHA published its final rule on whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act, available for download as a pdf here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Why the DOL’s federal contractor paid sick leave rules matter for all employers

Last week, the Department of Labor rolled out its final regulations mandating paid sick leave for the employees of federal contractors. According to the DOL, Once fully implemented, more than one million employees of federal contractors will be covered. At the highest of levels, the rule mandates that covered workers earn up to 56 hours (7 work days) of paid sick leave annually. Notably, the rule does not apply retroactively, and only applies to new federal contracts and replacements for expiring contracts on or after January 1, 2017.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

When COBRA and workers’ comp collide

Every now and again I get a question from a client to which I don’t know the answer, or the answer surprises me. It doesn’t happen that often, and when it does I’m man enough to admit it.

Yesterday I received just such a question. Must an employer continue the health insurance of an employee out of work with a workers’ compensation injury?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

EEOC’s final rules on employer wellness programs provides clear path for employers

Yesterday, the EEOC published its long-awaited rules that describe how the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act apply to wellness programs offered by employers that request health information from employees and their spouses. Both rules take effect July 18, 2017.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ohio introduces paid-sick-leave legislation

sick daysThere is little argument that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the civilized world on paid sick leave. As the federal government has failed to act on this issue for all but a small minority of federal-contractor employees, the state and local governments have started to pick up the slack.

Now, Ohio is considering getting in the game. H.B. 511—the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Benefits Act [pdf]—would, in essence, create state-administered short-term disability insurance for employees who need time off for an FMLA-covered reason.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Is it illegal to “right size” employees to avoid ACA obligations?

In the past six months, I’ve had more questions from clients about group health insurance than I’ve had in the first 18 years of my practice combined. All of the questions start the same: “Our health insurance premiums are out of control. How do we…?”, finished by some inquiry about moving older workers to Medicare, or shifting high-cost workers to the exchange, or some other machination to avoid the Affordable Care Act.

The reality, however, is that the ACA makes it pretty damn hard to move high-cost employees off of your health insurance to combat out-of-control (and still rising) insurance costs.

Dave & Buster’s thought it had the answer—reducing employees from full-time to part-time.

Last month, however, the district court hearing an employee-challenge to this insurance “right sizing” handed round one to the employees.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Feds say you can't force high-cost employees onto Health Care Exchange

Do you have an employee with a high-cost medical condition? For example, an employee with hemophilia could incur hundreds of thousands or dollars or more in medical costs per year. That one employee could be catastrophic for the overall cost of your company’s group health plan. As a result, many employers are taking advantage of Obamacare’s health-care exchanges by paying these employees to secure their own private medical insurance.

This practice, however, may be changing, and it’s not for the better. According to TLNT, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury have jointly warned employers not to dump high-cost employees from group health plans:

As employers try to minimize expenses under the health law, the Obama Administration has warned them against paying high-cost workers to leave the company medical plan and buy coverage elsewhere. Such a move would unlawfully discriminate against employees based on their health status….

The Affordable Care Act requires exchange plans to accept all applicants at pre-established prices, regardless of existing illness. Because most large employers are self-insured, moving even one high-cost worker out of the company plan could save a company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. That’s far more than the $10,000 or so it might give an employee to pay for an exchange plan’s premiums….

The Affordable Care Act itself doesn’t block companies from paying sick workers to find coverage elsewhere…. But other laws do, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Public Health Service Act, according to three federal agencies. Specifically, paying a sick worker to leave the company plan violates those statutes’ restrictions on discriminating against employees based on medical status, the departments said in their bulletin.

I understand how dropping an ill employee from health coverage because of a medical condition would violate a variety of laws, including the ADA. But, in these cases, employers are not “dropping” employees. Instead, they are merely shifting coverage from an employer-sponsored plan to a government-sponsored plan. The cost to the employee, and the coverage available to the employee, should not change. If the cost and coverage does not change, this practice should not violate any laws.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

EEOC files historic lawsuit challenging biometric testing by employers

It’s no secret that health insurance costs are out of control. To help combat this surge, many employers have turned to biometric testing for their employees. Biometric testing is part of corporate wellness programs where employees measure certain levels, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, for breaks on insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

If the Affordable Care Act expressly permits this testing, then why is the EEOC claiming that Honeywell’s biometric testing program violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act?

On Monday, the EEOC filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order declaring Honeywell’s biometric testing illegal. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, ­Honeywell’s program creates up to $4,000 in penalties for employees unless they and their spouses take blood and medical tests that can identify smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other health problems. The Minneapolis Star Tribune quotes an EEOC attorney, who said, “Honeywell’s tests and threatened penalties go too far because they are not job-related and are not consistent with any business necessity…. They can only do that in ­situations where it’s ­voluntary for the employee to answer.”

For its part, Honeywell has called the lawsuit “frivolous”

The Chicago EEOC office is unfamiliar with the details of our wellness programs and woefully out of step with the healthcare marketplace…. The incentives we provide are specifically sanctioned by two separate Federal statutes—HIPAA and the ACA. Honeywell’s wellness plan incentives are in strict compliance with both HIPAA and the ACA’s guidelines, which were designed by Congress to encourage healthier lifestyles while helping to control healthcare costs. No Honeywell employee has ever been denied healthcare coverage or disciplined in any way as a result of their voluntary decision not to participate in our wellness programs…. We’re proud to provide employees with the opportunity to lead healthier lifestyles and are disappointed that the EEOC would take a position that is so contrary to a fundamental component of the President’s health care plan, legislation passed by Congress, and the desire of all Americans to lead healthier lives.

Because the EEOC is seeking a TRO, I would expect this case to unfold quickly. I will keep everyone updated as this important story develops. Special thanks to Kate Bischoff for brining this to my attention.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hear me on The CYA Report discussing Hobby Lobby

Today we’re going to try something a little different. Usually, you get to read my thoughts on the employment law issues of the day. Today, you get to hear my voice, waxing philosophical on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Last week, Kris Dunn (old friend, and proprietor of, among other things, The HR Capitalist) asked if I’d appear on his podcast, The CYA Report, to discuss the case.

Kris and I discussed: What does Hobby Lobby mean? Are corporations people? And, what employment law areas can we expect its holding to challenge?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

FAMILY Act would provide paid leave for employees

Tony Soprano once said, “Family: they’re the only ones you can depend on.” If Congressional Democrats get their wish, American workers will be able to depend on the FAMILY Act to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year for the birth or adoption of a new child, the serious illness of an immediate family member, or a worker’s own medical condition.

Late last week, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced H.R. 3712—the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of 2013 (aka, the FAMILY Act).

Five years ago, Ohio tried to enact its own paid sick leave law—the Healthy Families Act. At that time, I strongly opposed the OHFA, not because I’m against paid leave for employees, but because it was expensive for employers and would have labeled Ohio as unfriendly to businesses.

Here’s the key difference between the FAMILY Act, and Ohio’s old plan. The paid leave employees would receive under the FAMILY Act does not come out of ordinary payroll. It’s essentially an insurance benefit, paid by a nominal 0.2 percent payroll tax shared equally by the employer and the employee. As a result, employees would be eligible to collect paid-leave insurance benefits equal to 66 percent of their typical monthly wages, with a capped maximum of $1,000 per week for up to 12 weeks per year.

This solution seems like a win-win. The United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee working mothers paid time off after childbirth. This legislation would bring us up to par with the rest of the civilized world without imposing a significant monetary penalty on employers. I expect partisan lobbying on this bill, which could prevent it from progressing. That would be a shame, since I view the FAMILY Act as a business-friendly approach to solving one of our workplaces’ nagging problems.

[Hat tip: Eric Meyer]

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

More companies offer pet insurance as an employee benefit

We love our pets. This year, it is estimated that we will spend more than $55 billion on them. More than $14 billion of that total will be for veterinary care alone. Vet bills are expensive, and often unplanned and unbudgeted. Given our emotional attachment to our pets, we pay them, regardless of the cost. To mitigate the unexpected nature of these costs, after losing our last dog we opted for vet insurance for our current one.

Corporate America is following suit by beginning to offer pet insurance as an employee benefit.

According to Yahoo, one out of every three of the Fortune 500, plus 3,400 other smaller companies, now offer pet insurance as a benefit to their employees. Ohio employers offering this benefit include Procter & Gamble, Cliffs Natural Resources, and Quest Diagnostics.

Employee recruitment and retention is difficult. Companies struggle to locate, attract, and retain the best employees. Thinking outside the box with employee benefits is one way to attract, and keep, good employees.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is your wellness program discriminatory?

It is no secret that health care costs for employers and their employees are out of control in this country. Many employers have attempted to hold down these rising costs by offering wellness-program incentives — insurance premium reductions to employees who meet certain health-related incentives such as tobacco-use cessation, BMI goals, or minimum cholesterol levels.

Yesterday, however, the Obama administration made these wellness incentives more difficult for employers to implement. Pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, the administration issued final regulations on Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans [pdf].

Among other restrictions, these regulations require companies to provide “reasonable alternatives” to employees who cannot meet health benchmarks but still want the discounts. The regulations further clarify that this “reasonable alternative” standard is different than an ADA-required reasonable accommodation, and providing a reasonable alternative to achieve a wellness-program incentive does not mean that an employer has met its obligations under the ADA. Note that earlier this month, the EEOC held a public meeting discussing the treatment of employer wellness programs under the ADA.

These new rules will affect all group health plans for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014.

If you are among the many of employers that has implemented a wellness program, these regulations are required reading to ensure that your program meets these new nondiscrimination rules.

Monday, March 22, 2010

House passes Health Care Bill – What does this mean for employers?

I have not read any version of the health care bill. In fact, anyone outside of Capitol Hill, the White House, lobbyists, or some major news agencies who tells you otherwise is probably lying to you. So, I don’t have a lot to say about this legislation. In fact, I’m not embarrassed to say that I have not yet formed an opinion pro or con about it. What is embarrassing is the partisan politics that this issue has created. No one can honestly say that they are in favor of the bill because they are blue or against it because they are red. They are dishonest opinions based solely on party lines.

So, what can I tell you about this legislation? Employers are not required to provide health insurance to their employees. Instead, employers with 50 or more employees who do not provide health insurance will be fined $2,000 per employee. Employers smaller than 50 employees likely will not feel much of an effect from these changes.

For more on this important issue, I recommend reading Dan Schwartz’s post at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Expansion and extension of COBRA subsidy

President Obama has enacted legislation that both expands and extends the original federal COBRA subsidy created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. If you recall, employees who were involuntarily terminated prior to December 31, 2009, received a 65% subsidy of their COBRA premiums for up to nine months. The new legislation:

  • Expands the total allowable time an individual can claim the COBRA subsidy by six months (from nine to 15 months); and

  • Extends the subsidy to individuals who are involuntarily terminated between January 1, 2010, and February 28, 2010.

The legislation also includes two new notification requirements for plan administrators within 60 days:

  • To any individual who was eligible for the COBRA subsidy or who becomes eligible for COBRA at any time on or after October 31, 2009, notice of the expanded benefits.

  • To any individuals who lost their subsidy because they reached the 9-month limit and failed to make timely payments of COBRA premiums thereafter, notice regarding the expanded benefits, including information on the ability to make retroactive premium payments.

Employers will have to amend their current COBRA paperwork to reflect these changes. Dan Schwartz at Connecticut Employment Law lists 5 steps employers should be taking now, in light of these changes:

    1. Compile a list of individuals who are currently receiving the COBRA subsidy. Those individuals are going to need to be informed that the period is going to be extended by 15 months and that to receive the subsidy they will need to continue to pay the premium as they have.

    2. Compile a list of individuals who were receiving the COBRA subsidy but whose nine months of eligibility had expired. For those individuals, they will need to be informed that they can "re-start" COBRA. Sample notices from the DOL should be available for this purpose in the next few days.

    3. Compile a list of individuals are COBRA eligible, but who were not going to receive the COBRA subsidy because the time period was going to expire beforehand. This will typically include those who were terminated within the last month, who were likely continuing on the employer's health plan until December 31, 2009. Those individuals will now need to receive new notices that they will be eligible for the COBRA subsidy; again, the DOL should be preparing sample notices in the next few days.

    4. In the interim, employers may want to send out a letter to all such individuals informing them that changes are on the way and that you will be providing them with updates as they become available. This might keep your HR staff a little less busy answering phone calls and give them some more time to comply with this law.

    5. Going forward for the next 75 days or so, employers will need to inform those who are laid off that they may be eligible for this COBRA subsidy. Again, those terminated by 2/28/10 will be eligible regardless of when the actual COBRA period is scheduled to begin.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ohio makes significant changes to its mini-COBRA law, effective April 1, 2009

More ink has been spilled about COBRA in the past two months than was written about it in total since its passage in 1985. And, the hits keep on coming. On April 1, 2009, Governor Strickland signed Sub. H.B.2, which amended Ohio’s mini-COBRA law, which makes health care continuation coverage available to employees of businesses with less than 20 employees.

Under the amended law, group health policies that are issued, delivered, or amended on or after April 2, 2009, must include the following changes:

  • Continuation coverage is extended from 6 months to 12 months.
  • Entitlement to unemployment compensation is no longer required to be eligible for continuation coverage .
  • Employees merely must be involuntarily terminated, other than for gross misconduct (mirroring the federal COBRA requirement).
  • If the group coverage includes prescription drug coverage, the continuation coverage must also include it.

Because continuation coverage has been extended to up to 12 months, Ohio employees of small businesses will now be eligible to receive the entire 9 months of federal subsidy under the federal stimulus bill. Small employers are not responsible for paying any portion of the premiums. The ex-employee will pay 35% out of pocket, and the insurance company will claim the IRS payroll tax credit for the remaining 65%.

For more information, the Ohio Department of Insurance issued detailed guidance. It has also available for download a model Continuation Coverage Election Notice.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Applying the federal COBRA subsidy to Ohio’s Mini-COBRA law

As I’ve previously reported, the federal stimulus bill, enacted last month, requires employers to provide a 65% subsidy of COBRA premiums for employees involuntarily separated. As I’ve also previously reported, Ohio has its own “mini-COBRA” for small employers with between 10 and 19 employees.

Do not assume, however, that merely because COBRA does not apply to small businesses that the subsidy also does not apply to small businesses. The federal stimulus bill specifically provides for COBRA premium assistance to former employees covered under state continuation coverage law such as Ohio’s mini-COBRA.

Just like its federal counterpart, small employers covered by Ohio’s mini-COBRA are not obligated to pay any portion of the premium. The former employee will pay 35% of the premium and employer will claim the payroll tax credit from the IRS for the 65% of the premium not paid by the former employee.

There are, however, three key differences between the subsidy under COBRA versus Ohio’s mini-COBRA.

  1. Although the federal subsidy lasts for 9 months, Ohio continuation coverage, and therefore the subsidy obligation, only extends for 6 months.

  2. To be eligible for the subsidy under COBRA, an employee need only have been involuntarily terminated for a reason other than gross misconduct. To be eligible for the subsidy under Ohio’s mini-COBRA, the employee must have been involuntarily terminated and: (i) continuously insured for the 3 months prior to the termination; (ii) eligible for unemployment; and (iii) not covered or eligible for Medicare or any other group health coverage.

  3. Under COBRA, the federal subsidy is retroactive to September 1, 2008. In comparison, Ohio’s mini-COBRA only covers terminations that occur on or after February 17, 2009. Both subsidies expire at the end of this year.

The Ohio Department of Insurance has published a model COBRA notice for small employers to use.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or