Between delays and new regulations, 2014 was a busy year for health care reform. Of recent note: (i) the US DOL published FAQs confirming employers are not permitted to reimburse employees for the cost of individual policy premiums, whether on a pre-tax or post-tax basis; (ii) the IRS announced two additional mid-year election changes which, if adopted by the cafeteria plan, would permit employees to revoke elections when their hours drop below 30 per week or when they select coverage through an Exchange; and (iii) the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services extended the filing deadline for submission of the Transitional Reinsurance Fee Annual Enrollment and Contributions Form to December 5, 2014.
Looking forward to 2015, the employer mandate becomes effective for applicable large employers with 100 or more full-time/full-time-equivalent employees, and employers must develop procedures and begin collecting data to comply with IRS Code §6055 and §6066 reporting requirements. Finally, there are several important events on the horizon worth monitoring, including U.S. Supreme Court review of whether the Affordable Care Act authorizes federal tax-credit subsidies for individuals who purchase coverage through a federal—as opposed to a state-based—Exchange; EEOC challenges to employer wellness programs; and publication of non-discrimination rules for fully insured plans.
Beginning January 1, 2015, federal contractors with covered contracts must pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour. The minimum wage applies to procurement contracts for services or construction; contracts covered by the Service Contract Act; concessions contracts; and contracts in connection with federal property or lands. For the minimum wage to apply, the wages of the workers covered must be covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Service Contract Act, or the Davis-Bacon Act.
Final rules implementing Executive Order 13672 prohibiting federal contractors from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity are expected in early 2015. Rules requiring affirmative action employers to file an annual compensation pay data report are expected to be finalized in 2015.
Rules implementing Executive Order 13673 are expected in 2015. This order requires federal contractors with contracts valued at $500,000 or more to disclose pre-award whether there have been any administrative decisions, arbitral awards or decisions, or civil judgments against them for violations of 15 specified labor laws. Post-award, contractors must update this information every six months. In addition, for contracts in excess of $1 million, claims under Title VII or involving sexual assault or harassment can only be arbitrated upon the voluntary consent of the employee or independent contractor after the dispute arises.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision in June 2013, challenges to same-sex marriage bans arose in every state that had one. Most state same-sex-marriage bans have been found unconstitutional. The Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuit courts of appeal have all struck down same-sex-marriage bans in cases before them. Those cases were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in October, refused to review them. The Supreme Court’s denial of review had the effect of making same-sex marriage legal in several additional states, including Colorado, Arizona, Montana, and Wyoming. Since then, the Sixth Circuit has upheld same-sex-marriage bans in four states. With this split in the circuits, the Supreme Court may take a case to decide the same-sex-marriage issue in 2015. Same-sex marriage is now recognized in 32 states, including New Mexico and the District of Columbia.
Several states increased their minimum wage rates beginning January 1, 2015. Arizona’s and Montana’s minimum wage rates will increase to $8.05 per hour. Colorado’s rate will increase to $8.23 per hour.
Wage Protection Act – Colorado
This law authorizes the director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to establish an administrative procedure to adjudicate wage claims of $7,500 or less and issue citations and notices of assessments for the amounts due. Employers also face potential fines and penalties and are subject to additional recordkeeping requirements.
Civil Rights Remedies – Colorado
Amendments to the Colorado Antidiscrimination Act (CADA) expanding the remedies available to successful plaintiffs go into effect for claims filed on or after January 1, 2015. Employees will be able to recover front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. The cap on the combined amount of compensatory and punitive damages recoverable will be tied to employer size and ranges from $10,000 for employers with one to four employees up to $300,000 for employers with 501 or more employees.
Workers’ Compensation – Colorado
Beginning April 1, 2015, Colorado employers must increase the number of physicians they designate for on-the-job injuries from two to four.