Retirement plan limit increases

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week that it has increased the contribution limits for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans.  The total contributions amounts has increased $500 from $18,500 to $19,000 for plan year 2019.  In addition, the “all sources” contribution maximum increase $1,000 to $56,000.  These limits on contributions are adjusted each year due to inflation.  The catch-up contributions for employees who are age 50 or older remains unchanged at $6,000 because that is not adjusted along with inflation but set by law....

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Do You Offer Equal Paternity Leave?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that Estée Lauder, the beauty product manufacturer, has entered a settlement agreement in the amount of $1.1mm to settle a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 210 male employees who allege that Estée Lauder discriminated against them on the basis of their gender.  The allegations included that Estée Lauder provided “new fathers less paid leave for bonding with a newborn, or with a newly adopted or fostered child, than it provided new mothers. The parental leave policy at issue was separate from medical leave received by mothers for childbirth and related issues. The EEOC also alleged that the company unlawfully denied new fathers return-to-work benefits provided to new mothers, such as temporary modified work schedules, to ease the transition to work after the arrival of a new child and exhaustion of paid parental leave.” The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last August alleging unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The U.S District Court entered a consent decree July 17, 2018 awarding the male members of the class action...

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July Brings Legal Changes for Employers in Many States

Oregon Statewide Transit Tax Important notice to ambulance service employers based in the state of Oregon: there is a new statewide transit tax taking effect on July 1, 2018. Beginning July 1st, employers must start withholding a tax of 1/10th of 1% from the wages of Oregon residents or from non-residents who perform services in Oregon. The Department of Revenue has published detailed information on the statewide tax with a list of available resources to assist employers with compliance. Iowa Lowers Standard for Positive Alcohol Tests Effective July 1, 2018, Iowa employers may lower their standard for taking employment action for positive alcohol tests from the old state standard of .04 to .02. Iowa has one of the strictest employment drug and alcohol testing requirements in the country. Employers are required to have a written policy that is distributed to all employees and job candidates for their review. Employers must establish a drug and alcohol awareness program alerting employees of the dangers of drug and alcohol use in the workplace, and most employees must be provided an option to enter a rehabilitation program instead of being disciplined. In addition, all supervisory staff must attend a two-hour initial drug and alcohol...

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Employer-Sponsored Healthcare Spending Soars

A recent report published by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) found that employer sponsored healthcare spending rose in 2016 even thought patients sought less healthcare.  The article found that the average spending per person grew 4.6% in 2016 and has cumulatively grown by 15% since 2012.  The majority of the spending increase was attributed to outpatient service, ER visits, and prescription drugs.  Modern Healthcare published an article about the report which showed that most employers held down their costs by shifting their employees to high-deductible plans.  Many ambulance services have had to shoulder much of the increase costs of employee healthcare in an effort to avoid shifting too much additional expense onto employees.  This trend is projected to continue and encourages employers to offer, and employees to contribute to a health saving accounts as a way to insulate unexpected high deductible obligations.  With the uncertain future what remains of the ACA, we will continue to watch for strategies to help ambulance services to keep healthcare cost increases to a minimum....

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EMS Employer Year-End Wrap-Up and Preview

2017 was a bit of a wild ride in the employment realm.  The Trump Administration worked to change the trajectory set during the eight years of the Obama Administration.  This past year, we saw the undoing or attempts to undo many of the Obama Administration initiatives, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) updates, changes to the Persuader Rule, interpretations of Title VII as it relates to transgender protections.  Not to mention the repeated attempts to chip away at the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In addition, there were several new requirements for employers that went into effect in 2017 and a few upcoming in 2018.  Here is a quick review to ensure that your service is up-to-date and compliant. The Fair Labor Standards Act Changes These changes, which would have more than doubled the minimum salary levels for those “White Collar” exemptions, were set to go into effect back in 2016.  A Federal Court in Texas enjoined and put on hold these changes until the question of whether the Department of Labor (DOL) had the authority to unilaterally change the Regulations.  In July, 2016, the DOL published an Request For Information (RFI) with responses due in late September, requesting input...

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401k Contribution Increase Announced

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week that it will increase the maximum 401k contribution from $18,000 to $18,500 for 2018.  Also increasing is the maximum contribution by both employer and employee from $54,000 to $55,000 for next year. This is the first time in several years that the IRS has increased these maximum amounts. Plan administrators should adjust their systems to reflect the new contributions limits and ensure that they appropriately notify all employees about the changes....

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Executive Order on Association Health Plans (AHP)

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Trump has signed an Executive Order that directs the Secretary of Labor to consider expanding access to Association Health Plans (AHP) would give employers the right to form groups in multiple states for the purposes of negotiating health care benefits.  A change would require an change to the interpretation of Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA).  In addition, the Executive Order directed the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider changing several ACA restrictions, including low-cost short term limited duration insurance (STDLI) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs).  This Executive Order may impact the ACA insurance markets because it may attract the younger and healthier away from current plan groups causing those coverage costs to increase substantially....

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Trump Administration Interim HHS Rule

In a surprising announcement by the Trump Administration late Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the Administration released an interim rule that rolled back the Obama Administration rules regarding the requirement of employer sponsored health plans to pay for “preventative services” which included birth control and abortion procedures under religious or moral objections. The move has initiated legal action by the Attorney General in Massachusetts who announced yesterday that she has filed a suit in U.S. District Court yesterday. Key facts about the interim final rules: The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction. The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists. The Administration is asserting that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions would only impact about 200 entities. Current law itself already exempts over 25 million people from the preventive-care mandate because they are insured through an entity that has a health insurance plan that existed prior to the Obamacare statute. The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income...

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