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December 14, 2010

Employment Law: New Employment Laws you need to Know, and Comply with.

Ripping on a supervisor on your Facebook page, which led to the firing of a Connecticut woman and her subsequent complaint before the National Labor Relations Board, might well be next year’s point of employment law. But there is plenty of new employment law created in 2010, and local attorneys Cynthia Van Bogaert of the Boardman Law Firm and Meg Vergeront of Stafford Rosenbaum, both well versed in employee benefit law, stepped up to offer their compliance advice.

Employers must make quick adjustments to respond to changes brought about by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to Van Bogaert, employers are scrambling to identify the employee benefit plans that are subject to the new law, and that’s not always straightforward. "Say you have a wellness benefit and you find that it is subject to health care reform, and you really didn’t think of it as a benefit plan before," she explained. "There are other laws like ERISA and COBRA that you need to think about with respect to these plans."

In addition, there are employee notices and employer reporting requirements, including special enrollments and a new requirement to report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage on the W-2 form, among other record-keeping requirements.

Compliance: It’s a good time to look at all health-related compliance issues, not just those linked to your major medical plan. Employers should properly identify the plans that are subject to various provisions and requirements in the new law. "It’s really a provision-by-provision analysis," Van Bogaert said.

Also related to "Obama Care" requirements, there are certain notices that need to be sent out regarding things like the removal of caps on lifetime benefits, non-grandfathered health plans, and the like. Employers with fully insured plans need to work with their insurers to find out who is sending which notice. There are a couple of cases in which certain employees and their dependents are given the right to enroll, have a 30-day window to enroll, and the employer needs to figure out who is sending out that notice. "Are the insurers going to be sending out the notice?" Vergeront asked. "Are they going to be putting the notices in the plan document, itself?"

Compliance: Typically, the insurers make the notifications, but Vergeront said it doesn’t matter which party fulfills the obligation, as long as someone fulfills it. "Typically, an employer is going to be responsible for doing what its plan is obligated to do," Vergeront noted, "so that is where the notice obligation comes from and that’s why you want to coordinate, if you are fully insured, with the insurance company to see what notices they are going to do and what notices they are not going to do."

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