As part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have recently provided relief to benefit plan sponsors by moving back certain upcoming plan compliance deadlines. See further below for a detailed list of the specific relief. IRS Notice 2020-23 provides that if any deadline would occur between April 1 and July 14, that deadline is automatically moved back until July 15, 2020, and this extension applies to a list of 44 employee benefit plan-related deadlines. The IRS notice triggered the PBGC’s disaster relief policy, which automatically extends certain PBGC deadlines that occur in the same April 1 to July 14 time period to July 15, 2020.

Additional relief was announced on April 28, in the form of a joint notice ( Joint Notice) issued by EBSA, IRS and the Treasury Department, which extended a number of deadlines for benefit plans and participants in accordance with CARES Act changes to ERISA Section 518. The Joint Notice’s relief applies to the “Outbreak Period,” the length of time beginning on March 1, 2020, and ending 60 days after the announcement that the COVID-19 National Emergency is over. On the same day, EBSA issued Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 (Disaster Relief Notice). The Disaster Relief Notice clarified EBSA’s enforcement stance on certain fiduciary duties that plan sponsors have by extending deadlines. The Disaster Relief Notice also stated that the Outbreak Period extension, described in the Joint Notice, also applies to the distribution timelines for notices, disclosures, and other documents that Title I of ERISA requires plans to distribute to participants and beneficiaries. EBSA also released an FAQ which explains some of the relief provided by the Joint Notice and Disaster Relief Notice.


Continue Reading IRS, EBSA and PBGC Provide Further COVID-19 Relief for Benefit Plans

Bass, Berry & Sims has provided updated guidance on the employment-related provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the FFCRA regarding providing Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) benefits under the Act. This guidance includes answers to some

As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, it’s imperative to prioritize the rapidly evolving state and federal level regulations and act accordingly to ensure your business is complying, but also accessing available federal and state assistance. In an effort to help navigate the unique challenges government contractors face during this time, our attorneys will

I recently explained how employers can legally respond when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 in an article for the Washington Business Journal. Many employers think the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) protects employee health information, but that pertains specifically to health providers.

For employers, the Americans with Disabilities Act, protects the privacy of a workers health records and information, so employers may ask employees if they’ve tested positive for the coronavirus, but must keep that information confidential in accordance with the ADA.

When it comes to taking an employee’s temperature, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to get thermometer readings given the potential direct threat to others who could be exposed. I advised in the article to “treat this like a real medical test,” and go to a private room to take someone’s temperature and keep results completely confidential in that employee’s medical file.


Continue Reading Working in the Age of the Coronavirus

Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Davidson French, Bob Horton and Kimberly Veirs recently presented a Middle Tennessee Society for Human Resource Management’s (MTSHRM) webinar.

The webinar, entitled “Update on Federal Legislation in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic Impacting Employers,” reviewed the latest DOL guidance for employers implementing the provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act

Since the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), many healthcare organizations, especially those with a structure that includes a friendly or captive PC model, have struggled to determine whether they may aggregate employees across all affiliated entities to reach the 500-employee threshold that exempts employers from the paid leave requirements of the FFCRA.

However, based on rolling FFCRA guidance recently issued by the Department of Labor (DOL), employers of healthcare providers may exclude such employees captured by the DOL’s definition of healthcare provider from paid leave benefits under the FFCRA.  Because of the broad scope of the definition of healthcare provider recently provided by the DOL, many healthcare organizations and even those entities that provide services to healthcare organizations may be able to exclude all of their employees from paid leave benefits under the FFCRA regardless of whether they meet the 500-employee threshold.


Continue Reading DOL Offers Definition of Healthcare Provider under FFCRA

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the new stimulus package recently passed by Congress, includes a “union neutrality” mandate for mid-sized employers who accept loan proceeds.  This union neutrality commitment would be in place for the life of the loan.  Mid-sized employers are defined as those with 500 to 10,000 employees.

For many years, to assist their organizing efforts, unions have demanded of certain multi-state employers that they commit to “stay neutral” in union organizing campaigns at other company sites.  Such neutrality demands have included asking the employer not to express opinions which disfavor the union’s organizing efforts, or not to hold captive audience speeches during the union’s organizing drive, or to accept a showing of majority status by way of checking authorization cards (i.e., that the employer not demand a secret-ballot election to determine if the union has majority support).


Continue Reading Employers Beware – Union Neutrality Requirements in New Stimulus Package