Tag: Human Resources (HR)

Extended COBRA Coverage Under the American Rescue Plan Act

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was passed in March, included a provision that provided certain individuals free COBRA coverage between April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021.  The coverage cost is subsidized through a tax credit to employers to offset the cost of COBRA premiums.  Last week, the United States Department of Labor (US DOL), released updated guidance, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and model notices for employers to use to ensure compliance with the ARPA.

Traditionally, COBRA provides covered individuals to continue coverage under an employer sponsored health plan for a period of eighteen (18) months following a qualifying event that causes them to lose coverage, such as termination of employment.  Under COBRA, the employee must pay the full health insurance premium cost, which can include a 2% administrative fee.  The ARPA picks up 100% of the cost of the premium for “assistance eligible individuals” (AEI) by providing employers with an offsetting tax credit. Assistance eligible individuals are those who were COBRA eligible individuals who are enrolled in group coverage under COBRA or for those who become COBRA eligible between April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021.  However, it is important to note that individuals who voluntarily terminate their employment or are eligible under another group health plan, such as a spouse’s group health plan, are not eligible for the subsidized premium coverage or the special enrollment period.

Under the ARPA, the COBRA premium subsidy provides that the federal government will pay 100% of COBRA insurance premiums for eligible employees who lost their coverage and for their covered relatives through September 2021. Employers will pay the COBRA premium on behalf of the assistance eligible individuals and will get a corresponding payroll tax credit against employers’ quarterly tax obligations. All employer sponsored health plans subject to federal COBRA are eligible for the credit against their Medicare FICA payroll taxes.  Additionally, employers must provide the COBRA premium subsidy to assistance eligible individuals who have elected COBRA coverage, starting April 1st. If assistance eligible individuals have already paid, or inadvertently pay premiums during the period from April 1 through Sept. 30, 2021, they must be issued a refund within 60 days.

The ARPA does not require employers to provide a longer period of coverage than is currently required under COBRA.  When an individual reaches the end of their COBRA eligibility period, they right to coverage ends, whether subsidized or not.

What must employers do now?

If your organization outsources your COBRA administration, it is likely that the vendor is taking the appropriate steps to ensure your organization is compliant.  Employers are encouraged to contact their COBRA Administration vendor to ensure that they are taking the necessary actions.  If your organization handles COBRA administration internally, be sure that you take the following steps:

  1. Employers must provide a Model ARP General Notice & COBRA Continuation Coverage Election Notice to all assistance eligible individuals no later than May 30, 2021.
  2. Employers must provide assistance eligible individuals with a Model COBRA Continuation Coverage Notice in Connection with Extended Election Periods Notice which provides assistance eligible individuals with another opportunity, or a “special enrollment period”, to elect coverage. This includes those who previously were offered, and declined COBRA coverage, as well as those who had elected coverage but dropped coverage prior to the expiration of the appropriate COBRA coverage period. This includes any individual who lost coverage due to a COBRA qualifying event on or after October 1, 2019.
  3. The notice must be furnished to all employees who are currently continuing their health insurance coverage under COBRA with an updated COBRA Notice.
  4. The ARP also provides that plans must provide individuals with a Notice of Expiration of Periods of Premium Assistance explaining when premium assistance will expire. This notice must be furnished to individuals 15-45 days prior to expiration of premium assistance.
  5. Employers may not charge assistance eligible individuals the 2% administrative fee during the subsidized premium coverage period as they typically could prior to the ARPA.

It is important that employers furnish the required notices no later than May 30, 2021.  If you have questions about the subsidized premiums coverage under the ARPA or have other human resources or employment law compliance questions, be sure to contact the AAA for assistance.

January Law Changes– OR, NJ, NY, NV

Oregon Pregnancy Accommodations Law

 

Following many other states, the new law prohibits employers from deny employment opportunities to applicants or employees who need reasonable accommodations due to or related to their pregnancy or childbirth. 

New Jersey Pay Inquiry Restrictions

 

This law prohibits screening candidates based upon an applicant’s prior wage history. It is also illegal to establish a job candidate’s salary or benefits compensation based upon their prior salary or wage history.

New York Pay Inquiry Restrictions

 

This law prohibits all employers from inquiring about a job candidate’s wage history or relying on prior wage levels in establishing compensation or benefits.

Nevada Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing Restrictions

 

This law exempts employees who are firefighters, EMTs or who operate motor vehicles during the course of their duties.  While this would eliminate many positions within an EMS agency.  EMS employers who are not Federal Contractors or Grantees, need to heed these restrictions for those positions within their organization that do not fit into one of the exempt positions below.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Overtime Update

The U.S. DOL issued the final rule that will update the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) beginning on January 1, 2020. Under the final rule, nearly 1.3 million workers who were previously exempt from overtime pay will now be eligible. These changes, which were initially proposed by the Obama Administration in 2015, were updated under the Trump Administration this year to provide an increase to the minimum salary level under the so called “white collar” exemptions. The minimum salary level will increase from $455 per week to $684 (new level $35,568 annually) for those employees who meet the “white collar” positions as Executive, Administrative, Professional or Computer employees. 

Services are encouraged to conduct an analysis of all positions that they currently pay on an exempt salary basis to ensure that these roles will continue to meet the exemption requirements under the new FLSA provisions. Assistance is available for all AAA members.

Please email info@ambulance.org with any questions.

Proposed Rule Impacts Employer Sponsored Health Plans

proposed rule published on November 27th by the IRS, U.S. DOL, and HHS would place new requirements on group health plans and health insurance providers. The rule would require providers to disclose cost-sharing information to participants, beneficiaries, and other covered individuals which would outline their liability to pay certain cost-sharing amounts and out-of-pocket expenses. This rule is part of a Trump Administration effort to foster competition among insurers and healthcare providers in the marketplace. An article published by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) outlines the concerns many employers have regarding the costs associated with implementing the requirements of the proposed rule. These requirements include providing plan enrollees with an online self-service portal where they can see these cost-sharing amounts, as well as require greater collaboration between third party plan administrators, pharmacy benefit managers, and other specialty providers to ensure the accurate disclosure of enrollee financial obligations. Comments on the proposed rule are due by January 14, 2020.

The Cost of a Bad Hire

Our industry has been struggling with a staffing crisis for several years. We are all looking for ways to attract and hire qualified individuals to staff our ambulances and work in our dispatch and billing offices. This shortage has often resulted in ambulance providers hiring many people who meet the basic qualifications for the position even if they might not be the best fit for the company. There is a strong focus on reducing overtime hours to keep cost in line with shrinking reimbursement dollars. However, when a new person is introduced to the company community and culture, there are impacts that are not always recognized. Our industry has also struggled with the concept of collecting and reporting cost data because there are many dynamics that drive cost for ambulance providers throughout the country. Difficulties with identifying and isolating recruitment and retention costs are no exception to this struggle. An article published by the HR Daily Advisor discusses a recently published survey that studied the financial impacts a bad hire has on an organization. Not only does the organization lose the money associated with onboarding the wrong candidate (interview time, screening costs, orientation costs, uniforms, third ride time, etc.) but also the costs associated with the delay in finding the right person and the lost productivity and morale of the coworkers due to the bad hire.

HR Series Webinar – 25% Off During Cyber Week!

I Really Can’t Stay… Managing Employee Leave

December 8 at 2:00 PM ET
$99 for Members – $75 DURING CYBER WEEK SALE 
$198 for non-Members – $150 DURING CYBER WEEK SALE 

SHRM SEAL-Recertification Provider_CMYK_2016_1.25in (®)This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or
SHRM-SCP

 

Speaker: Scott Moore, Esq., EMS Resource Advisors

Managing employee leaves can be a complex and challenging task which can expose employers to significant risk. Nearly 52% of employers believe that employees are fraudulently using FMLA leave. This webinar will provide employers with a solid understanding of an employee’s right to protected leave and best practices for preventing abuse, and managing and tracking leave. This session will cover some of the challenges with managing intermittent leave, the impact of built in overtime in FMLA time calculation, importance of the Medical Certification, pay during leave, and the interaction with the ADA.

Register Now►

EEOC Sounds Off On Transgender Issues

A few days ago the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released Fact Sheet: Bathroom Access Rights for Transgender Employees Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This was in direct response to the passing of North Carolina’s HB2 in March that restricts multi-use bathrooms and changing facilities to be utilized only by those individuals based upon their sex noted at birth.  The North Carolina “Bathroom Rule” is directly aimed at transgender individuals and would force transgender individuals to use the restroom that is opposite of how they physically present.  In other words, a transgender male who has a beard and other characteristics typically associated with being male, would be forced to use a women’s restroom.

In response to the new law, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had notified North Carolina that HB2 violates not only Title VII of the Civil Rights Act but also Title IX Education Amendments of 1972, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.  The DOJ sent a letter to the Governor and State legislature on May 4th informing them that they had until May 9th to notify the Department of their intent not to implement or enforce the new law or risk losing billions in Federal funding or a lawsuit.  The State of North Carolina failed to abide by the DOJ’s deadline and as a result, the DOJ announced that it is filing a Federal Civil Rights law suit against North Carolina, the Governor, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina.

Earlier this year the AAA hosted a webinar titled Gender Issues in EMS Employment during which we specifically discussed Transgender employee discrimination issues.  The EEOC has issued this guidance to employers as a notice to those law makers that it will not permit discrimination in employment, education, or public settings.  From an employment perspective, while discrimination is clearly not acceptable, some employers still wrestle with how to respond to employees who are uncomfortable with this issue.

In a recent 4th Circuit case, which addressed the same issue in an educational setting, the Appellate Court rejected defining gender as the sex noted at birth and stated that doing so is illegal discrimination.  In that case, the school board had adopted a policy that limited access to gender specific restrooms and locker rooms based upon a person’s sex assigned at birth.  Interestingly, in addition to adopting the illegal policy, the board announced a series of updates to the restrooms which would increase privacy for those utilizing them. These updates included expanding the partitions between the urinals and installing privacy strips on the doors of all restroom stalls.  Grimm vs. Gloucester County School Board.

While the Gloucester County School Board was clearly acting illegally when it instituted the gender policy regarding bathrooms and locker rooms use, I believe they did get one part correct.  All of these cases have focused on the comfort level of all of the individuals involved, the transgender person and the party who finds their presence in the gender specific room offensive.  However, I think some employers focus on the wrong aspect of the broader employment issue.   Many times over my career I have been pretty offended by the freedom and level of comfort some individuals of the same biological sex have taken when in a gender specific restroom or locker room.  The Board, as part of their decision, decided that they should expand urinal partitions and install privacy strips on stall doors.  This is an acknowledgement that privacy, in these settings, is important regardless of gender and employers should take note.

While we do not know what the result in North Carolina will be, it is very clear that the current state of the law is that transgender individuals are legally entitled to use the restroom or locker room of the gender with which they identify.  My advice to employers, read the guidance provided on this issue by the EEOC  and OSHA and further, provide all employees with a level of privacy as it relates to any gender specific room.  Lastly, it is critical that you educate employees and management staff on what protections are provided to all individuals under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and that discrimination based upon any protected category, including a person’s sexual identity, is illegal.

Spotlight: Scott Moore

Scott Moore
Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
Scott’s LinkedIn Profile
Director of Human Resources at Cataldo Ambulance Service
Co-Chair, Education & Membership Committee at AAA

Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up twenty minutes north of Boston, MA. I have a wife, Marianne, and two daughters, Emily (9), and Elise (7). I have been in EMS for 25 years and have worked as a Call Fire-Fighter in my town for the last 10. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School.

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