Spencers Benefits Reports NetNews – August 29, 2014

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August 29, 2014

Government Revises Rules For Religious Employer Accommodation For Contraceptive Coverage

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Labor (DOL), and Treasury have responded to two recent Supreme Court rulings by issuing interim final and identical proposed regulations allowing an alternative to the use of EBSA Form 700. They are also issuing proposed regulations that would extend the current religious employer accommodation for nonprofits to certain closely held for-profit entities. The final interim regulations regarding Form 700 are effective on August 27, 2014…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

PCORI Offers $90 Million In Funding For Practical Comparative Research

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) will provide up to $90 million in funding for studies that address practical comparative questions faced by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision makers. Through this funding opportunity, PCORI will provide up to $10 million in direct costs for studies lasting up to five years. Applicants are required to submit letters of intent by October 1…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

August 28, 2014

Employers Worldwide Step Up Investments In Workers’ Wellness

Seventy-eight percent of the world’s employers are strongly committed to creating a workplace culture of health, to boost individual engagement and organizational performance, according to recent research from Buck Consultants. The
Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies survey of employers worldwide illustrates investments in wellness: 43 percent said they created a brand identity for their employee wellness programs, 52 percent offered health insurance premium reductions, and 65 percent believed wellness programs are extremely or very important to attract and retain workers….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

FedEx Didn’t Tell Employee Consequences Of No FMLA Form; Jury Award Upheld

Finding that FedEx was at fault for failing to provide an employee with written notice of the consequences of not returning a completed medical certification form, the Sixth Circuit has affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of the employee on her FMLA interference claim. In addition, the appeals court found the magistrate impermissibly re-weighed the evidence when she reduced to $90,788 the jury’s award of $173,000 in compensatory damages; thus, the appeals court reinstated the full amount of the award (Wallace v FedEx Corp, August 22, 2014, Moore, K)…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

August 27, 2014

Fed Survey Finds Many Households Not Adequately Prepared For Retirement

Results from a recent Federal Reserve Board survey suggest that many households are not adequately prepared for retirement. In the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, the Federal Reserve Board provides a snapshot of the self-perceived financial and economic well-being of U.S. households and the issues they face, based on responses to the Board’s
2013 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking. The report provides insight into numerous topics of current relevance to household finances, including retirement and health expenses…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

No Expert Testimony Needed To Establish Incapacity While Out On FMLA Leave

Reversing summary judgment in an employer’s favor on an employee’s FMLA claims, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the district court’s holding that an employee had to present expert testimony at trial to establish that he was incapacitated on the specific days in which he took intermittent leave, concluding that no such showing in required under the Act or its enabling regulations. Although the employee, who suffered from depression, exceeded the amount of intermittent leave periods estimated by his physician on his medical certification, “an estimate is just that,” the Seventh Circuit noted, and the employer had other options at its disposal, other than discharge, if it required validation that he was in fact incapacitated on the days in question. The case is
Hansen v. Fincantieri Marine Group (No. 13-3391)…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

August 26, 2014

Anticipated 4 Percent Rise In Costs Is Making Many Employers Rethink Health Plan Offerings

An expected 4 percent increase in 2015 health care costs for active employees (after plan design changes), is causing many employers to rethink some plan provisions, including company subsidies for spouses and dependents, according to recent research from Towers Watson. The 2014 Towers Watson Health Care Changes Ahead Survey found that a 5.2 percent growth rate is anticipated where no adjustment will be made, putting absolute cost per person for health care benefits at an all-time high. Despite this cost trend, most employers (83 percent) consider health benefits an important element of their employee value proposition, and plan to continue subsidizing and managing them for both full-time and part-time active employees, the survey shows…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

EEOC Launches First Direct Attack On Employer Wellness Program

In its first such challenge, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on August 20 against Manitowoc, Wisconsin-based Orion Energy Systems claiming that the company violated the ADA with mandatory medical exams and inquiries that were not job related but nonetheless mandated by its compulsory “wellness program.” The company purportedly fired an employee who objected to the program—but only after making her pay for all of her health insurance premium. The suit is the EEOC’s first direct attack on an employer wellness program…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

August 25, 2014

EBSA Updates Guidance On Finding Missing Participants Of Terminated DC Plans And Making Final Distributions

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has updated its guidance for fiduciaries that want to make final distributions from terminated defined contribution (DC) plans that have missing participants. EBSA explains that the guidance has been updated to reflect important changes that have occurred in the last ten years since the publication of Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) No. 2004-02. These changes include the discontinuation of the IRS and Social Security Administration (SSA) letter-forwarding services, and the expansion and improvement of Internet search technologies. The update also reflects the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) codification of its enforcement safe harbor for distributing missing participants’ benefits to individual retirement plans and suggestions from the 2013 ERISA Advisory Council…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Big Tax Tab Possible For Employers Who Fund Individual Medical Coverage Via Cafeteria Plans

Making individual major medical coverage available to employees on a tax-free basis as part of an employer-sponsored arrangement may have significant adverse tax consequences for employer plan sponsors. That’s according to a recent employer alert from The Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC), which indicates it has received numerous inquiries on this issue from employer plan sponsors after the IRS issued guidance in IRS Notice 2013-54…

(Read Intelliconnect) »