The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) extends tax credits to those employers who voluntarily choose to provide paid leave benefits to employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

As you may recall, beginning January 1, 2021, employers with fewer than 500 employees could voluntarily provide paid leave to employees according to the FFCRA for certain qualifying reasons and receive tax credits for the paid leave.  The ARPA has extended employers’ eligibility for tax credits through September 30, 2021.  However, the ARPA contains new non-discrimination rules stating that FFCRA tax credits will not be made available to employers who discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees, full-time employees, or employees on the basis of tenure.

The ARPA also expanded the list of qualifying reasons for taking paid leave under the FFCRA.


Continue Reading ARPA Extends Tax Credits for Employers and Expands Qualifications for FFCRA Leave

Join us for a virtual seminar in which Bass, Berry & Sims labor & employment attorneys will address a broad range of recent employment law developments and anticipated issues significant to employers and provide practical guidance for understanding the associated impacts and legal challenges.

Topics covered during the webinar will include:

  • Return to work update

Plan sponsors and plan fiduciaries, and vendors, advisors and other service providers: Take notice! The end of the special COVID-19 “Outbreak Period,” which began on March 1, 2020 and continues to apply, is nowhere in sight based on recent guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL) in the form of a Disaster Relief Notice (New Guidance).

This means that the “tolling” of a number of participant and plan deadlines did not end on February 28, 2021, as most plan sponsors and others had assumed based on prior guidance. In fact, for some participants, the tolling period could extend far out into the future. In addition, the new guidance reminds plan sponsors and plan fiduciaries of the “guiding principle” for administering employee benefit plans – act reasonably, prudently and in the interest of workers and their families. Good faith compliance with the new guidance will likely be judged on this standard.

Background

Pursuant to joint guidance issued on May 4, 2020 (Joint Guidance), the DOL and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suspended or “tolled” a number of participant and plan deadlines. The “tolled” deadlines include:

  • HIPAA Special Enrollment Notice Obligations – the 30-day period (or 60-day period, as applicable) to request special enrollment in a group health plan.
  • COBRA Notices, Elections and Premium Payments – the periods for individuals to notify the plan of certain COBRA events (e.g., a qualifying event, such as a divorce or child losing eligibility), the 60-day period for electing COBRA continuation coverage, and the 45-day (initial) and 30-day (monthly) deadlines for making COBRA premium payments.
  • Claims and Appeal Procedures – the date by which an individual may file a claim for benefits or an appeal of an adverse benefit determination (this applies to all ERISA-both welfare and retirement-plans).


Continue Reading DOL Disaster Relief Notice Offers Guidance on Extension of COVID-19 Outbreak Period Benefits

Looking back on 2020, nearly all employers were forced to embrace remote work as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with state and local lockdowns and to slow and reduce the transmission of the virus.  This was a global work-from-home experiment no one signed up for, and as we now know, most businesses were ill-prepared to handle it. However, with nearly a full year of remote work underfoot, companies have either successfully transitioned their business operations to sustain this work-from-home model or have adjusted the work environment to safely resume on-site operations, and have learned some key lessons along the way.

Employee Leave


Continue Reading Lessons Learned from COVID-19 and Continued Implications

Join us for a virtual seminar in which Bass, Berry & Sims’ labor & employment attorneys will discuss anticipated legislative developments and agency guidance changes under the new administration, and provide practical advice for understanding the associated impacts and legal challenges to employers.

We will also review the lessons learned from COVID-19, address its continued

As passed back in March 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)’s Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) requirements by which employers with less than 500 employees must provide paid leave for certain COVID-19-related circumstances will expire as of December 31, 2020. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (Supplemental Bill) passed by Congress on December 21 does not extend those requirements beyond the December 31 date. However, the Supplemental Bill does continue to allow covered employers to take tax credits for such paid leave provided to employees between January 1 and March 31, 2021, if that paid leave would have otherwise been consistent with the FFCRA’s requirements if they had been extended beyond December 31.

Continue Reading New Relief Bill Does Not Extend FFCRA Requirements but Does Encourage Voluntary Extension

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released updated guidance regarding employers’ and employees’ rights and obligations related to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.

Mandatory Vaccinations are Permitted

On December 16, the EEOC released guidance confirming that employers may require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) prohibiting religious discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination based on disability.


Continue Reading EEOC Issues Updated Employer Guidance Concerning Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations

On September 11, in response to a New York federal district court striking down some of the Department of Labor (DOL) regulations regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the DOL issued guidance (Guidance) affirming in part and revising in part, its regulations. While most of the Guidance does not result in any significant change or consequence to employers, the DOL’s revision of its prior definition of “health care provider” significantly impacts how healthcare entities in the U.S. must implement paid leave benefits under the FFCRA.

Work Availability

The Guidance clarifies that the “work-availability” requirement under the FFCRA applies to all types of leave taken under the FFCRA. In other words, to take any leave under the FFCRA, the FFCRA-qualifying reason must be the actual reason that the employee is unable to work rather than the employer not having work available for the employee to perform. The DOL makes clear in the Guidance that the “work-availability” requirement ensures that employers are not forced to provide paid leave benefits under the FFCRA where the employer would not have had work for the employee to perform, regardless of whether the employee has a qualifying reason for leave under the FFCRA.


Continue Reading DOL Issues Another Round of Guidance on FFCRA

As states and cities begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions and organizations return their employees to the workplace, employers are forced to navigate an unprecedented and fluid landscape of post-pandemic compliance issues.

This virtual seminar will address the difficult issues facing employers as they return their employees to the workplace and provide practical guidance for understanding

On August 3, the federal court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) issued an order invalidating several significant portions of the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The SDNY struck down the following provisions:

  1. That work has to be otherwise available to the employee for the employee to be eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL).
  2. The DOL’s expansive definition of “healthcare providers” for the purposes of who can be excluded from the FFCRA mandated leave.
  3. That an employer must agree to the use of EPSL on an intermittent basis by employees for reasons not related to the possible spread of COVID-19 by the employee.
  4. That an employee must provide documentation requesting FFCRA before the beginning of the leave.

This ruling clearly applies in the Southern District of New York, however, its impact outside of the district is uncertain. As of now, employers who operate in that jurisdiction may have differing obligations under the FFCRA than employers operating outside.

A more detailed description of the ruling is provided below.


Continue Reading Court Ruling Invalidates DOL’s Final Rule Related to FFCRA