Legislative Updates

legislative updates
EASTERN IOWA HUMAN RESOURCES ASSOCIATION

Legislative Updates

Here you will find updates from the latest legislation affecting Human Resources. Please contact Jim Albertson regarding any questions about legislative activity.

DECEMBER 13-14, 2018

Employers Are Preparing Now to Tackle 2019’s Newest Labor and Employment Laws

As 2018 draws to a close, employers are looking to the next wave of labor and employment laws and regulations that will take effect in 2019 and beyond. On January 1, and throughout the coming year, employers across the nation must address a host of new or amended federal, state, and/or local obligations. This article summarizes the laws and regulations taking effect in 2019 that will impact most employers, and highlights some anticipated activity in the coming months.

State Minimum Wage Increases for 2019 (Map)

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but the FLSA does not supersede any state or local laws that are more favorable to employees. Check out our map which shows those states that are increasing their minimum wage, including new rates and the amounts of the increases.

DOL Proposes Allowing Vendor’s 401(k) Automatic Account Transfers

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) took steps toward allowing automatic small-balance 401(k) plan transfers to a new employer’s plan in a job change by proposing to exempt a vendor’s auto-portability program from some prohibited-transaction restrictions. Read More

Defining Gender: Employers May See Fallout from Possible Federal Policy Change

Reports of a leaked memo detailing Trump administration plans to adopt a narrow definition of sex—a change that could erase discrimination protections for transgender people—raises questions about the impact of a new federal policy on the workplace. Read More

Iowa Employers Need to Be Ready for Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana manufacturers and dispensaries in Iowa must be ready to put their products on sale by December 1, meaning you need to understand the implications of the state’s medical marijuana law on your drug-free-workplace policies. Read More

What is a Pooled Employer Plan (PEP)?

If you’re not familiar with pooled employer plans (PEPs), it’s probably because they’re not yet available. But they’re part of existing proposed legislation, so it would be useful for employers to be familiar with the concept.

IRS Raises FSA Contribution Limits, Other Thresholds for 2019

Employees will be able to contribute up to $2,700 to a health flexible spending account (FSA) in 2019, a $50 increase from the 2018 amount, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced in Revenue Procedure 2018-57

Proposed Rule Expands HRA Usage and Forecasts Safe Harbors for ACA Employer Mandate Compliance

The Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (collectively, the “Departments”) recently released a proposed rule to expand the use of health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and other account-based group health plans. If finalized in its current form, the rule would allow employers to terminate their existing medical plans and shift their employees to the individual insurance market.

IRS Extends Form 1095 Distribution Deadline to March 4

The IRS extended the Jan. 31 deadline for employers to distribute 2018 Forms 1095-C or 1095-B to employees by 30 days until March 4, 2019. Employers may still prefer to distribute the 1095 forms by Jan. 31, when W-2 tax forms are due to employees.

Proposed IRS Hardship Distribution Regulations Change Standard for Determination

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has proposed regulations that would change the rules for hardship distributions from 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans by replacing the facts-and-circumstances test for determining hardship eligibility with a three-part general standard.

‘You couldn’t pay me to live here.’ Yes, we could

Municipalities across the country are increasingly giving away cash, paying down student loans, offering mortgage support and even gifting land to attract qualified workers to their communities, reports the Gazette. New Haven, Connecticut, is offering prospective residents $10,000 in down payment assistance to buy a house and more, while here in Iowa, Newton is giving eligible homeowners $10,000 cash once they close on their property, and paying construction loan interest for developers who build homes in anticipation of buyers. Jennifer Daly, president and CEO of ICR Iowa, said her organization has had discussions about what an incentive package to lure workers to the region might look like, but no plans have been set.

Video: The 10 New Benefits Workers Want

Watch an overview of the new benefits employers are offering to meet workers’ changing demands. Elder care resource services, disaster relief funds and advancement initiatives for women are among the benefits more employers offered in 2018.

WPI State of the States – What Did the Voters Decide?

The November mid-term elections resulted in some significant power shifts at the state level. This month’s State of the States will provide an overview of select voter-approved state and local ballot initiatives that affect employment, and discuss other legislative efforts that made headway in November.

Survey: Small businesses feeling strain of tight workforce

By Joe Gardyasz | Senior Staff Writer

Small businesses are feeling the strain of a tight labor market, according to results from a national survey released Wednesday. Nevertheless, small business owners’ optimism about the national economy is at an all-time high, according to the MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index.

Optimism on the health of the national economy has continuously increased since the second quarter and is at a new high, with 58 percent of small business owners believing the U.S. economy is in good health, according to the fourth-quarter report. Optimism on the local economy also improved this quarter: 56 percent of small business owners said their local economy is good, up 6 points from the third quarter.

Two-thirds of small business owners who are actively searching for new hires are having difficulty finding ones with the skills they need, according to the survey. Very few small business owners (9 percent) say the talent pool for potential recruits is “very good” with the majority (55 percent) saying it’s “fair” or “poor.”

“There are too many people that lack the skills or credentials they need to compete for 21st century jobs and too many businesses that can’t find the workers they need, when and where they need them,” said Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “A lack of skilled workers is going to hold back economic growth for the entire country.”

A majority of small business owners — 81 percent — said they had to work longer hours or take on additional roles to compensate for their inability to find qualified candidates.

Manufacturing businesses seem to be having a particularly difficult time finding qualified candidates compared to other industries. Seventy-eight percent of small manufacturers said it was hard or very hard to find candidates with the right skills, compared with 67 percent across all sectors

NOVEMBER 15-16, 2018

Workplace May Be New Battleground for 2019-20 Congress

Keep up with changing and potential legislation
Paid parental leave, a federal minimum-wage hike and union-friendly laws are among the issues Democrats will work to advance after winning control of the House of Representatives. For more election coverage, see how the results could affect the workplace, why a split Congress might prompt a bipartisan health care solution, and what HR should know about the expansion of legal marijuana and rising state minimum wages.

2019 Payroll Taxes Announced

Adjust your company’s payroll system

Starting Jan. 1, the maximum earnings that will be subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase to $132,900. Before the new year, employers should adjust their payroll systems to account for the higher taxable wage cap and notify affected employees.

What Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Confirmation Means for Employers

Keep an eye on rulings that could impact your industry

Here’s an overview of how new Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh has ruled on workplace issues in his judicial career.

Trump Administration Increasing Pressure on Employers to ‘Hire American’

On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued his “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order, directing the attorney general and the secretaries of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “propose new rules and issue new guidance . . . to protect the interests of [U.S.] workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud and abuse,” and “suggest reforms to help [e]nsure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” Since then, the Trump administration has kept up with the president’s promises, and efforts have been made to crack down on immigrant workers and employers in general.

Joint Employment, Wage and Hour Changes Are on the Regulatory Horizon

Employers will face fewer significant regulations in the coming year, according to the Trump administration’s Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (“regulatory agenda”). Released on October 17, 2018, the fall regulatory agenda outlines each agency’s rulemaking efforts at any stage in the process—from requests for information to final regulations—and gives estimated timelines for completion. This regulatory to-do list provides insight into the administration’s upcoming priorities.

Committee approves sweeping new sexual harassment policy

Iowa state employees must follow new sexual harassment rules after an emergency vote was held Thursday at the Statehouse in the wake of reports of alleged sexual harassment at a state agency. The sometimes-heated Administrative Rules Review Committee meeting was just announced Tuesday. “We believe this is a step forward,” said Janet Phipps, director of Iowa’s Department of Administrative Services, which serves as the equivalent of a human resources department. Read more

DOL Proposes Multi-Employer Retirement Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing regulations that would let more employers share a single 401(k)-type plan, reducing costs and administrative duties that each employer would otherwise bear alone.

Regulations Aim to Let Employees Use HRAs to Buy Health Insurance

President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed regulations that would let employers fund a new kind of health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) that employees could use to buy individual-market insurance, including policies purchased on the public exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act.

States are cleared to allow less-comprehensive health plans

Wall Street Journal: States will be allowed to offer less-comprehensive health plans yet still qualify for federal subsidies under a new Trump administration policy that will let them skirt key regulations under the Affordable Care Act. The change marks a fundamental shift in how the federal government enforces the states’ administration of the ACA, accelerating a trend in which red and blue states can craft significantly different health care policies under the same federal law. The administration will consider state ACA waiver requests that would allow federal subsidies to cover skimpier, less-expensive plans that don’t meet the law’s requirements.

Palmer: Employers offer raises, office perks

Palmer Group and the Greater Des Moines Partnership, in an annual Iowa salary survey, found that more employers plan to give pay raises of more than 5 percent next year.

The largest share of Iowa companies, 54 percent, still plan to give raises of 3 to 4 percent, but that is down from 59 percent this year. At the same time, 12 percent plan to give raises of 5 percent or more next year, up from 7 percent this year. Another 25 percent plan to give raises of 1 to 2 percent next year (down from 28 percent) while 9 percent plan to give no raise (up from 6 percent).

“As we look at careers in central Iowa with the focus on salary trends, our salary survey results have been consistent the past five years (2015-2019) with 58 percent of hiring authorities stating they are providing 3-4 percent pay increases,” David Leto, Palmer president, said in a statement. “These average salary increases are healthy, but not overboard given continuing drops in unemployment numbers.”

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.5 percent in September, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

The difficulty some have in finding skilled workers also is putting pressure on companies to make the workplace even more inviting. The survey found 58 percent of the companies plan to add staff next year, with 39 percent holding steady and 3 percent expecting reductions.

Read more on what companies are doing to get noticed in the tight labor market.

Know the Rules Around ‘Constructive Knowledge’ of Unlawful Employment

Having “constructive knowledge” of an employee’s unauthorized work status is a serious violation, but what is and is not constructive knowledge can be tricky for HR professionals to define.

Employers Can Be Liable for Distracted Driving

It’s easy to imagine: A manager takes a business call while driving to work, a driver browses social media while delivering packages, or a salesperson who’s stuck in traffic sends a text to a client. So what happens when distracted drivers cause accidents while they’re working?

For 2019, 401(k) Contribution Limit for Employees Rises to $19,000

Revise your open enrollment communications
Employee 401(k) contributions for 2019 will top off at $19,000—a $500 increase from 2018, the IRS announced.  Health savings account contribution caps are also higher for 2019

The Role of HR in Cybersecurity

As SHRM senior IT security specialist Robert Chavez coordinates activities and schedules events to educate SHRM employees on cybersecurity, he’s reminded of the vital role that HR plays as his partner.

LMC launches health insurance pool for mid-sized companies

LMC Insurance and Risk Management of West Des Moines has announced plans for the Employer Coalition, a new health insurance pool to help medium-sized Iowa employers manage insurance costs.

The Iowa Employer Coalition will be for employers with between 51-500 employees, and will be underwritten by Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa, LMC officials said. Employers in the pool will be able to choose from a variety of plans, but will be part of a larger pool of employees for actuarial purposes, meaning rates are unlikely to skyrocket just because one or a small group of employees in a company have high claims in a year.

“Think of a coalition of employers working together, doing something together to try to address health care costs,” said Rick DeBartolo, senior vice president of LMC. “We want them to feel like they’re running it. LMC is going to bring them ideas and decide what makes sense to implement with their employees.”

Mr. DeBartolo said LMC brainstormed approaches last spring with Wellmark “for what I call the most frustrated segment of the market,” which are medium-sized employers too small to self-insure, but with a pool large enough that they are rated on claims experience. He said the approach borrows many features from an insurance pool LMC administers with the Iowa Hospital Association for the state’s rural hospitals.

Not every employer will be able to participate because the pool will have baseline requirements for employer contributions to health insurance costs. The pool hopes to have 10 employers signed up when it starts in January. Mr. DeBartolo said LMC will be looking at companies seeking long-term strategies for controlling costs, because it will take two or three years to begin to see the financial savings.

Additional information is available at https://www.lmcins.com/iowa-health-insurance-pool.html

OCTOBER 11-12, 2018

Employers Share Overtime Rule Concerns with DOL

Businesses have told the Department of Labor (DOL) at its first four overtime rule listening sessions that it’s OK to raise the salary threshold for white-collar exemptions from overtime requirements, but not by too much

New FCRA Disclosure Notice Takes Effect Today

Class-action lawsuits could await employers that use background screening but don’t update a commonly used notice required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

IRS Updates Guidance on Paid Family Leave Tax Credit

On September 24, 2018, the IRS issued updated guidance in Notice 2018-71 on Internal Revenue Code section 45S, the business tax credit for employers that provide paid family and medical leave (the Credit). Under the Credit—which is in effect for calendar years 2018 and 2019 only—an employer that provides paid family and medical leave may claim a credit based on an employee’s qualifying wages.

Managing Expectations: How to Balance Gig Workers and Regular Employees

In your workplace, you might have 9-to-5 employees working with independent contractors who earn more, have flexible schedules and don’t have to abide by certain company rules. Managing these two very different types of employees can get very tricky, very fast.

Getting family health insurance through work now costs nearly $20,000

CNN Money: Employers and workers together are spending close to $20,000 for family health insurance coverage in 2018, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation report. Although premiums have increased fairly modestly in recent years, the growth has far outpaced workers’ raises over time. The average family premium has increased 55 percent since 2008, twice as fast as workers’ wages and three times as fast as inflation.

EEOC Continues to Scrutinize Criminal Record Screening Policies

Employers that use criminal record-screening policies must continue to be vigilant about compliance with all applicable laws and should know that the EEOC’s scrutiny of such policies, while perhaps scaled back, has not ended. To the contrary, the EEOC has demonstrated a continued interest in discouraging employers from directly or indirectly screening out job applicants who belong to protected classes under Title VII and tend to be arrested and convicted at disproportionately higher rates.

Fourth Quarter 2018 Workplace Privacy Update

2018 has so far been a year that will long live in the memory of workplace privacy lawyers. Over the past eight months, lawyers for multinational corporations have had to familiarize themselves with a range of new laws, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); the GDPR-styled California Consumer Privacy Act; and new data breach notification laws in South Dakota and Alabama. As we enter the final few months of the year, additional privacy laws and developments sit on the horizon. This article focuses on three more developments that privacy lawyers and employment counsels should be aware of heading into the final months of 2018.

Phased Maternity Leave Enhances Parental Benefits

Reducing working hours for expectant and postpartum mothers while maintaining full pay, and allowing new parents to phase in and out of full-time work, are innovative approaches to parental leave.

Amazon wage boost sparks conversation in Iowa

Amazon employees will see more money in their pockets come Nov. 1. On Tuesday, Amazon announced it will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour — more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. Business experts told KCCI the announcement could fuel the conversations of increased minimum wage in Iowa. “That robust debate we’re having in Iowa about what is an appropriate living wage for people to work,” said Matthew Mitchell, associate professor of international strategy and business at Drake University. Iowa last raised its minimum wage 10 years ago. Read more 

Proposed Joint-Employer Rule Would Reverse NLRB’s Controversial Browning-Ferris Case and Restore “Substantial Direct and Immediate Control” Standard

The National Labor Relations Board (the NLRB or Board) has issued a proposed rule revising the test for whether two employers are considered “joint employers” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The proposed rule, scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on September 14, 2018, is open for public comment through November 13, 2018.

DOL Focuses on Compliance-Based Programs
Employers may get a little more help from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) through its Office of Compliance Initiatives. This new office will assist employers in preventing workplace violations and protecting employees’ wages, benefits and other rights under federal labor laws.

IC Council expresses ‘ambition’ for $15 wage 

Iowa City public employees could make $15 or more an hour by July 2021 if the city’s budget can support it – and that’s a big if. The Iowa City Council this week directed staff to prepare for budget season with the “ambition” of giving city employees a raise to at least $15 within three years – although it stopped short of making any commitments beyond a first step to $11.50, the Press-Citizen reports. Council Member Rockne Cole pressed for the move, arguing the public sector must “set the standard” for the minimum wage, while others including Councilwoman Susan Mims and Mayor Jim Throgmorton expressed leeriness about an across-the-board hike, citing budget costs and the unknown future of backfill payments from the state legislature. Ms. Mims estimated the raise to $15 would add between $900,000 and $1 million to the city budget, the PC reports

Poll: Most Iowans blame employers who hire undocumented immigrants, not the workers

Des Moines Register: Iowans place more blame on employers who hire undocumented immigrants than on the workers, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. The poll shows 63 percent of Iowans blame employers who hire people in the United States illegally. Sixteen percent blame the workers, and 21 percent are not sure.

MEDCO launches ‘Brunch with the Boss’ student mentoring

This school year  Marion Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO) has launched a new relationship-building strategy that provides business leaders a unique tool to mentor and advise their next generation of talent.

It’s called “Brunch with the Boss” and is a program of Community Promise. Business leaders are encouraged to participate in the program by submitting a form outlining areas of industry expertise. To date, more than 15 business leaders have signed up to participate. Students will be paired with a business leader based on similar career aspirations. Three students each quarter will be selected to meet with a community leader.

The first drawing will be held Oct. 1. Sophomores through seniors from Linn Mar and Marion Independent high schools qualify to enter.

“Relationships with business leaders make students stand out from the crowd,” Emily Russ, business engagement specialist with MEDCO, stated in a press release. “We hope this simple program creates opportunities for students and CEOs to have meaningful dialogue that may have a big impact on future careers here at home.”

MEDCO will facilitate connecting the businesses with the selected students for a one-hour meeting. Pastries, coffee and juice will be supplied by Fareway Meat and Grocery. Participation interest forms for students are found at medcoiowa.org/brunchstudent and business leaders can find theirs at medcoiowa.org/brunchboss.

Palmer seeks salary guide survey participation

Palmer Group is launching its latest Salary Guide survey and would like you to provide answers.
All responses will remain confidential. The cumulative responses will be published Nov. 5. When you have completed the survey, please click the “finish” button at the bottom of the screen.

WPI Wage Watch: Minimum Wage & Overtime Developments (September Edition)

The past month was full of minimum wage, tip, and overtime activity: amendments; annual rate adjustments; ballot measure battles; legal challenges; and new bills. It was a September to remember.

SEPTEMBER 20-21, 2018

Future of Work Agenda Includes Controversial Workplace Proposals

Earlier this week, flanked by lawmakers at a Capitol Hill press conference, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka highlighted a report laying out an ambitious workforce policy agenda. The 42-page document, entitled “The Future of Work, Wages, and Labor: Policy & Recommendations,” sets forth a laundry list of labor and employment priorities.

DOL Will Listen to Employers on Revising Overtime Rule
The Department of Labor (DOL) has scheduled five listening sessions in September where employers can share their concerns about proposed changes to white-collar overtime exemptions.

DOL Issues Updated FMLA Forms

On September 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division released the long-awaited new Family Medical Leave Act notices and certification forms. The new forms are now available for download from the DOL website.

FDIC Loosens Restrictions on Hiring Bank Personnel with Criminal Histories

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently published its final rule on modifications to the Statement of Policy (SOP) for Section 19 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1829 (“Section 19”), which will ease certain hiring requirements for banking industry employers.

Study finds group health insurance premiums rose 8% in Iowa

Employer health insurance premiums in Iowa rose an average of 8.4 percent from 2017 to 2018, with most employers passing on all or part of the increase to employees, according to the 2018 Iowa Employers Benefit Study from David P. Lind Benchmark.

The 8.4 percent figure represents the average of all employer health insurance plans receiving either an increase, decrease or no change in premiums. Wages increased by a much smaller 2.5 percent over the same period.

In a press release, President David Lind said “Premiums continue to increase for employers, causing additional cost-shifting to employees through two primary methods: increased employee contributions through payroll deduction, and greater employee responsibilities to pay for care through higher deductibles and other cost-sharing methods.  Similar to prior results, medical costs in Iowa continue to outpace wages, crowding out the ability for employees and their families to save for retirement and/or make purchases of non-medical goods and services.”

The combined average annual premiums for all types of medical plans offered by Iowa employers (HMO, PPO, Traditional Indemnity and Consumer-Driven Health Plans) were $6,874 (up 5.7 percent from 2016) for employee-only coverage and $17,450 (up 10.8 percent from 2016) for employees who include family members.

Since 1999, the year this study began, the single premium has increased by 233 percent while the family premium has increased by 217 percent. Prior to the 2018 survey, 2016 was the last year this survey was performed.

 

Iowa employees are asked to contribute about $113 monthly for employee-only coverage, a 21 percent increase from $93 in 2016. Employees with family members on their policies are asked to pay an average of $438 per month, an 8.7 percent increase from $403 in 2016.

The average amount of deductible an Iowa employee must pay before coverage kicks in rose 17 percent from an average to $1,900 from the 2016 average of $1,627.

The 2018 Iowa Employer Benefits Study was conducted during the spring and summer of 2018. Results are based on 1,001 responses from 5,152 randomly selected employers with two or more employees.

House Passes Bills Enhancing HSAs

Provide employers with health care flexibility

The House of Representatives passed two health care bills last week that could transform the use of tax-advantaged health savings accounts (HSAs).

DOL Announces 2019 Minimum Wage Increases for Federal Contractors

The September 4, 2018 edition of the Federal Register will include the updated minimum wage rates that must be paid to workers performing work on or in connection with federal contracts covered by Executive Order (E.O.) 13658, Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors. Beginning January 1, 2019, federal contractors must pay covered workers at least $10.60 per hour. The Secretary of Labor also gave notice that beginning January 1, 2019, covered tipped employees performing work on or in connection with covered contracts must be paid a cash wage of at least $7.40 per hour.

Littler’s WPI Labor Day Report 2018

Almost two years into the new presidential administration, and with highly consequential and hotly debated mid-term elections around the corner, Littler’s Workforce Policy Institute’s Labor Day Report examines the state of the American workforce. The WPI offers this Report to provide an overview of the U.S. labor economy, highlight employment trends, discuss key employment developments from the past year, and provide a preview of things to come.

Trump Executive Order Calls for Changes to Retirement Accounts

President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling on the federal government to revise rules deemed burdensome to plan sponsors and retirement savers, such as by easing plan disclosures and helping small employers partner in shared 401(k) plans

Key Supreme Court Decisions Impact Arbitration, Public-Sector Unions and Immigration

As it wraps up its session, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several cases impacting the workplace. The Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis decision combined three cases (NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA Inc., Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis and Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris) and focused on class-action waivers in arbitration agreements. SHRM filed an amicus brief arguing that the National Labor Relations Act provides no substantive right to invoke collective procedures. The amicus brief helped secure the win, as the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision upheld class-action waivers in arbitration agreements. As a result, employers can prohibit collective class-action claims in arbitration agreements. [MORE]

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Rule to Expand Association Health Plan Eligibility

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule titled Definition of “Employer” Under Section 3(5) of ERISA—Association Health Plans, which expands the ability for small employers to join together as a group or association to be treated as the “employer” sponsor of a single multiple-employer “employee welfare benefit plan” or “group health plan” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). [MORE

Law change makes disciplining alcohol-impaired workers easier

Drinking on the job became riskier this month for Iowans who want to avoid employer disciplinary actions. Iowa Public Radio reports that a new state law that took effect July 1 lowers the blood alcohol level required for employers to take disciplinary action for intoxication on the job from 0.4 percent to 0.2 percent. Sukup Manufacturing, a company that lobbied for the change, said it eliminated a conflict between Iowa’s standard and a federal standard of 0.2 percent alcohol that applies to workers operating heavy equipment. The new law attracted little media attention in Iowa, but did gain notice in the legal industry, including a blog by Seyfarth Shaw LLP which called Iowa’s workplace drunkenness law “one of the more onerous and difficult to navigate in the nation.”

Deducting Employees’ Wages and Benefits from Employer Taxes

With combined federal and state income tax rates at or above 40 percent, the deductibility of employer expenditures becomes a critical factor in a business’s survival. At the same time, employees look to limit or defer tax on their employment-related benefits. The result is a complex web of employer opportunities and requirements.

Employers Adjust Health Benefits as Costs Near $15,000 per Employee

Stay up-to-date on coverage trends

As the cost of employer-sponsored health benefits approaches $15,000 per employee next year, organizations are making changes to their plans. Here are some of the top medical and drug benefit trends for 2019 and beyond.

Viewpoint: Drafting a Parental-Leave Policy that Won’t Get You Sued

Thinking of creating a parental-leave policy or sweetening a current leave policy? Here are pointers to ensure that the policy doesn’t land your employer in court.

‘Ghosting’ Behavior Baffles HR Pros, Hiring Managers

Create consequences for employees who fail to show up

Ever had a great job candidate who didn’t respond to your calls, texts and e-mails about a job offer? Or an employee who simply stopped showing up for work? No-shows and mysterious disappearances are happening nationally across a wide range of industries.

Rubio’s New Paid-Leave Proposal Garners a Mixed Reception
Working-class families will benefit from a bill that would let them use a portion of their saved Social Security benefits during parental leave, according to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., but critics abound.

New Rule on Short-Term Health Plans Could Affect COBRA Choices
A new final rule expands short-term health plans that don’t meet Affordable Care Act coverage requirements. The plans may appeal to some new employees not yet eligible for their employer’s plan, departing employees seeking a lower-cost COBRA alternative and pre-65 retirees, but purchasers should understand the coverage limits.

Workforce Training Bill Becomes Law

President Donald Trump signed legislation overhauling the nation’s career and technical education law, which provides critical funding for training programs for U.S. students and workers. Passing the law was a rare bipartisan achievement after years of stalled efforts.

SHRM President and CEO to Employers: Require Certification

How can business best leverage the talents of the HR profession? Make SHRM certification mandatory for your HR staff, said SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

Employers Explore Repaying Student Loan Debt

Student loan repayment plans (SLRPs) let employers contribute directly to an employee’s student loan servicer. Early adopters tout SLRPs as an effective way to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

House Committee Passes 11 Health Care Bills Dealing with Consumer-Directed Health Plans, the ‘Cadillac Tax’ and the ACA’s Employer Mandate Penalty

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee passed 11 health care bills that, if enacted, will affect future employer-sponsored benefit offerings. SHRM supports most of the bills, specifically those related to consumer-directed health plans, a delay to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “Cadillac tax” and a moratorium of the employer mandate penalty. The bills will now be packaged to go before the full House of Representatives for a vote before the House leaves for August recess, which is scheduled to begin July 27. [MORE]

#MeToo Movement Sparks Bill to ‘Stop Culture of Silence’ in Workplaces

A bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress that would prohibit employers from requiring employees to agree to nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

‘Pawternity’ Leave Acknowledges Pet Owners’ Needs

Consider offering supportive benefits

Pet-friendly policies could translate into employee engagement and retention, but creating a pet-friendly office takes thought. Here are questions to consider.

The Death of the Pay Raise

Wages for many low- and middle-income workers have remained relatively stagnant despite a strong economy and low unemployment. Why is that? Our four-part series examines the effects of slow wage growth and tries to determine what business leaders—and the HR professionals who advise them—should do about it

Please see Mark Hudson’s supplemental topics of interest below: