We recognize that many of our clients sponsor ERISA welfare benefit plans and are currently undergoing their open enrollment process and issuing related participant communications. To assist our clients with that process, we have prepared an Automatic Participant Disclosures Checklist for use during open enrollment and throughout the plan year.
Please note that many of the disclosure requirements, links, and/or other information provided in the checklist may change from time to time; therefore, please check our Employee Benefits Practice Group thought leadership page periodically for the most current version of this checklist.
If you have questions regarding the information in this checklist, please contact any of the attorneys in our Employee Benefits Practice Group.
Download Document – 2015 Welfare Plan Disclosure Checklist
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney David Thornton offers guidance on the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, and how public and private sector employers are struggling with its legal and financial implications. As David explains, “‘[t]hey’re worried that if they keep the same-sex partner benefits, there’s a pretty good argument that opposite-sex partners are being discriminated against.'” Initially, many companies planned to change their coverage plans to cover only married couples, but now many big companies are deciding to extend benefits to unmarried couples in a committed relationship. As David emphasizes in the article, by extending coverage to unmarried couples, companies can attract and retain quality employees.
The full article, “Should Gay Employees Have to Put a Ring On It,” was published by U.S. News & World Report on November 10, 2015 and is available online.
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett authored an article published in the National Law Journal providing guidance on the recent same-sex marriage ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, and how the decision has caused many employers to reevaluate their benefit structures. Since the ruling, employers are faced with added pressure to provide retroactive coverage and are considering whether to extend benefits to only legally married spouses. Previously, many employers provided coverage to employees’ domestic partners; but with the recent ruling, employers see a less-compelling argument to extend benefits to relationships less formal than marriage. Not only has the decision caused many employers to analyze health coverage, it also has led to an increase in cultural tensions in the workplace.
The full article, “Workplace Impact From Same-Sex Marriage Ruling,” was published on November 9, 2015 by the National Law Journal and is available online (subscription required).
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett analyzes the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and its effect on workplace issues. In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry is a fundamental right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, regardless of the gender of the intended spouse. This right has implications for benefits coverage to employees and spouses. In the article, Tim suggests that one of unintended consequences of the Obergefell ruling is how employers deal with benefits coverage in situations involving employees with domestic partners. As Tim points out in the article, “there is an unintended consequence unfolding after Obergefell. Given that same-sex marriage is now a fundamental right, there is a less compelling argument (some might argue no compelling argument) for employers to provide benefits for relationships that are less formal than marriage.”
This second article is part of a three-part series on the topic of how the culture war in America is playing out in the workplace. The full article, “Recent Developments Create Unexpected — and Perhaps Unintended – Consequences,” was published by InsideCounsel on October 19, 2015 and is available online.
Case analysis from Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett was included in an article outlining the impact of the Sixth Circuit’s Ault v. Oberlin College decision. In this case, the Court ruled that a one-time harassment event can be the basis for a hostile work environment. According to Tim’s analysis, “employers should prudently investigate harassment claims even if it’s one employee’s word against another. [E]mployers who fail to investigate and address inappropriate comments may face escalating problems and then lawsuits.”
The full article, “Court Ruling Finds One-time Harassment Can Constitute a Hostile Work Environment,” was published by the Phoenix Business Journal on October 12, 2015 and is available online.
Tim’s full analysis of this case was published in the Labor Talk Blog post from July 28, 2015 titled “Single Severe Act Can Be Sexual Harassment – But How ‘Severe’?“
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Michael Moschel spoke at the seminar “The Complexities and Challenges of Social Media in the Workplace” sponsored by the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area in Washington, D.C. on September 16, 2015. Bloomberg BNA provided a recap of Michael’s presentation in the article “Facebook ‘Likes’ a Headache for Employer Policies.” As Michael pointed out in his presentation, “employers have a right to protect their legitimate business interests and a duty to protect employees and customers, so they may discipline employees for off-duty conduct on social media where it has some impact on those interests.” The article includes 10 factors for a company to consider when crafting a social media policy, such as what activity is restricted and permitted under the National Labor Relations Act.
The full article, “Facebook ‘Likes’ a Headache for Employer Policies,” was published on September 21, 2015 on the Bloomberg BNA website and is available online.
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett authored an article detailing how employers can navigate the changing cultural landscape in a way that balances the differing needs and rights of various “constituencies.” As Tim points out, while the “workforce continues to grow and diversify , it would appear that the workplace has become the frontline of America’s cultural war.” In this first article in a three-part series on the topic, Tim examines how religious accommodations can be approached when personal views are expressed outside of the office but those views may impact the treatment of employees inside the workplace.
The full article, “Is Your Workplace the New Battleground for the Culture Wars?,” was published by InsideCounsel on September 15, 2015 and is available online.
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Michael Moschel was quoted in an article that outlines the pros and cons of the quickly growing on-demand economy, defined as the economic activity created by technology companies that fulfill consumer demand via the immediate provisioning of goods and services. As reported in the article, companies such as Uber, Lyft, Shipt, Favor and OrderUp all have established a Nashville presence and are impacting the way business is now done in Middle Tennessee. Employers are watching several case developments and new guidance from the Department of Labor to learn how workers should be classified when employed under this business model, either as independent contractors or employees.
The full article, “On-demand Services Look Made to Order for Nashville,” was published by The Tennessean on September 6, 2015, and is available online.
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett authored an article outlining several new labor rulings and developments and explained how these issues impact the healthcare industry. Specifically, Tim highlights cases related to pregnancy accommodation, religious discrimination and accommodations, and union activity. Should an employment situation arise, Tim recommends “engaging employees in an ‘interactive process’ to collaboratively come up with a solution.”
The full article, “Healthcare HR – New Developments Lead to New Challenges,” was published on September 4, 2015 by Becker’s Hospital Review and is available online.
Home healthcare agencies and other third party employers of home care workers recently lost a key fight to prevent the Department of Labor (“DOL”) from eliminating Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) exemptions for employees who provide companionship services and live-in care within a home. On August 21, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision invalidating the regulations, meaning that employers in at least 27 states (where state law has not afforded the home care workers with minimum wage or overtime protections) should now modify their pay practices to conform with the new regulations. Continue Reading