Arkansas News & Analysis

  • 3 years later: The smoke around AMMA clears

    In 2016, Arkansas citizens voted to enact the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA) as Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution. It has taken considerable time, but medical marijuana dispensaries are now open and providing the drug to qualified patients pursuant to the amendment. As the law reaches its three-year anniversary, it's time to review what the amendment does and doesn't require of employers.

  • Surprise, surprise! Train engineer's attendance at work is actually important

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit (whose rulings apply to all Arkansas employers) recently considered an employee's argument that attendance wasn't an essential job function and his employer should have reasonably accommodated him by allowing him to work only when he felt able to do so. Fortunately, the court disagreed with the employee's interpretation of the law.

  • HSA-eligible health plans can provide more preventive services, with IRS's blessing

    The IRS recently issued guidance expanding the definition of "preventive care" that may be covered—possibly free of charge—by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) that's paired with a health savings account (HSA). While the changes made by the guidance are relatively simple, they have the potential to make HSAs substantially more attractive, particularly to employees who have a chronic condition that is controlled by medication or therapy. Before diving too far into the details, however, it's important to have a solid understanding of HSAs and how they work.

  • Association retirement plans may not be ready for prime time

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently finalized regulations allowing multiple employers to offer a retirement plan to their employees through a combined association retirement plan (ARP). In what is becoming a common theme for the agency under President Donald Trump, the new rules are intended to make it easier for small to mid-sized employers to offer such plans to their employees. While they are similar to rules finalized last year that established a new type of association health plan, they go even further by establishing guidelines for professional employer organizations (PEOs) to sponsor retirement plans for their members' employees. Unfortunately, they also may face some of the same problems as those rules, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

  • AR requires more than conclusory allegations before case can go to trial

    The Arkansas Supreme Court recently addressed the minimum standard a litigant must meet in her complaint before a lawsuit can move forward. While the case, against a state agency, involved issues such as qualified immunity that don't apply to most employers, its holdings about the level of detail that must be alleged before the litigation can proceed is relevant to all employers.

  • FMLA doesn't shield employees from reasonable disciplinary action

    Employers often feel they're walking through a minefield when dealing with employees who can use discrimination law as a tool to prevent them from managing their businesses and dealing with problems in a reasonable manner. The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (which governs the federal courts in Arkansas) recently showed there are limits to employees' ability to use the laws as a shield against justifiable disciplinary action.

  • ERISA update: Sometimes, summary plan is the plan

    Although some employers leave the administration of their employee benefits to third-party entities, particularly insurance companies, many operate self-funded plans, which leaves the employer more directly responsible. Moreover, even with third-party plans, there is still an annual obligation to provide employees with a summary plan description (SPD) that explains what those benefits are. As the 8th Circuit recently found, the SPD also can determine what the employer's rights are.

  • Individual coverage HRAs probably not option for 2020

    On his very first day in office, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to lessen the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) burden on the organizations and individuals who were subject to its requirements. More than two years later, the ACA is limping along, but the Trump administration is still working to carry out that order.

  • How to identify and minimize employee burnout

    You may have seen reports recently that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified employee burnout as a diagnosable medical condition. While that's not exactly accurate, the group has expanded its definition of the term in its latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

  • 8th Circuit: Showing up is a big part of any job

    Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit (whose rulings apply to all Arkansas employers) considered the importance of attendance as an essential job function. The court found that without regular and reliable attendance, an employee wasn't qualified to perform her job at the time of her discharge and couldn't satisfy the minimum standard for pursuing a disability discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).