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  • 22 Jun 2017 12:13 PM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

    As you may recall, the American Health Care Act was passed in dramatic fashion in the House last month.  To become a bill, the Senate would have to agree to the same version (and if not, there will be a House/Senate committee that reconciles the bills).  Today, Senate Republicans released their response to AHCA, entitled "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017." 

    Significantly, the bill does not propose to tax employee premiums on health insurance as the original leaked version of AHCA had done.  So, for now at least, pre-tax deductions for health insurance are safe.

    The bill, similar to AHCA, did not eliminate the employer and individual mandates, but eliminated the penalties.  The Cadillac tax is also delayed until 2025. Limits to HSA and FSAs placed by ACA are repealed.  However, instead of premium subsidies being available on the exchange based only on age, as AHCA had proposed, the Senate bill ties these subsides to both to age, but also to income.

    Just like AHCA, the Senate's version does not  eliminate reporting requirements (1095s), nor touches things like pre-existing condition exclusion prohibition, coverage for adult children, preventative care mandate, or annual/lifetime limit prohibition.

    AHCA was criticized by some for rolling back the Medicaid expansion too quickly, so the Senate version of the bill seeks to do the same thing, but to phase out the expansion until 2024. 

    AHCA also contained a last-minute amendment that would allow states to waive essential health benefits and create their own standards.  The Senate version does not allow for these waivers, though it does loosen the ability to seek waivers more generally and gives states more flexibility regarding ACA requirements.

    Despite a bill being released, and pressure to pass something before the July 4th recess (which begins next Friday), the Senate needs 51 votes to pass the measure.  Presently there are 52 Republicans in the Senate, though if 2 vote against the bill - creating a 50/50 split - Vice President Pence gets the deciding vote.  So Republicans need to work to get nearly all Republicans and, are unlikely to bring the bill for a vote until they feel comfortable they have the votes. 

    In short, this bill doesn't have any immediate effect and because it differs from the House, there will have to be some reconciliation - if it passes the Senate.  So for most, simply stay tuned.  But also consider talking to your Senators and letting them know how this bill will impact you, your employees, and your company.

    Senator Tammy Baldwin: https://www.baldwin.senate.gov/feedback

    Senator Ron Johnson: https://www.ronjohnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-the-senator

  • 12 Jun 2017 1:38 PM | Samantha Gehl
    Compassionate Employer Award nominations are being accepted now through September 1, 2017!


    The Compassionate Employer Award presented by Community Benefit Tree (CBT) and New North B2B is an award to recognize an employer who has gone above and beyond in helping an employee when they or a family member has gone through a medical crisis.  Did your company  work with an employee on time off or creative ways for the employee to work from home or another location.  Maybe your company or it's employees offered monetary help or kind words and encouragement.  If you work for an employer or know of an employer that has been compassionate with you, a family member, or a fellow employee and the company is located in Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca, or Winnebago County, you can nominate them for the Compassionate Employer Award.

    To nominate an employer, please complete the Nomination Application found on the Community Benefit Tree's website.

    https://communitybenefittree.org/projects/compassionate-employer-award/

  • 01 Jun 2017 7:46 PM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

    The House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act on May 4, 2017.  If you recall, less than 6 weeks earlier the same bill was being debated in the House, but was dramatically pulled from a consideration for a vote before it could occur.  Politically, the bill did not have the requisite votes in the House to pass.  Subsequently, there were several indicators that the bill had essentially died, but after some amendments to please both ends of the Republican party, the bill ended up making it to the House for a vote, ultimately passing. 

    One of the amendments that got a lot of press was regarding the ability of states to waive the rule restricting price differences based on health.  However, the restriction would still apply except for those who were without health insurance for a period greater than 63 days. In order for states to waive this rule, they would need to create a program to help high-risk patients obtain insurance.  The bill also provided $8 billion over a period of 5 years to help people with pre-existing medical conditions.

    Clearly some people are concerned about this provision.  In Wisconsin, 4 separate bills were proposed in an effort to either directly counteract elements of AHCA or head off some common concerns that could be added to the bill as it works it way through the Senate.  The bills include:

    • S 265 prohibits health plans from imposing preexisting condition exclusions or setting rates based on preexisting conditions.
    • S 266 prohibits health insurance plans from imposing lifetime or annual limits.
    • S 267 requires coverage and prohibits cost sharing for preventative services under health insurance plans.
    • S 268 to require health insurance plans to cover essential health benefits as determined by the state Insurance commissioner.

    Wisconsin regulates fully-insured and non-ERISA plans, like government and church health plans.  So self-insured employers likely would not be subject to these requirements if passed. 

    So, if AHCA passes as is, and Wisconsin opts to waive some parts of the law's requirements, but Wisconsin passes the above laws, the waiver would essentially be null and not applicable to Wisconsin employers.  Checkmate?

    If you are concerned the some of the last minute amendments to AHCA, then you should be happy with these Wisconsin proposals.  And if you think the states should be able to waive, then these proposals are effectively cutting off that waiver before it even happens.  Let your state and federal representatives know your thoughts and how this will impact your employer!

     

  • 11 May 2017 8:03 AM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

    Our friends in the public sector have long benefited from providing employees “comp time” in lieu of paying overtime.  In short, instead of paying employees overtime after 40 hours in a week, they give the employee 1.5x the number of hours of overtime in a bank to be used at a later time, much like vacation or PTO is used.  My friends, this could be coming to your private-sector workplace soon. 

    Say what? 

    Yes, Congress passed the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 (HR 1180) last week.   I know what you are thinking – the House passed 2 bills?  In the same week?  That’s right, it’s not all about healthcare reform on Capitol Hill…

    In all seriousness, if this makes it through the Senate, there are very good chances that President Trump would sign the bill.  While this isn’t a slam dunk, it moves the proposed legislation past 99% of the other bills that have been proposed thus far.  So let’s break it down and understand the bill a little more.

    Would we have to provide comp time to our employees? No, employers can choose not to offer this to employees or offer to only certain classifications of employees.  But if you would offer it to employees, only those that work at least 1,000 hours in the past 12-month period could participate.

    Are employees required to choose comp time instead of being paid out overtime?  No.  Employees would have to enter in an agreement “knowingly and voluntarily” that is not a condition of employment.  It’s a good idea to get this in writing.  Absent an agreement, the default is that the employee is paid overtime.  And any time the employee wants to change their mind, they can opt out of the agreement again (though employers would have to 30 days to make the change).

    Is there any limit?  Yes, employees could only receive up to 160 hours of comp time.

    Can an employee cash out comp time? Yes, at any time the employee can ask for the bank of time to be cashed out and an employer would have to comply within 30 days of the request.  Similarly, the employer can choose to cash out comp time at any point that the bank exceeds 80 hours (by providing 30 days’ notice).  In addition, the employer would have to automatically cash out any unused comp time from the prior calendar year by January 31 each year.

    Conclusion

    SHRM believes that providing this option to employers would give more workplace flexibility to employees.  Does this sound good to you?  Would you love to give your employees the choice of comp time instead of paying overtime?  Or maybe you think this is a terrible idea?  Tell your Senators!  Call or email Tammy Baldwin or Ron Johnson today.  Tell them your story and make an impact for all employers.

     

  • 04 May 2017 7:37 PM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

    For those of you waiting on the edge of your seat, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed its way through the House today.  Does this mean Obamacare is dead?  No.  At least not yet.  Let’s recap.

    What is the AHCA?

    It’s also known as “repeal and replace” bill, intended to replace the Affordable Care Act.  While it did not propose to get rid of the employer and individual mandate to provide health insurance, it would reduce the penalties to $0 effective 1/1/2016.   The bill further delays the very unpopular Cadillac tax until 2025.  And also makes changes to FSA and HSA accounts allowing individuals to use those funds to pay for over the counter medications, among other things.  The premium tax credits (or subsidies) that individuals receive now to obtain insurance on the exchange (or Marketplace) would be expanded so anyone purchasing individual policies would potentially qualify. 

    Just as importantly, the AHCA is not proposing to eliminate pre-existing exclusions; end adult child coverage; or change the 100% coverage of preventative care.  Nor is it proposing to end the prohibition on annual and lifetime limits, a waiting period of greater than 30 days, or rescission of coverage.  And it does not touch IRS reporting requirements (1094 & 1095 forms).

    How did we get here?

    The original AHCA was drafted by the Budget Committee as a result of an Executive Order signed on President Trump’s first day in office.  It was very intentionally done as such, so that when the bill gets to the Senate, the Senate could take advantage of the budget reconciliation rules, which allow for a bill to pass with a mere 51 votes, as opposed to the typical 60 votes.  With 52 Republicans in the Senate, it also likely prevents the ability for a filibuster.   

    The bill was made public on March 6, 2017, and subsequently passed the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees, despite the Congressional Budget Office review not being complete before the committees’ votes (causing much backlash, especially once the review released that an additional 24 million would lose coverage under the proposal).  On March 24, 2017, the bill went to a vote before the entire House and was postponed when it became clear there would not be enough votes on the Republican side to move forward.

    Over the last week, there have been rumors the AHCA was coming back up for a vote.  In order to obtain some crucial support with Republicans, an amendment was offered that would allow states to choose to opt out of certain parts of the law.  Insurance carriers would be able to take pre-existing conditions into consideration when charging for health insurance, though a provision was added providing for $8 billion to states to dole out to those with pre-existing conditions to help cover the cost of insurance. 

    The bill passed the House today very much along party lines, with 217 out of 238 Republicans voting yes. 

    What’s next?

    Despite the fact the bill passed the House today, it’s still just a bill.  (For a good reminder of how the legislative process works, check out this excellent School House Rock!)

    The next hurdle is passing the Senate.  If the bill continues to only garner support along party lines, Republicans need to get nearly every single vote from the 52 members presently in the Senate.  This won’t happen overnight though - the Senate cannot schedule this for a vote until a new review is performed by the Congressional Budget Office, since the CBO hasn’t provided input on the AHCA with the recent amendments.  Even when this becomes available (likely early June), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, Senator John Cornyn (R –TX) said “there is no timeline… when we get 51 senators we’ll vote.”

    Conclusion

    If implemented, what would these changes mean to you?  To your organization?  Tell your legislators.  According to SHRM, 94% of staffers say the most influential voice to legislators is that of their constituents.  They want to hear from you!  SHRM’s A-team makes it easy to locate and contact your representatives and even provides talking points or sample letters.  Join at www.advocacy.shrm.org/about.  And to learn more about SHRM’s position about healthcare reform matters, check out the 2017 public policy guide. 

     

  • 02 May 2017 10:35 AM | Diane Gillette

    Hey,  does anyone have any recommendations for First Time Supervisor training?  I was hoping to find a video or online courses.   Thanks, 

  • 28 Apr 2017 8:11 AM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

    Remember those overtime rules you worked so hard to implement last year?  And remember how you found out, mere moments after implementing them (or for the procrastinators mere minutes before they did implement) that the rules were now on hold?  What happened to those?

    Federal overtime rules

    The final Department of Labor rules to increase the salary basis threshold from $455/week to $913/week was set to go into effect December 1, 2016.  In short, exempt employees must meet certain duties test AND be paid a minimum salary threshold in order to be exempt from overtime.  As a result of this rule, employers scrambled to decide whether to increase their salary employee’s pay above the threshold and keep them exempt or start treating them as hourly.  Then on November 22, 2016, a district court in Texas issued an injunction halting implementation of the rule. 

    Prior to President Trump taking office, the Texas court was prepared to have a hearing on the underlying issue to determine if the injunction would stand permanently.  However, since then the Department of Labor, without a Labor Secretary, has continued to seek extensions for the briefs and the hearing.  The expectation is that newly-confirmed Secretary Alexander Acosta will withdraw DOL from the lawsuit.  However, the AFL-CIO, a very large labor organization, sought to intervene.  Essentially, they could continue the lawsuit if DOL steps out and continue to press for the $913/week.

    So, where does that leave you employer?  Watching the federal court case.  And also watching to see if the DOL, under new leadership, proposes new rules.  

    Wisconsin overtime rules

    Did you realize that Wisconsin also requires that exempt employees meet certain salary thresholds or are subject to state overtime rules?  Historically, the salary basis here has been $700/month.  If you are paying the $455/week for federal law, you easily exceed the Wisconsin threshold for your typical 9-5 employee and that’s why you haven’t heard much about Wisconsin’s law.  Until now.

    There are proposed bills in both the Wisconsin Assembly (AB154) and Senate (SB103) to raise the current $700/month threshold to $970/week.  The same threshold that was originally proposed by DOL, but was later modified down to $913/week given the backlash.  So an employee that was making $23,660 annually would now need to be paid $50,440 in Wisconsin in order to continue to be exempt from overtime.  Obviously there are very large cost implications to employers. 

    SHRM’s position

    According to the 2017 SHRM Policy Guide, SHRM does support an update of the salary level, but one with a more reasonable increase.  Raising the threshold so quickly presents significant challenges for employers, especially small employers and nonprofits. 

    Your role

    How would this impact your employer with this increase?  Since the federal rule is on hold, and we expect to see some changes, you may want to take a wait and see approach there.  But you may want to remind your local legislatures of the headaches this $970/week threshold would cause for employers and ask them to consider a more tiered approach to implementing salary basis increases. 

    Click here and enter your zip code in the Find your Elected Officials box for a list of your State Representatives and Senators.  Write to them, call them, even Tweet them.  Not sure how to get started?  We’re happy to help – contact any member of the Fox Valley SHRM Board!

     

  • 27 Apr 2017 8:58 AM | Kelly Janssen (Administrator)

    Keynote, tours, food and fun!

    Join one and all for an afternoon of networking opportunities on Wednesday, May 17. There will be a keynote speaker, tours of Lambeau Field, a picnic style dinner with brats and hamburgers, rounding it all off with trying your luck at the casino! Now open to all safety, HR and Wellness professionals.

    A joint networking event with all safety professionals from the FVSC in Appleton and the Nicolet Chapter of ASSE in Green Bay. Registration is now open to all!

    Click on the link below for additional details and to RSVP.

    http://nicolet.asse.org/events/lambeau-field-tour-and-casino-event/

  • 23 Apr 2017 7:23 PM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

    If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do - Ghandi

    The City of Appleton has 15 Council members that help decide Appleton City Code.  Outagamie County Board of Supervisors, which decides the County Ordinances, is made up of 36 individuals.  Wisconsin’s state government includes the Assembly, made of 99 individuals, and the Senate, which is made up 33 Senators.  In Congress, which includes 100 Senators and 435 Representatives, we have 2 Wisconsin Senators and 8 Wisconsin Representatives.  In the event I hear about a law, or want to make a change, there are 193 different individuals I may contact.  It’s no wonder that we get overwhelmed.  And in the current, highly-polarized political environment, it is easy to get discouraged that your voice won’t make a difference. 

    But did you know 94% of staff for members of Congress say that the most influential information is that from their constituents?  (Read: YOU).  Telling your representatives about certain proposed laws will impact others; why you support or oppose a bill; or a personal story about the proposed law is highly informative and useful to your representatives. 

    So to make this a little easier in our busy lives, we’ll be breaking down proposed bills on a state or federal level in future posts.  Then if that issue resonates with you – either positively or negatively – we encourage you to tell your representatives.  SHRM A-Team makes contacting your representatives easy – join today and download the app!

     

     

  • 18 Mar 2017 7:58 PM | Rebecca Kellner (Administrator)

    I just flew back from DC…. And man, are my arms tired J

    In all seriousness, I spent the first half of last week in Washington DC at SHRM’s annual Legislative & Employment Law Update.  If you haven’t been before, consider it. 

    Quick Recap

    After two days in sessions and hearing keynote speakers, including Ana Navarro and Sally Kohn (political commentators on CNN) and Chris Wallace (anchor on Fox News Sunday), Wednesday was spent lobbying.  While scary for the novice, like myself, SHRM could not make this process easier.  They bussed us from the hotel to Capitol Hill, fed us breakfast, gave us talking points and leave behinds, set up the meetings with our Senator and Congressmen’s offices, and even gave us cash for lunch.  The Wisconsin delegates met together with a legislative aide in Tammy Baldwin’s office (D- WI), as well an aide in Ron Johnson’s office (R-WI).  Meetings with our congressmen were on our own (or sometimes in pairs) depending on congressional districts.  We had a large gap in time between Senate and House visits, so we got gallery passes and watched the Senate in action (House was in recess).  And we even got to ride the underground train from Senate to the Capitol (thanks to Ron Johnson’s staff).  If you have any interest in the legislative process, this is an event not to be missed next year!

    Employment Predictions

    SHRM found attorneys from around the country who are in the know regarding the current political environment to come and provide their predictions for the next 2-4 years.  Here are the top issues as I heard them:

    Healthcare reform

    SHRM has long advocated for repeal of the so-called Cadillac tax and continues to do so.  Expect to see traction for repealing that this year.  In addition, the original leaked version of the American Health Care Act included a cap on the tax exclusion employees enjoy for their healthcare premiums.  Due in part to lobbying by SHRM and other business-interest groups, the cap was taken out of the released American Health Care Act, which is currently being considered in the House.  This means employees would pay taxes on the value of their health insurance beyond a certain cap, increasing overall taxes that employees pay.  Even though this is not presently being considered in any introduced legislation, expect this issue to persist and we’ll hear about again in tax reform or when deciding the budget for 2018 fiscal year.

    Takeaway: Watch carefully and advocate for your position with your legislators. 

    Pay Equity

    California, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico recently passed laws to strengthen pay equity laws.  If the federal government doesn’t do more here, expect more states and municipalities to pass similar laws.  Puerto Rico and Massachusetts did include an affirmative defense as part of the law, or safe harbor if you will, for employers who regularly conduct pay audits and can show they have made progress to eliminate discrepancies before the state began auditing the employer.  More and more municipalities and states are considering a ban on requesting an applicant’s pass salary history, which perpetuates any pay discrimination that occurred at prior employers.  Finally, expect the EEOC to re-evaluate its EEO-1 pay data reporting requirements, which are in effect now (first report due March, 2018).  EEOC won’t have a Republican majority until July, so we don’t expect changes any sooner.  And we don’t expect the EEO-1 pay data reporting will go away completely, but likely be revised (including perhaps use of base compensation annualized, making the data easier to collect for employers).

    Takeaway: Conduct pay equity analysis (using a law firm if you think there could be issues) and take steps to reduce unexplained gaps in pay between protected classes.

    Immigration enforcement

    Expect greater reliance on employers to enforce immigration laws.  This includes greater enforcement of I-9s.  To date, only ICE has really done audits to review I-9s, but DOL and OFCCP have the authority to do these audits as well.  So if you are subject to one of these audits in the near future, don’t be surprised when they ask for your I-9 folder.  SHRM is advocating for a revised system where the I-9 interacts with E-verify, cutting down on the administrative burden for employers that use E-verify.   

    Takeaway: Conduct an internal I-9 audit and ensure employees responsible for completing the I-9s are well trained to do so.

    EEOC enforcement

    As stated above, EEOC commission control will change over in July, 2017.  At that point, we expect 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats on the Commission, headed up by a Republican.  However, that does not mean EEOC enforcement will stop.  Acting Chair Vicky Lipnic has expressed priorities on age discrimination, given our aging workforce, and pay equity.  EEOC recently updated its strategic initiatives, which also include ADA compliance – both ensuring that qualifications required to do the job are job-related and not resulting in discrimination; and addressing employer’s inflexible leave policies that fail to consider leave as a reasonable accommodation for those qualified individuals with a disability. 

    Takeaway: Among other things, review leave policies to ensure you are considering extended leave for those with disabilities and that any qualifications, such as a requirement to be in the office 100% of the time, are truly job-related. 

    Mandated leave laws

    States and municipalities continue to pass mandated leave laws, such as paid sick leave.  In Wisconsin, we have a law that keeps municipalities from passing their own paid sick leave.  But if you are a multi-state employer, this fact provides little solace for you as you may have to contend with 20+ different laws in drafting your sick leave policy.  SHRM co-wrote legislation with Representative Mimi Walters (R-CA), which is expected to be introduced in the House later this month.  The law would amend ERISA, so employers could use ERISA’s pre-emption clause to avoid having to comply with this myriad of state and local laws.  Instead, they would voluntary opt into providing paid leave benefits consistent with this bill. 

    Takeaway: Watch for the legislation to be introduced and make your voice heard if this is an issue for your company.

    Overtime rules

    Remember that DOL law that was set to go into effect December 1, 2016, but was halted at the eleventh hour?  It’s still on appeal at the 5th circuit.  DOL has delayed its response brief several times, in an effort to wait until a new Secretary of Labor is confirmed and can decide how to move forward (but expect him to withdraw from the case).  In anticipation of the DOL withdrawing, AFL-CIO moved to intervene, which would allow them to continue the case in place of DOL (and try to get the $913/week threshold upheld).  But also expect the DOL to go through proposed rule-making process in an effort to raise the minimum salary threshold from the current $455/week to something less than $913/week. 

    Takeaway: If you already provided raises or converted employees to non-exempt in anticipation of this rule, watch the DOL and the litigation if you intend to move employees back down or stop raises until they even out.  If you halted any efforts to move employees’ wages last November, don’t throw your plans away and watch carefully so you can react accordingly. 

    Conclusion

    Want to stay on top of these issues or get involved?  Join SHRM’s A-Team!  And mark your calendars for next year’s annual SHRMLeg conference.  I hope to see you there!

     

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