On March 19, 2020, Senate Republicans rolled out a $1 trillion economic stimulus plan commonly referred to as “Phase III” of the legislative response to the coronavirus pandemic. The bill — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) — provides additional detail on the paid leave provisions in the “Phase II” bill and contains some additional provisions that affect employees.
Continue Reading Senate Unveils Stimulus Bill That Affects Employers

On March 18, 2020, the Senate passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which contains provisions related to mandatory paid leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees. A summary of the bill, which is supposed to be effective within 15 days of enactment, is below.

The bill creates a new paid leave benefit called “emergency paid leave.”

Reasons for Leave: Employees who are eligible for “emergency paid leave” are those individuals who are unable to work due to one of the following conditions or situations: (i) the employee is subject to a federal, state, or local isolation or quarantine order; (ii) the employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; (iii) the employee is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and seeking a medical diagnosis for the symptoms; (iv) the employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine order or who has been advised to quarantine by a health care provider; or (v) the employee is caring for a child because the child’s school or place of care has been closed due to COVID-19.Continue Reading Senate Passes Coronavirus Bill Requiring Paid Leave

One of the bigger questions with the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is an employer having to pay for leave because “the employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19”. Does that apply when the business itself is shut-down by the government, but the employee is free

On March 14, 2020, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6021, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which contains provisions related to mandatory paid leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees. Since passage, the House has been working on “technical corrections” to the bill prior to sending the bill to the Senate for consideration. The technical corrections were voted on and passed by the full House late in the evening on March 16, 2020.
Continue Reading Technical Corrections to House Bill Significantly Change Previous Provisions Regarding Paid Leave

As the coronavirus continues to spread within the United States, employers are dealing with a number of issues with respect to workforce, labor, and employee benefits. The following are common questions regarding employee benefits issues that employers may face sooner rather than later. We will update this list of questions and answers as the situation unfolds.

Q1: If an employer furloughs employees, are they still eligible for group medical plan coverage?

It depends. The terms of the group medical plan document or applicable certificate of coverage will dictate whether employees who are no longer “actively at work” may continue active coverage. Most plans provide that an employee who is not “actively at work” may only continue coverage for a designated period of time. After the expiration of this designated period, active coverage will be terminated and the covered employee will be eligible for COBRA.

Employers that maintain “self-funded” plans may have more flexibility, as they may amend their plans to waive eligibility conditions and allow furloughed employees to continue active coverage. (Note that some employers with fully insured plans may be able to work out similar arrangements with their insurance carriers.) Employers with self-funded plans that want to waive actively at work requirements or extend coverage while employees are on leave or furlough need to obtain the consent of their reinsurance carriers to avoid any coverage issues.

Finally, employers utilizing an Affordable Care Act (ACA) lookback and stability approach to determine full-time status for health plan purposes should consider whether affected employees are in a stability period that would result in continued eligibility for the duration of the stability period. Reduced hours in 2020 might impact such employees’ full-time status for the next stability period (e.g., 2021 for plans using a calendar year stability period). Employers should also consider whether to provide relief for such employees in future stability periods.

Q2: If an employee is on leave because he or she is experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms, is the employee eligible for group medical coverage?

It depends on whether the employer sponsoring the plan is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If so, then the leave is likely protected by the FMLA, meaning that continued group medical coverage must be provided for the period of FMLA leave, and the employer’s policies regarding payment for coverage during FMLA-qualifying leaves will apply. For employers that are not subject to the FMLA, applicable policies and procedures regarding continued coverage during periods of sick leave will apply, as well as the plan terms and ACA full-time measurement and stability issues noted in Q1 above.Continue Reading Employee Benefits Issues — Coronavirus

On August 25, 2017, and September 10, 2017, President Trump declared major disasters in Texas and Florida due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (the “Hurricanes”). Following the declarations, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (“PBGC”) issued relief for affected individuals and entities. The IRS is postponing certain tax filings and payment deadlines for taxpayers who reside or work in the disaster area. The relief also provides qualifying individuals with expanded access to their retirement plan assets to alleviate hardships caused by the Hurricanes. Additional IRS guidance allows donation of employer-paid leave to charitable organizations aiding victims of the Hurricanes.

The DOL is providing additional relief to employers and plan fiduciaries, in the form of deadline leniency and relaxation of fiduciary requirements for benefit plans that have compliance lapses resulting from the Hurricanes. Finally, the PBGC is waiving certain penalties and extending certain filing deadlines. Below is a summary of the relief provided by the IRS, DOL, and PBGC. Additional relief is sure to follow for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.Continue Reading Federal Agencies Provide Benefit Plan Relief to Victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma