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

In a Law360 article, I provided insight on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed regulations on retirement plans that would make it easier for companies to join existing retirement plans or join forces to generate new ones – which has the potential to broaden the availability of workplace retirement plans to allowing small businesses. Under the proposed regulations, “a group of unrelated employers could now have a single ERISA plan,” I explained.

Continue Reading DOL Proposes Easing Retirement Plan Regulations

We recognize that many of our clients sponsor ERISA welfare benefit plans and are currently undergoing their open enrollment process and issuing related participant communications. To assist our clients with that process, we have prepared an Automatic Participant Disclosures Checklist for use during open enrollment and throughout the plan year.

If you have questions regarding the information in this checklist, please contact any of the attorneys in our Employee Benefits Practice Group.

Download Document – 2018 Welfare Plan Disclosure Checklist

On August 31, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order authorizing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to evaluate expanding access to 401(k) retirement plans. The order is designed to cut some of the administrative burdens and costs that prevent smaller employers from offering 401(k) plans to their employees. The Trump administration noted that in 2017, roughly 89 percent of larger employers offered retirement plans compared to only 53 percent of small employers (those with fewer than 100 employees).

The executive order directs the agencies to consider two main issues:

  1. Expanding the criteria for multiple-employer plans (MEPs), under which employees of different private-sector employers may participate in a single retirement plan; and
  2. Raising the age when individuals with traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s must start making required minimum distributions, which is currently age 70 ½.

Continue Reading Trump Seeks to Ease Rules for Multiple-Employer Retirement Plans and Required Mandatory Withdrawals