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Don't HR Alone #39 - Senate ACA replacement keeps some taxes, Summer Party Shenanigans, and a $2

Tips for limiting liability risks at summer party — PRACTICE TIP

For some companies, the office summer picnic or outing has replaced the office holiday party. However, summer office outings still present similar liability risks for company managers and bosses.

A survey of over 400 managers, conducted by Seyfarth Shaw at Work, reveals that more than 60 percent of managers have hosted summer office events that later came back to "bite" them. The biggest unexpected hot-weather headaches came from drinking games, risky team-building activities and poorly executed party themes.

Philippe Weiss, Managing Director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, suggests the following tips for bosses and companies:

1. Ticket the Tequilas: Provide the event food, but limit the alcohol - such as by using a drink ticket system. (It also may be safest to avoid asking employees to cook any of the dishes to limit food poisoning and other risks).

2. Be Open to Employee "Opt Outs": Stress the fact that no one is expected to attend. That's as important as making everyone, at all levels, feel welcome. (Don't forget to include your remote-workers on the invites.)

3. Pass Up on those Perilous Party Themes: Ask yourself: does my planned event theme in any way encourage people to act, or even dress, irresponsibly? (Weiss has seen such ill-fated themes/traditions as “Toga and Twister” parties and games of “Bobbing for Minibar Bottles" gone awry.)

4. Don't Get Physical: Games should focus on friendly collaboration - not flagrant physical contact. Weiss recalls a "Mud Wrestle your Meanest Manager" competition that led to an unfortunate spate of post-party complaints. (Assign a trusted internal “game & party planner” to carefully manage the agenda.)

Timekeeping and payroll system inaccuracies results in Pa-based healthcare company paying restitution of more than $250,000 to Massachusetts workers — MASSACHUSETTS — Wage payment

A Pennsylvania-based healthcare company that provides services to hundreds of healthcare facilities in Massachusetts has agreed to pay more than $250,000 in restitution and penalties for failing to pay more than 1,900 Massachusetts workers properly, according to Attorney General Maura Healey.

Healthcare Services Group, Inc. (HSG) has agreed to pay restitution to 1,931 Massachusetts employees for hours worked between July 2012 and July 2015. The vast majority of these workers made less than $11 per hour and more than 100 of them were underpaid for 35 hours or more.

“Every employer in Massachusetts is responsible for paying workers the wages they have earned,” said AG Healey. “We are pleased that through this settlement, HSG will pay these low-wage workers the money they are owed and that the company has installed new systems to ensure workers are paid properly in the future.”

HSG is a corporation based in Pennsylvania that provides housekeeping, laundry, dining, and nutrition services to more than 250 healthcare facilities in Massachusetts.

The AG’s Office began an investigation after the AG’s Fair Labor Division received complaints from three HSG employees alleging non-payment of wages for hours worked at the Wingate at Reading Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center located in Reading, MA.

The AG’s investigation found that inaccuracies in the company’s timekeeping and payroll systems prevented employees’ hours from being recorded and processed in the payroll system. Due to these clerical errors, between July 2012 and July 2015, the company failed to pay employees the correct wages for the full amount of hours worked.

The company has since changed its practices and implemented a new electronic system with safeguards for checking time adjustments installed at multiple levels of management.

HSG has also agreed to pay for costs, as to be determined, associated with locating former employees who are restitution recipients.

The Massachusetts Wage Act requires employers to pay workers for wages earned within six days of the end of the pay period.

AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the payment of wages, including prevailing wage, minimum wage and overtime laws.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew H. Cahill and Investigator Leah Lucier, both of AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division.

Source: Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Press Release, July 13, 2017,

Cheaper plans, fewer benefits with revised Senate’s ACA replacement bill — PENDING LEGISLATION

Noting an additional $70 billion in funds for states to use to reduce premiums, hold down out-of-pocket costs, and improve the general affordability of health care, the Senate issued a revision draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) (H.R. 1628), which would repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). The revised bill’s funding additions for states are on top of the $100 billion already earmarked in the previous bill. The revised bill also includes provisions known as the Cruz Amendment, as introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), which allows for cheaper insurance plans in exchange for plans with benefits that do not meet current ACA requirements. The draft of the revised bill is expected to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shortly.

The revised draft would still eliminate Medicaid expansion and convert the federal health care program to a system of fixed payments. However, state Medicaid spending, most notably in instances of a public health emergency, would not count towards any spending limits or per capita caps. The revised draft does not include any changes to the Medicare payroll tax paid by high-income earners, nor does it change the limits on the tax deductions that insurers can take for salaries and other remuneration paid to health care executives.

Changes. The revised draft would keep the two taxes imposed by the ACA—3.8 percent tax on investment income and the 0.9 percent payroll tax—on high income earners, specifically individuals that earn over $200,000 or couples with incomes over $250,000. The previous Senate draft would have repealed both those taxes, which would have reduced federal revenues by $231 billion over 10 years according to a CBO and congressional Joint Committee on Taxation report.

In addition to keeping the two ACA taxes, the revised draft BCRA includes provisions based on the Cruz Amendment that would permit insurers to offer health plans that did not comply with the ACA under certain conditions. Essentially, the proposal would allow an insure offering "sufficient minimum coverage" on the exchange to also offer coverage outside of the federal exchange that would be exempt from many of the ACA’s requirement. Enrollees in catastrophic health insurance would also be eligible for federal tax credits to pay premiums. Under the ACA, consumers generally could not use the tax credits to pay for these health plans. In addition, the bill would allow people to use health savings accounts to pay insurance premiums.

Additions to HSA uses. A provision that is now in the bill that would allow people to use their HSAs to pay for their health insurance premiums. Section 118 would amend Code Sec. 223(d)(2)(B) and Code Sec. 223(d)(2)(C) to provide that HSA funds may generally be used to pay premiums for a high deductible health plan (HDHP), that is not an employer-sponsored plan subject to the exclusion from an employee’s gross income under Code Sec. 106, and only for amounts that exceed any tax credit amounts allowed under Code Sec. 36B.

It would also amend Code Sec. 223(d)(2)(A) to add that qualified medical expenses under an HSA may include amounts paid for an account holder’s children who are under the age of 27. The amendments under Section 118 would become effective in 2018.

Additionally, under the bill, opioid addiction treatment and research would receive $45 billion from 2018 to 2026 in grants to states, including counseling, medication assisted treatment, and other substance abuse treatment and recovery services.

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