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

In an article published in the Nashville Business Journal’s Largest Employers special report on July 6, 2018, Tim Garrett provided a column highlighting three important questions for employers to ask as they strive to reduce harassment in the workplace and cultivate a healthy workplace environment. The effectiveness of an anti-harassment policy often comes down to employee perception of how the policy is enforced, trained and embraced by leadership, so it is important that employers are mindful of the answers to these questions:

Continue Reading How to Reduce Harassment in the Workplace

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Doug Dahl outlined the key considerations, important steps and issues of concern when buying a company that is employee-owned, or at least partially employee-owned, by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), including:

  1. The nature of an ESOP: In an ESOP, employees have retirement accounts invested primarily in their employer’s stock, rather than having accounts invested in an array of securities and mutual funds. The trustee of the ESOP – who represents ESOP participants as the beneficial owners of the company stock – is entitled to participate in the sale or transaction like other shareholders would. Most importantly, anytime an ESOP is involved in the acquisition or sale of company stock, the transaction must be for “adequate consideration,” and the trustee’s decision to buy or sell must be in the financial best interest of the ESOP participants.
    Continue Reading Key Considerations When Buying a Company with an ESOP

In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that final regulations affecting how some ERISA plans process claims and appeals will apply beginning April 1, 2018.  As explained below, the final regulations require that plans, plan fiduciaries, and insurance providers comply with additional procedural requirements when deciding claims involving disability determinations, which can impact a variety of different types of plans, including pension and non-qualified plans. The final regulations were initially released in December 2016, but had been delayed several times.

Continue Reading Action Needed by Certain ERISA Plans – New Disability Claims Procedures Apply Beginning April 2018

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Doug Dahl provides an update regarding the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule, which sets forth when an individual becomes a fiduciary by providing investment advice to employer retirement plans. While the final rule was released in April 2016, numerous delays have postponed entire implementation until July 2019. Until then, Doug recommends employers consider the following:

Continue Reading The DOL’s Fiduciary Rule: Alive, Dead or Both?

Susie Bilbro | Employee Benefits Attorney | Bass Berry & SimsBass, Berry & Sims attorney Susie Bilbro authored an article for BenefitsPRO discussing the future of genetic testing in employee wellness programs following the latest updates from the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1313) in March 2017. The bill would allow employers to ask employee’s family medical history and request genetic information as part of wellness programs. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) do not typically allow employers to obtain employee information regarding health conditions or those of family members, both laws allow employers to inquire about this information and conduct medical examinations if providing health or genetic services through a voluntary wellness program.

Continue Reading Is Genetic Testing the Future of Employee Wellness Programs?

On June 22, 2017, Senate Republicans released a draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), their much-anticipated version of the legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite rumors of a re-write of the American Health Care Act that passed in the House of Representatives by a narrow vote on May 4, the BCRA largely mirrors the structure and certain key measures of the House version (see our previous alert dated May 5, 2017). On the other hand, the BCRA has already been criticized by the more vocal opponents of the ACA in the Senate for not going far enough to eliminate measures established under the ACA. The Senate could vote on the BCRA as early as next week, but given the uncertainty surrounding its success, it is likely to undergo amendments prior to then. This alert provides an overview of key provisions of the BCRA and how, as drafted, it would affect aspects of the ACA.

Continue Reading The Better Care Reconciliation Act: Similarities to House Healthcare Bill, Preserves Parts of ACA

In an article published by Employee Benefit News, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Doug Dahl provided guidance for employers who now must comply with the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule. After months of delay, the rule went into effect on Friday, June 9, 2017, and provided guidance on who is considered a fiduciary under the new rule. Doug outlined the actions that employers and other plan sponsors should consider, such as identifying whether advisors are fiduciaries or have conflicts of interest, communicating plan details and watching IRA rollovers to ensure plan providers are not recommending specific plans or investments. However, not all plans are created equal. “The smaller a plan is, the more likely [it is] that you’re going to have conflicted advice under the new rule,” said Doug. “The key is knowing who the company’s investment fiduciaries are and making sure they are complying with the responsibilities they have toward the retirement plan and its participants.”

The full article, “What Employers Should Do To Ensure Fiduciary Rule Compliance,” was published on June 11, 2017, by Employee Benefit News and is available online.

Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Doug Dahl commented on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) new fiduciary rule that will impact how and when an individual is treated as a fiduciary under ERISA if that person provides investment advice. While many expected a further delayed applicability, parts of the new rule will take effect June 9, 2017. Because of the new regulations, “some advisors may decide to exit the retirement planning sector of the financial industry or they may close up shop altogether rather than deal with lawsuits and enforcement issues,” said Doug.