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Employee Benefits Archives

IRS Affordable Care Act Penalty Relief for Small Employers Expires Soon

Previously the IRS announced that employer payment plans would violate the Affordable Care Act and subject an employer to penalties. An employer payment plan is a plan under which an employer reimburses an employee for all or part of the premium for an individual health insurance policy. The penalty for this arrangement is $100 per participant/per day.

IRS Announces 2015 Pension Plan Limitations

On October 23, 2014, the IRS announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2015 retirement plan contributions. For 2015, the amounts that individuals will be able to contribute to retirement plans will increase $500 to $18,000. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over will also increase $500 to $6,000.

Failure to Provide COBRA Notice Results in Penalties Even When Employer Pays the Bills

Regina Honey was pregnant with her second child and experiencing pre-term labor. Her doctor ordered bed rest for about two weeks. When Ms. Honey was ready to return to work at Dignity Health, she was told her employment was terminated. About two months later she was reinstated. However, the pre-term labor returned and her doctor ordered bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. Ms. Honey remained on bed rest until her son was born in July 2010.

IRS Announces Restatement Deadline for Retirement Plans

An employer that has an IRS preapproved retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan, profit sharing plan, or money purchase pension plan, is required to restate the plan every six years for changes in the law. The last six year restatement cycle ended April 30, 2010 and the IRS has announced that the second restatement cycle will run through April 30, 2016. Any employer that does not restate a preapproved retirement plan by April 30, 2016 will be subject to a late amender penalty.

The Supreme Court Narrows Affordable Care Act Contraception Mandate

The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to cover "preventive services" at no cost to participants. The federal government has identified 20 forms of contraception that are required to be included as part of preventive services. Various "for-profit" companies have challenged ACA's birth control coverage requirement in about 50 lawsuits now pending across the country. Many of these employers are family owned, closely held or controlled companies whose owners object to the provision of contraceptive coverage on faith-based grounds.

Sixth Circuit Expands Damages in ERISA Case

In December the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Rochow v. Life Insurance Company of North America. Rochow, the president of a company, began experiencing short- term memory loss and other symptoms of illness in 2001 which led to him being demoted. The symptoms continued to interfere with his performance and he was forced to resign in 2002. Rochow filed a claim for long-term disability benefits and the Life Insurance Company of North America ("LINA") denied his claim and three appeals. Finally, Rochow filed a complaint in court against LINA and stated two claims under ERISA: one to recover benefits due and one to remedy the alleged breach of fiduciary duty. The district court found for Rochow concluding that LINA acted arbitrarily in denying his claim for disability benefits. After the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in 2007, the district court awarded Rochow the unpaid benefits and found that LINA must disgorge of approximately $3.8 million in profits supposedly earned from the money that LINA failed to pay Rochow.

IRS Announces 2014 Pension Plan Limitations

On October 31, 2013, the IRS announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2014 retirement plan contributions. For 2014, the amounts that individuals will be able to contribute to retirement plans will remain the same as 2013. Highlights of the IRS announcement include:

IRS Modifies the Health Flexible Spending Account "Use It or Lose It" Rule to Allow a Limited Carry Over of Unused FSA Funds

On Halloween, the IRS treated employers and health flexible spending account participants to a change in the longstanding "use it or lose it" rule. Beginning immediately, employers may amend their cafeteria plans to allow participants to carry over up to $500 of unused FSA funds at the end of the plan year so that the carryover can be used to reimburse qualified medical expenses incurred in the following plan year. In addition, the amount carried over will not count against the permitted $2,500 salary reduction limit applicable to the next plan year.