New Jersey News & Analysis

  • IRS authorizes more preventive services to be paid by HSA-eligible health plans

    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 primetime

    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.

  • Agency Action

    New wage and hour opinion letters issued. The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in July announced new opinion letters related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA2019-7 addresses the calculation of overtime pay for nondiscretionary bonuses paid on a quarterly and annual basis. FLSA2019-8 addresses the application of the highly compensated employee exemption to paralegals employed by a trade organization. FLSA2019-9 addresses permissible rounding practices for calculating an employee's hours worked. FLSA2019-10 addresses the compensability of time spent in a truck's sleeper berth while otherwise relieved from duty. The DOL offers a search function allowing users to search existing opinion letters by keyword, year, topic, and a variety of other filters. The search function can be accessed at www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/search/fullsearch.htm.

  • Workplace Trends

    Texting gaining popularity in hiring process. More employers and job candidates are using texting as a communication method, according to research from Robert Half Technology. More than two-thirds (67%) of IT decision makers surveyed said their organization uses texting as one way of coordinating interviews with job candidates. Nearly half (48%) of U.S. workers polled in a similar survey said they've received a text message from a potential employer. When asked about the greatest advantage of texting during the hiring process, quick communication was the top response among IT managers and workers. They also acknowledged the greatest drawback was the possibility of miscommunication.

  • Union Activity

    Miners' union invites presidential candidates to go underground. The international president of the United Mine Workers of America in July sent letters to all the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president inviting them to go to a union coal mine and go underground. Cecil E. Roberts said coal miners want to know that those running for president "have some understanding of what they do and why they do it." Roberts sent the letter at a time when the sector of the coal industry that produces steam coal, used as fuel for electricity generation, is under stress. Coal-fired power plants are disappearing, with 289 closing since 2010 and 50 since January 2017. A statement from the union said most Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed the Green New Deal or offered similar plans that would hasten the closure of coal-fired power plants and the mines that feed them. Roberts said the candidates "owe it to these workers to meet them face to face, tell them their plans, and then just listen."

  • 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.

  • Agency Action

    DOL takes more steps to advance apprenticeships. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) along with monetary awards in its continuing effort to expand apprenticeships. In the announcement, the DOL said the NPRM would establish a process for the agency to advance the development of high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs). A 2017 Executive Order created the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, which developed recommendations on how to best expand the apprenticeship model. The new NPRM reflects key recommendations from the task force. The DOL also announced awards totaling $183.8 million to support the development and expansion of apprenticeships for educational institutions partnering with companies that provide a funding match component. The agency also will make available an additional $100 million for efforts to expand apprenticeships and close the skills gap.

  • Workplace Trends

    Tight labor market tops HR concerns, survey says. Attracting talent has surpassed regulatory compliance as the top HR concern, according to the 2019 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, released on June 24. More than two-thirds of HR leaders reported difficulty finding and hiring quality candidates, up from 59% last year. When asked specifically about challenges related to hiring, HR professionals most often cited finding qualified candidates (49%), retaining their best employees (49%), and finding candidates who fit their company culture (42%). The survey reported that as a result of those challenges, HR teams are increasingly willing to train job candidates who may not check all the boxes for required skills. The survey showed 85% of HR leaders would be willing to train and upskill an underqualified candidate, and 78% said their organizations have already benefited from upskilling underqualified workers.

  • DOL updates opinion on independent contractors for the gig economy

    Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has taken a decidedly industry-friendly approach to the independent contractor analysis. If there was any doubt before, that was made clear by its recent issuance of a whopping 10-page opinion letter examining the nature of the relationship between a virtual marketplace company (think Uber) and the "gig" workers they employ (e.g., Uber drivers).