FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation Part 35
On December 20, 2016, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued frequently asked questions (FAQs) addressing special enrollment for group health plans, coverage of preventive services under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements. The FAQs were prepared jointly by the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
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OSHA Clarifies that Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Is a Continuing Obligation
On December 19, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule amending its recordkeeping regulations (29 CFR Part 1904) to clarify that the duty to make and maintain accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses is an ongoing obligation. The duty to record an injury or illness continues for as long as the employer must keep records of the recordable injury or illness; the duty does not expire just because the employer fails to create the necessary records when first required to do so. The amendments consist of revisions to the titles of some existing sections and subparts and changes to the text of some existing provisions, but they add no new compliance obligations and do not require employers to make records of any injuries or illnesses for which records are not currently required to be made.
The final rule goes into effect on January 18, 2017.
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DOL Updates EEO Requirements for Registered Apprenticeships
On December 19, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule updating the equal employment opportunity (EEO) requirements in apprenticeship programs. The final rule amends existing requirements last updated in 1978 and extends current protections against discrimination to include disability, age (40 years or older), genetic information, and sexual orientation. The DOL states that the rule’s provisions simplify the steps employers and sponsors must take to make compliance easier, ensure equal opportunity in apprenticeship, and help businesses leverage the program’s benefits.
The final rule goes into effect on January 18, 2017, but the rule provides more time beyond that for sponsors to come into compliance with the nondiscrimination and affirmative action obligations in the rule. The department also says it will provide a series of technical assistance opportunities to all state apprenticeship agencies and other key stakeholders.
The DOL has created an Office of Apprenticeship’s EEO website. Among the items that can be accessed are:
- Apprenticeship EEO FAQs
- Apprenticeship EEO Overview Fact Sheet
- Diverse Talent for Apprenticeship Sponsors
- Equal Opportunity for Apprentices
- Advancing Women in Apprenticeship
- Promoting Apprenticeship for People with Disabilities
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DOL Adds Procedural Protections to Disability Benefits Claims Process
On December 19, 2016, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued a final rule requiring that employer-sponsored plans, plan fiduciaries, and insurance providers comply with additional procedural protections when dealing with disability benefit claimants. The rule is designed to improve the fairness, transparency, and accuracy of the disability claims process. The final rule adopts certain procedural protections and safeguards for disability benefit claims that are currently applicable to claims for group health benefits pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.
The new rule ensures that disability claimants receive a clear explanation of why a claim was denied, their rights to appeal a denial, and their right to review and respond to new information developed by the plan during the course of an appeal, according to the Department of Labor (DOL). The rule also requires that plans avoid potential conflicts of interest among those individuals making decisions on benefits claims and appeals. For example, a claims adjudicator could not be hired, promoted, terminated, or compensated based on the likelihood of his or her denying claims.
The EBSA has provided a fact sheet about the final rule, which is effective 30 days after its December 19 publication in the Federal Register. Improvements in the claims procedure process are generally applicable to disability benefit claims submitted on or after January 1, 2018.
DOJ Revises INA Regulations Regarding Unfair Immigration-Related Practices
On December 19, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a final rule revising regulations under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) concerning unfair immigration-related employment practices. According to the announcement, the revisions:
- Conform the regulations to the statutory text as amended.
- Simplify and add definitions of statutory terms.
- Update and clarify the procedures for filing and processing charges of discrimination.
- Ensure effective investigations of unfair immigration-related employment practices.
- Reflect developments in nondiscrimination jurisprudence.
- Reflect changes in existing practices (e.g., electronic filing of charges).
- Reflect the new name of the office within the department charged with enforcing this statute.
- Replace outdated references.
The revised regulations go into effect on January 18, 2017.
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E-Verify Extended Through April 2017
On December 10, 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017 (Public Law No. 114-254). Among other things, the law temporarily extends the federal Electronic Verification system (E-Verify) program through April 28, 2017. E-Verify is a web-based program operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA) which allows participating employers to electronically verify the information provided by the employee on the Form I-9.
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