Quick Hits - January 19, 2022 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - January 19, 2022

Who pays for COVID tests?  New guidance from the Biden Administration could require employer health plans to reimburse the cost of at-home COVID testing in certain circumstances, creating confusion for employers when they were told in the now stayed OSHA ETS that they didn’t have to pay. For employers who still plan to address the stayed ETS’s weekly surveillance test requirement for unvaccinated employees with offsite testing, the Health Plan Mandate has a less direct impact on employers who sponsor fully-insured plans.  In those plans, the employer is only responsible for the plan premium and the insurance carrier must pay the cost for any at-home tests. For self-funded employers, the Health Plan Mandate has a more immediate impact in that employers are responsible for paying any claims for benefits (including the cost of reimbursing employees for at-home tests), but only for those participating in the plans.  Source:  Seyfarth Shaw 1/11/22

Where are your lactation rooms? DOL determined that supervisors at a Lynwood, California, location failed to provide a space for pumping that met the Fair Labor Standards Act’s requirements; specifically, an employee using the offered space was twice interrupted by co-workers. Labcorp agreed to provide a private space with a notification on the door to prevent intrusions and also revised its relevant policy. The FLSA requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide reasonable break time for an employee to express milk for a nursing child for one year after the child’s birth "each time such employee has need to express the milk." Employers also must provide a place to do so that is not a bathroom and is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, the law says. "Employers who fail to provide designated space as the law requires are creating a barrier for women willing and ready to return to the workforce," said Wage and Hour Division District Director Richard Blaylock in a statement. "Employers must provide nursing mothers a place — even a temporary one — to express milk."  It’s a good time now to review your handbook policies to ensure they are up to date.  ASE can assist with this project.  For more information, contact Michael Burns.  Source:  HR Dive 1/11/22

Early retirees may not come back to the workforce:  Kaiser Health News cites a record-breaking 13.6 million Americans already signed up for 2022 coverage through an ACA marketplace exchange. The closest number of total signups was 12.7 million in 2016, during Obama’s final year in office.  What’s interesting is that some of the largest ACA signups are coming from states that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Data issued by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finds that Florida, Texas, and Georgia are experiencing never-before-seen levels of participation. Under the American Rescue Plan, individuals with income up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level can obtain coverage for premiums as little as $0 a month. Americans can obtain this type of coverage via Premium Tax Credits (PTCs). Via the American Rescue Plan, individuals with income at 400% of the FPL or beyond can also receive coverage for monthly premiums that are no more than 8.5% of their income.   These changes to healthcare costs are slated to run through the remainder of 2022, but Biden’s Build Back Better Plan seeks to extend the eligibility for reduced premiums through 2025.  Healthcare coverage is a major reason for people to work but if the marketplace can provide affordable coverage, there is less incentive for these workers to return to the job marketplace.  Source:  ACA Times 1/11/22

And especially older women too: The surge in U.S. retirements during the COVID-19 pandemic was led by older White women without a college education, according to research by the St. Louis Federal Reserve.   The so-called Great Retirement trend that saw workers leave the labor market -- whether forced or by choice -- was driven by baby boomers aged 65 and older, the regional Fed bank wrote in a recent blog post. By contrast, retirements among those aged 54 to 65 was little changed.  Overall, there were 3.3 million, or 7%, more retirees as of October 2021 than in January 2020, a number that exceeds the expected demographic shift of the large baby-boomer cohort out of the labor force.  Average net worth jumped 12% and 14.8% among families with a head of household aged 55 to 69, and 70 and older, respectively, Fed researchers found.  Unlike in other developed countries, retirement isn’t necessarily a permanent shift in the U.S. It’s not uncommon that Americans “un-retire” and return to the job market, out of financial hardship or personal choice.  The COVID-19 retirement boom has changed that dynamic. Many retirees haven’t been swayed to return due to pandemic-related health risks, according to research by the Kansas City Fed. Source:  Bloomberg 1/11/22

EEOC and OFCCP teaming up on equity hiring: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) launched a new initiative to reimagine hiring practices to advance equal employment opportunity. The goal of the initiative is to identify innovative and evidence-based practices that will help workers access good jobs and help employers utilize the talent across America’s workforce. The agencies will host a virtual roundtable on January 19 to kick off this initiative. The Hiring Initiative to Reimagine Equity (HIRE) is a multi-year collaborative effort that will engage a broad array of stakeholders in expanding access to good jobs for workers from underrepresented communities and help address key hiring and recruitment challenges. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities, the growing recognition of systemic inequality, and calls for racial justice have brought national attention to the unfinished business of equal opportunity. HIRE will identify strategies to remove hiring barriers that limit opportunity along the lines of race, color, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ status, religion, disability, age and veteran status. As our nation recovers from the pandemic, HIRE reflects the agencies’ commitment to building an inclusive economy that works for everyone.  Source:  EEOC 1/12/22

The Equal Rights Amendment may not be dead: Virginia, Illinois, and Nevada sued in 2020 in an effort to have the amendment recognized as ratified by the required number of states. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras last year ruled that the challenging states acted too late to force the amendment’s addition to the Constitution.  The case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Similar to what took place at the district court, several major law firms filed amicus briefs on behalf of groups in favor of the ERA, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all U.S. citizens regardless of sex.  In effect, this amendment would raise the standard of review to the highest level for any law that would target directly or indirectly sex, such as abortion.  Couple that with the recent Supreme Court Case expanding the definition of sex to the LGBTQ community, and constitutional protections would be at the highest in any gender or sex discrimination case.  Source:  law.com 1/10/22

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