Sunday, October 17, 2021

Benefit News, Tools and Compliance - Handling Requests for Vax Exemptions, Challenges to OSHA Mandate and New CA Laws

Tools, Templates and a Webinar

McGriff Presents … ThinkHR (now Mineral)!

October 19, 2021 | 2:00 – 3:00 pm EDT

To register, please click here (Existing McGriff Clients Only)

ThinkHR has changed its name to Mineral … but the valuable resources offered haven’t changed (and will even be enhanced in the coming months!). Please join us for a brief overview of ThinkHR/Mineral and its benefits available to McGriff’s Employee Benefits clients. People risk is inevitable for an organization, and reducing it is no small feat given the array of potential risks, ever-changing legislation, and the need for high-impact expertise in the moment. We are excited to bring you ThinkHR/Mineral – a robust resource that provides an end-to-end People Risk Management solution, including live HR advisors; a reliable library of sample forms, policies, and white papers; and interactive technology solutions, such as a living handbook builder and an online learning management system with 300+ training courses! If you are involved in HR compliance or employee issues at any level, this will be another valuable benefit from your trusted McGriff team that can save you time and money.

McGriff Resource Net User Guide - (Existing Clients Only) We are excited to provide access to a personalized McGriff Resource Net. This online site acts as a one-stop source for all your Safety, Compliance, HR, Wellness, and other business needs. At McGriff, we continually look for innovative products and value-added services to ensure customer satisfaction. We designed the McGriff Resource Net with our clients in mind, incorporating a vast resource library with user-friendly online tools to streamline your daily work tasks. Get to know your McGriff Resource Net and how its resources can make your day easier. If you have any questions—at any time—feel free to contact your McGriff representative.

Employer Flowchart: Assessing Requests for Religious Exemptions from Vaccine Mandates - "For the past 18 months, employers have faced a dizzying number of new laws, regulations and employment issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest announcement of COVID-19 vaccine mandates by the White House on September 9, 2021, resulted in an increase in the number of requests received by employers for religious exemptions from vaccine mandates. Employers continue to receive requests and must assess and decide whether to grant or deny the request for a religious exemption. The religious exemption analysis can prove to be challenging.... To assist employers in the decision-making process, the Husch Blackwell Labor & Employment practice group has developed a flowchart to simplify the religious exemption analysis and enable employers to make better decisions in less time."

Compliance Updates

What Legal Challenges Will Await the OSHA Vaccine Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)? - "OSHA faces an uphill battle in meeting the justifications of using the ETS statutes. Here are the seven most likely arguments we expect to be launched and the counterarguments we expect OSHA to use as a shield:"

  1. Low Death Rate of COVID-19
  2. High Numbers of Non-Serious COVID-19 Cases
  3. Limited Time Impact if ETS Implemented
  4. Timing of ETS
  5. General Applicability
  6. Arbitrary Size Determination
  7. Cost-Benefit Analysis

Handling Requests for Religious Exemptions from Mandatory Vaccination Policies - "EEOC guidance from 2008 recognizes certain factors that, when viewed alone or together, may undermine an employee’s claim of a sincerely held religious belief. These include:

  • whether the employee has behaved in a manner markedly inconsistent with the professed belief;
  • whether the accommodation sought is a particularly desirable benefit that is likely to be sought for secular reasons;
  • whether the timing of the request renders it suspect (e.g., it follows an earlier request by the employee for the same benefit for secular reasons); and
  • whether the employer otherwise has reason to believe the accommodation is not sought for religious reasons.

Employers should also note that, today, many “pre-fab” form objections based on allegedly sincerely held religious beliefs are available for sale on the internet from a variety of websites and “pastors.” For that reason, employers dealing with exemption requests based on religion may want to start their analysis by having an employee submit a written statement in their own words explaining their sincerely held religious belief supporting their objection to vaccination....where an employee has articulated a sincerely held religious belief, in most instances, it is best to assume its sincerity and move to the next step, engaging in the interactive process."

Clarifying Guidance on COBRA Deadline Extension Relief - IRS Notice 2021-58 clarifies the application of certain COBRA deadline extensions for electing COBRA coverage and paying COBRA premiums under prior relief that was

issued as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak (“Emergency Relief”). Under the Emergency Relief, up to one year must be disregarded in determining the due dates for individuals to elect COBRA coverage and pay COBRA premiums during the Outbreak Period (i.e., 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency). 

Joe Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Doesn’t Exist. It’s Just A Press Release - "Yes, we’ve heard all about Joe Biden’s alleged vaccine mandate for private companies employing 100 or more people. It was all over the news even before he announced it on September 9. His announcement has jeopardized the employment of millions of Americans and increased worker shortages in critical domains such as health care. There’s only one problem. It’s all a mirage. Biden’s so-called vaccine mandate doesn’t exist — at least, not yet. So far, all we have is his press conference and other such made-for-media huff-puffing. No such rule even claiming to be legally binding has been issued yet."

California Passes Legislation Requiring Continued Health Benefits for Striking Public Employees - "Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 237 (AB 237), which prohibits California public employers from discontinuing employer contributions for health care or other medical coverage for employees who, during the duration of an authorized strike, fall below the minimum hours worked to qualify for employee health care coverage."

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed 770 new California laws and vetoed 66 - "Signed bills into law: (1) Making ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement, as CalMatters’ Joe Hong reports. Under a bill Newsom signed last year, California State University students must also take an ethnic studies course to graduate. (2) Mandating mental health instruction in middle and high schools that have an existing health education course. (3) Requiring public colleges, universities, and secondary schools to provide free menstrual products on campus. (4)Requiring large department stores to maintain a gender-neutral section of toys and child care items...."

EEOC Files First COVID-19 ADA Accommodation Lawsuit - "On September 7, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ('EEOC') filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against an employer that allegedly denied accommodation for telework in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the 'ADA'). Currently, the case is the only lawsuit the EEOC has filed concerning a request for an ADA accommodation related to COVID-19. The suit is a challenge to the typical posture of courts that frequently consider working from home to be an unreasonable accommodation."

California Will Allow Electronic Distribution of Workplace Notices - California amended its Labor Code to allow employers to distribute certain workplace notices and posters electronically in addition to displaying the postings required by law. The amendment becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2022.

Benefit News

Do You Really Need to Save That Much for Retirement? - Financial investment and retirement "guidelines can be appealing because of their simplicity but also daunting for investors who may find themselves running far behind. On a more skeptical note, it’s also worth noting that asset-management firms (and most financial advisors) have a vested interest in getting investors to save more because higher balances translate into higher fees. In this article, I’ll run through some numbers to test whether these guidelines are reasonable and dig into the assumptions behind them. I’ll also explain why they might not be an accurate benchmark for every investor...."

Employer Medical Benefit Costs Continue to Triple the Rate of Inflation Globally in 2022, Survey Forecasts - "The costs of employer medical benefits across the world are forecasted to rise 7.4 percent in 2022, outpacing general inflation by 5 percent, according to the 2022 Global Medical Trend Rates Report released today...."

Governor Newsom's Cozy Relationship with Big Insurance - "The coziness of the industry’s relationship with Newsom burst into public view in late 2020 when he was photographed dining at the ritzy French Laundry restaurant with Dustin Corcoran and Janus Norman, the CEO and top lobbyist, respectively, of the state doctors’ lobby, the California Medical Association. 'There is no possible way we could have come out of this covid crisis where the health care industry was given so much power without influence coming along with that,' said Carmen Balber, executive director of the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.... Doctors and Blue Shield have given Newsom millions of dollars to support his political career over many years, including a $20 million donation in September 2020 from Blue Shield for his homelessness initiatives. The recall effort earlier this year only solidified Newsom’s relationship with health care executives. Industry groups wrote checks to the California Democratic Party, which fought to keep Newsom in office. It received $1 million each from Blue Shield and the hospital lobby and $875,000 from the doctors’ lobby, according to state campaign finance records."