In an article published by the Nashville Business Journal, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Doug Dahl discussed student loan repayment benefits offered by employers and the IRS’s ruling last year regarding this issue.Student loan debt in the United States is escalating, and employers are finding it harder to fill open positions. In an effort to tackle both of these issues, more employers have been offering student loan repayment opportunities as part of the benefits packages they offer employees. In an article published by the Nashville Business Journal, I discussed student loan repayment benefits offered by employers and the IRS’s ruling last year regarding this issue.

For example, employers can offer student loan debt management programs that offer counseling services and access to student loan marketplaces or more favorable finance terms. In May 2018, the IRS issued a ruling allowing an employer to make contributions to its 401(k) plan on behalf of employees who make payments toward their student loan.

Continue Reading Student Loan Repayment Benefits Offered by Employers

Last Filing for Calendar Year Plans!

The annual filing (and fee payment) for applicable self-insured health plans and specified health insurance policies used to fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (the PCORI fee) is due by Wednesday, July 31, 2019. For calendar year plans and policies, this will be the last required PCORI filing and fee payment. For plan and policy years ending after December 31, 2018 and before October 1, 2019, one more filing and fee payment will be required (due July 31, 2020).

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return, is still used to report and pay (in Part II, IRS No. 133) the annual PCORI fee. The filing rules have not changed, although the applicable rate has increased to $2.45 per covered life (announced via IRS Notice 2018-85).

Continue Reading Reminder – Annual Deadline (July 31) to Report and Pay PCORI Fee is Approaching

More and more companies are implementing socially conscious workplace policies and are free to do so, as long as no discrimination occurs.More and more companies are implementing socially conscious policies on topics ranging from banning the use of plastic-ware to refusing to reimburse employees for meals that include meat or are otherwise non-vegan. Companies are generally free to implement these types of policies, as long as employees are not unlawfully discriminated against as part of the policy. I recently examined the legality of company implementation of socially conscious policies in the workplace in an article published Workplace Magazine.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and the American with Disabilities Act protects employees with disabilities; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits age discrimination. But there is no employment law protecting an employee’s right to use plastic,” I explained.

Continue Reading The Legality of Socially Conscious Workplace Policies

I was quoted in a piece published in Business Insurance discussing the Supreme Court’s review of three cases related to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Two of the cases, Melissa Zarda et al. v. Altitude Express and Gerald Lynn Bostock V. Clayton County, will be heard together. Both cases include employees contending they were fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation.

The third case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will be heard separately. In that case, the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati ruled in favor of a transgender worker who was fired when she told her funeral home employer she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female.

Continue Reading Three Supreme Court Cases Seeking Protection for LGBT Employees

The Supreme Court ruled on April 24, 2019 that an arbitration agreement which is ambiguous as to whether the parties had agreed to class arbitration was insufficient to require a party to participate in class arbitration.

In the 2011 case Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. Animal Feeds Int’l Corp., 559 U.S. 662 (2011) the Supreme Court decided that “silence” in an arbitration agreement regarding the issue of class arbitration meant that a party could not be compelled to engage in class arbitration.  In the more recent case of Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, an employee had sought to compel his employer to arbitrate on a class basis claims arising out of the release of personal data belonging to its employees.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules on Enforcement of Class Arbitration

Join us in Nashville on January 29 for a complimentary seminar reviewing 2018 employment law developments and looking forward to issues likely to be further addressed in 2019.

7:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. Registration and Breakfast 
8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Program

This event will be held at our Nashville Bass, Berry & Sims office.

Topics will include: Continue Reading EVENT: Labor and Employment Law Update – 2018 in Review and What’s to Come in 2019

On November 29, we participated in a webinar sponsored by Bright Horizons about employer-sponsored student loan repayment benefits. In order to help employees faced with mounting student debt, employers are offering creative solutions that help attract and retain workers. Earlier this year, healthcare company Abbott announced a program in which the company will contribute 5% of employees’ pay to their 401(k) as long as the employee pays at least 2% of his/her salary toward student loan debt.

This creative approach has benefits all-around. However, implementing these types of programs will require work on the part of employers. Susie cautioned that “such plans will need, among other things, processes for enrollment and opting out.” Doug added that “There are going to be administrative hurdles. So finding a knowledgeable third party administrator is going to be helpful for anyone trying to implement these.”

Bright Horizons provided a full recap of the webinar on their blog, “Student Loan Repayment Programs and 401(K)s: What You Need to Know.

As the end of the calendar year approaches, sponsors of qualified retirement plans should consider whether their plan documents require updates to comply with important legal changes and deadlines. Below is a summary of some key legal developments that may impact your plan:

Continue Reading Qualified Retirement Plans: Recent Updates and Action Items

In an article published by Managed Healthcare Executive, I discussed the potential impact of a recently proposed regulation from the U.S. Departments of the Treasury, Health and Human Services and Labor that expands the usability of health reimbursement arrangements (HRA). The new rule as proposed would apply for most health plans beginning January 1, 2020, and would be particularly beneficial to employees of small employers who are not required to offer health plan coverage to their full-time employees under the ACA. Continue Reading Looser Restrictions on HRAs on the Horizon