Don't HR Alone #40 - Compliance Updates and Travel Benefits

July 18, 2017

 

 

 

Retirement plans. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has published a Request for Information on its fiduciary rule, which gives the public a new opportunity to comment on the basis for new exemptions; changes or revisions to the rule and prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs); and the advisability of extending the January 1, 2018, applicability date of certain provisions in the Best Interest Contract Exemption, the Principal Transaction Exemption, and PTE 84-24. The DOL is particularly interested in whether it would be appropriate to adopt an additional, more streamlined exemption or other rule change for advisers committed to taking new approaches, such as mutual fund “clean shares” and fee-based annuities, based on the potential for reducing conflicts of interest and increasing transparency. Comments concerning the applicability date are due by July 21, 2017, and comments on the other matters are due by August 7, 2017.

 

Paid family leave. Washington has enacted a paid family leave program that, beginning January 1, 2020, will provide employees with up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave, and up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new child or an ailing family member. The leave is capped at 16 weeks if an employee needs both types of time off in a one-year period. Employees are eligible after working 820 hours and, depending on earnings, will receive up to 90 percent of their wage or up to $1,000 per week during their leave. The cost of the program is shared between employers and employees through a payroll tax. Note that Washington previously enacted a paid family leave program in 2007, but funding was never approved and subsequent laws sidelined it.

 

FLSA exemptions. In the appeal brief filed by the DOL in State of Nevada v. U.S. Department of Labor, pending in the Fifth Circuit, the agency made it clear that although it intends to vigorously defend its right to establish a salary level for purposes of identifying workers who are employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity (and thus exempt from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act), it will not defend the salary level ($913 per week) set by the Obama administration in its ill-fated overtime rule. Accordingly, the DOL asked the court to address only the threshold legal question of the agency’s statutory authority to set a salary level, without addressing the specific level set under the final rule. Also, in light of the litigation, the DOL will not proceed immediately with a proposed rule to address the salary level. Instead, it will publish a Request for Information seeking public input on several questions that will aid in the development of a proposal.

 

Garnishments. The IRS has reissued Form 2159, Payroll Deduction Agreement, which is used when an employee voluntarily agrees to repay unpaid taxes through wage reduction.

 

Local living wages. Under a new ordinance in Minneapolis, a $15.00-per-hour minimum wage will be phased in over five years for large employers and over seven years for smaller employers with 100 or fewer employees. As a first step, large employers will need to pay their workers at least $10.00 per hour on January 1, 2018. The minimum wage rate will apply to anyone who works in Minneapolis for any amount of time, and there will be no exception for tipped workers in the hospitality industry.

 

In Missouri, political subdivisions may not establish, mandate, or otherwise require employers to provide employees with minimum/living wages or employment benefits that exceed state laws, rules, or regulations. A new state law — which will become effective on August 28, 2017, without the governor’s signature — preempts and nullifies all such local ordinances.

 

Sexual orientation discrimination. Although an employee’s petition for a panel or en banc rehearing in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc. drew amicus support from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a number of civil rights organizations, the Second Circuit will not reconsider its decision, which held that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

Similarly, the Eleventh Circuit denied an employee’s petition for an en banc rehearing in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. Following the denial, Lambda Legal announced that it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to address the controversial question of whether Title VII provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The national legal nonprofit is fighting on behalf of a security guard purportedly harassed at work and effectively terminated because she is a lesbian and does not conform to gender norms in her appearance and demeanor.

 

VETS reporting. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently approved a minor change to the VETS 4212 report to update the physical address on the form. Also, remember that the reporting cycle for 2017 is scheduled to open on August 1, 2017, and the filing deadline is September 30, 2017.

 

Immigration. Under guidance issued by the Trump Administration after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the travel-ban injunctions, foreign nationals for whom the travel ban does not apply must make a credible claim that they have a bona fide close familial relationship with a person in the United States. A close familial relationship is defined as “a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiance, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half, and including step relationships.” Believing that the government incorrectly interpreted the High Court’s order by excluding grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States, Hawaii is seeking clarification from the courts.

 

Turnover. The turnover rate was 3.6 percent (before seasonal adjustment) during May, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

 

SHRM survey shows employees able to keep travel rewards — SURVEY RESULTS

In June, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released the results of its 2017 Employee Benefits Survey, which showed that the most common travel perks were allowing employees to keep hotel points (66 percent) and frequent flyer miles (65 percent). Other business travel highlights include:

  • Meal ticket: 76 percent of companies offer per diem or reimbursement for meals, compared to 70 percent in 2013.

  • Staying connected: 59 percent of companies allow employees to pay for Internet access while on business travel. Reimbursement for personal telephone calls while on business travel is down. Currently, 36 percent reimburse for personal calls compared to 44 percent in 2013.

  • Airport travel: 87 percent of organizations allow reimbursement for taxis or parking reimbursement; 80 percent allow for mileage reimbursement for the use of a personal car to travel to and from the airport.

  • Travel companion: Paid travel expenses for spouses is down from 7 percent (2013) to 2 percent (2017).

The survey polled 3,227 HR professionals from a randomly selected sample of SHRM’s membership.

Source: Society for Human Resource Management.

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