Category: Employee Benefits

Employers Must Act Fast: Families First Coronavirus Response Act Signed Into Law

To follow up on our recent blog post, “Workplace Planning for Coronavirus Concerns,” we are summarizing for our clients the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which President Trump signed into law on March 18, 2020. The House of Representative passed an earlier bill on March 14, but – two days later – revisited and significantly altered the bill on March 16, before sending it to the Senate for consideration. On March 18, the Senate passed the revised House version with no changes, and, that same day, the amended bill was signed into law. The FFCRA takes effect not later than April 2, 2020 (15 days after its enactment) and expires on December 31, 2020. With respect to employers, it contains certain provisions of particular note, including the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, discussed below. Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (“Emergency FMLA” or the “Act”) applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees (“covered employers”). Employees who have been employed by a covered employer for 30 calendar days are eligible for up to 12 weeks of emergency paid family medical leave due to a “qualifying need” arising from “a public health emergency” with respect to COVID-19...

Governor Cuomo Takes Action in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

New York now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and, unfortunately, the number continues to increase on a daily basis. In efforts to contain the spread of the virus and support those employees who have been impacted, Governor Cuomo and the legislature have acted swiftly to enact responsive laws. Relief for Employees on Orders of Quarantine or Isolation On March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law Senate Bill S809/ Assembly Bill A10153, which provides job protection and paid leave for New York employees subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation issued by the State of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any governmental entity duly authorized to issue such orders due to COVID-19. The law is effective immediately and provides sick leave to affected employees as follows: Employers with ten or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020 and a net income less than $1 million must provide affected employees with unpaid sick leave, along with job protection for the duration of the quarantine or isolation order and must provide those employees with access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine or isolation including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000. Employers...

Workplace Planning for Coronavirus Concerns

As coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, employers continue to inquire how they can safeguard employees’ health and well-being while ensuring the ability to maintain essential business operations. Our advice remains the same: The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. Working from home for as many employees as possible is now the new normal for most businesses. In addition, employers large and small should take the time now to assess their policies and processes, addressing specific operational and human resources plans and issues in light of the current and evolving circumstances, as well as anticipated plans as a result of the pending Families First Coronavirus Response Act. On March 14, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” (H.R. 6201), which provides for a limited period of paid sick leave and expands the Family Medical Leave Act to provide an extended period of unpaid or partially paid leave for a public health emergency. The bill is now before the Senate, where it is expected to pass sometime this week. The bill contains several provisions that will impact employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers should not make any changes to their policies and procedures until the bill is finalized...

New Jersey Department of Labor Issues Final Regulations for Earned Sick Leave Law

The New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law (“ESLL”), which became effective in October 2018, requires New Jersey employers, among other things, to provide their employees with one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours annual paid sick leave. Such leave may be used for an employee to care for their own or a family member’s physical or mental health or injury; address domestic or sexual violence against themselves or a family member; attend a child’s school-related meeting, conference or event; or take care of their children when school or child care is closed due to an epidemic or public health emergency. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“NJDOL” or “Department”) recently issued final regulations for the ESLL (“final regulations” or “regulations”), ending more than a year of waiting for employers, from the time the NJDOL issued proposed ESLL rules (“proposed rules”), for which the 60-day comment period ended in December 2018. The regulations can be found here. The final regulations do not contain much in the way of substantive changes as compared to the proposed rules, but include extensive responses to more than 100 public comments, and provide guidance to employers attempting to navigate the ESLL’s complicated requirements. Some highlights of the regulations are...

Governor Murphy Signs New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Law

On May 2, 2018, Governor Murphy signed the comprehensive paid sick leave bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature in April. For a description of the law and how it will affect New Jersey employers, please see our previous blog post. For questions regarding this bill, or paid sick leave laws generally, please feel free to contact an attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.

NJ Legislature Passes Paid Sick Leave Bill

On the heels of sweeping pay equity legislation, the New Jersey Legislature has passed a comprehensive paid sick leave bill that, if signed, will require employers to provide employees with paid time off for a variety of purposes. For What Purpose Can Leave Be Taken? Employees can use paid sick leave for the following purposes: diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to the employee’s illness; to care for a family member during diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery related to a family member’s illness; for certain absences resulting from the employee or a family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence; for time during which the employee is not able to work because of a closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the employee, in connection with a public health emergency or a determination that the presence of the employee or child in the community would jeopardize the health of others; or to attend school-related conferences, meetings, or events, or to attend other meetings regarding care for the employee’s child. Paid time off used for these purposes must be paid at the same rate of pay with the same benefits as the employee normally earns. How Much Leave Must Be Provided? Employees will be entitled...

Seventh Circuit Upholds Forum Selection Clauses in Employee Benefits Plans

In Mathias v. Caterpillar, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a forum selection clause requiring a participant in a benefits plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) to bring suit in the Central District of Illinois. The plaintiff had brought suit in federal court in Pennsylvania, invoking ERISA’s venue provision, which, inter alia, allows suit to be brought in any district in which the defendant is found. The Court, however, ruled that ERISA’s venue provision was subject to the benefits plan’s forum selection clause. The decision is of obvious significance to employers who would prefer to avoid being subject to ERISA-based suits in multiple jurisdictions. Background Mathias, who had been employed at a Caterpillar facility in York, Pennsylvania, began receiving health insurance benefits in 1997 under the company’s long term disability plan. When he chose to retire in 2012 retroactive to 2009 his change in status mandated an increase in his insurance premiums, which Caterpillar mistakenly failed to implement. In 2013, the company realized its mistake and notified Mathias that he owed more than $9,500 in past-due premiums. When Mathias did not pay that amount, Caterpillar terminated his benefits. Mathias sued Caterpillar and the relevant health plans in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania....

The EEOC Finalizes Wellness Program Guidance, Issuing Final Rules on Workplace Wellness Programs and a Sample Notice

After much anticipation (and confusion) regarding legally permissible parameters for certain employer-sponsored wellness programs, on May 16, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued two final rules concerning wellness programs that offer incentives in exchange for health information from employees and their spouses. Specifically, the rules describe how wellness programs can comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act (“GINA”). According to the EEOC’s press release, the rules provide guidance under the ADA and GINA consistent with the relevant provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), as amended by the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). The EEOC’s proposed regulations were discussed in a previous post following our presentation entitled “Wellness Programs for a Healthy Workplace” at the Fifth Annual Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Conference. Then, in June, the EEOC issued a sample notice for employer-sponsored wellness programs. Here, we parse the rules into bright-line takeaways for employers.

Wellness Programs for a Healthy Workplace

At the Fifth Annual Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Conference for clients of the firm, we presented a program entitled “Wellness Programs for a Healthy Workplace.” Cathy Kenworthy, President and CEO of Interactive Health, discussed the business case for implementing wellness programs in our workplaces, while I addressed the numerous laws impacting such programs.

Supreme Court Rules ERISA Statute of Limitations Does Not Bar Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim Challenging 401(k) Plan Investments Made More Than 6 Years Before Filing of the Claim

The statute of limitations governing breach of fiduciary duty claims brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) provides that such claims are untimely if not brought within 6 years after “the date of the last action which constituted the breach or violation” or “in the case of an omission, the latest date on which the fiduciary could have cured the breach or violation” (29 U.S.C. § 1113). In Tibble v. Edison International, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ERISA’s statute of limitations did not bar plaintiffs from pursuing their breach of fiduciary duty claim arising out of investments made by their employer’s 401(k) plan, although the investments were made more than 6 years before plaintiffs filed their claim. The Court held that ERISA plan fiduciaries have an ongoing duty to monitor plan investments and to remove imprudent investments. As long as the alleged breach of this continuing duty occurred within 6 years of suit, a claim challenging a fiduciary’s failure to act will be timely. The Court rejected the argument that only “a significant change in circumstances” triggers the duty to remove imprudent investments.