Legislative Updates

  • 06/10/2022 12:55 PM | Maggie Garry

    On June 9, 2022, the IRS announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rate effective July 1, 2022 in recognition of recent gasoline prices.  The rate will increase 4 cents per mile to 62.5 cents.  The last time a midyear increase was imposed was in 2011.  

    IRS increases mileage rate for remainder of 2022 | Internal Revenue Service

  • 05/27/2022 10:11 AM | Maggie Garry

    In correlation with National Health Awareness month, the US Department of Labor recently published updated Family and Medical Leave Act Guidance on Mental Health for both employees and employers.  The DOL issued new frequently asked questions and Fact Sheet #280: Mental Health Conditions and the FMLA.  For more information, see Fact Sheet # 28O: Mental Health Conditions and the FMLA | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov) and Mental Health and the FMLA | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov).  

  • 04/12/2022 2:11 PM | Anonymous

    A federal bill that would decriminalize cannabis use has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives for the second time, but the bill's fate in the Senate is unclear. If signed into law, the act would resolve conflicts between federal and state law that cause confusion for employers—but state laws on medical and recreational marijuana use would still vary.

    The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, H.R. 3617, passed the House in a 220-204 vote on April 1 with all but two Democrats voting for the measure and all but three Republicans voting against it.

    Marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which means it is deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no medical value. The MORE Act would deschedule marijuana, remove criminal sanctions and provide some relief for past convictions.

    What would the act mean for the workplace? States would still regulate cannabis and would not be required to legalize its use. Currently, 37 states have approved medical marijuana use, and 18 of those states and Washington, D.C., also have approved recreational use.

  • 03/31/2022 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) became law in 2008 but wasn't "given teeth" until Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA, 2021), which requires employers to evaluate their compliance with the MHPAEA and ensure they provide equal coverage limits for mental health/substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits. Last April, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance to help plan sponsors and administrators comply with the stepped-up compliance requirements.

    Employers that sponsor physical health and mental health coverage are on notice that they can face DOL enforcement actions and be sued by employees if they fail to provide equal coverage for mental health issues.

    Mental health parity rules are directed at both insurance carriers and employer-sponsored group health plans. Fully insured employer-sponsored plans, however, often rely on their insurance carriers and trust that their administration is appropriately following the rules. For self-funded plans, employers rely on third-party administrators (TPAs) and, if drug coverage is carved out, pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs).

    To stay compliant, employers should ensure that mental and physical health coverage offered are equivalent. 

  • 03/31/2022 9:19 AM | Anonymous

    On March 29, the House overwhelmingly approved the bipartisan Securing a Strong Retirement Act by a vote of 414 to 5.

    The bill, dubbed "SECURE Act 2.0," builds on the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, signed into law in December 2019 to improve retirement savings opportunities for workers.

    The Senate is considering its own version of SECURE Act 2.0, the Retirement Security and Savings Act, which shares many similar provisions as the House bill. 

    If the Senate passes a SECURE Act 2.0 measure, as is expected, both chambers would likely move to reconcile their separate versions.

    Key retirement plan changes made by SECURE Act 2.0, as passed by the House, include:

    • Automatic enrollment in retirement plans
    • Increase in required minimum distribution age beginning date
    • Enhancements to the age 50+ catch-up provisions
    • Online lost and found for long-forgotten pension benefits
    • Modified rules to allow SIMPLE IRAs to accept Roth contributions

  • 03/28/2022 10:31 AM | Anonymous

    CDC’s new COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation calculator takes the stress out of deciding when, and for how long, people with COVID-19 and close contacts need to stay home, get tested, and wear a well-fitting mask.

    The calculator provides important information about what precautions people with COVID-19 and their close contacts can take to protect loved ones and prevent COVID-19 in their communities.

    This online, mobile-friendly calculator provides a simple, easy-to-use way to help people follow CDC’s Quarantine and Isolation guidance and get customized information that applies to their unique situation.

  • 03/22/2022 9:25 AM | Anonymous

    On March 22, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reopened the comment period on its proposed final rule to protect health care workers from COVID-19, indicating that the department is considering relaxing some of the standards from what it initially recommended.

    All but the record-keeping requirements of the ETS for health care workers—a standard that was introduced in June 2021—expired in December 2021. OSHA is now seeking to implement a final rule.

    Individuals interested, may submit https://www.regulations.gov/docket/OSHA-2020-0004/commentswritten comments online by the deadline of April 22, 2022. OSHA will hold a virtual hearing regarding its interim final rule on April 27. If necessary, the hearing will continue on subsequent days, the agency said.

  • 03/18/2022 10:22 AM | Anonymous

    The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a measure that would protect employees from discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles associated with race and national origin. 

    The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act—HR 2116—passed the House in a 235-to-189 vote on March 18.

    The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire or otherwise discriminating against workers based on "hair texture or hairstyle, if that hair texture or that hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin."

    This would be the first piece of federal legislation addressing appearance discrimination as it specifically relates to a worker's protected characteristic—in this case, race.

    Employers should note that some states already protect workers based on natural hair and hairstyle. California became the first state to pass a CROWN Act in 2019, and more states and cities followed suit.

  • 03/17/2022 10:25 AM | Anonymous

    The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that would prohibit employers from enforcing arbitration agreements that workers sign before disputes arise. However, the Democrat-backed measure may face resistance in the Senate because Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about the bill's reach.

    The action comes on the heels of a new law banning such agreements for sexual-harassment claims, but the proposed legislation is much more expansive.

    The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, H.R. 963, passed the House in a 222 to 209 vote on March 17. The proposed legislation would broadly ban employers and workers from agreeing in advance to have legal claims decided by a neutral third party—an arbitrator—rather than a court. 

    Notably, the Senate declined to pass the bill in 2019, and many business groups, including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), oppose H.R. 963.

    If enacted, the FAIR Act would invalidate pre-dispute arbitration agreements and joint-action waivers for employment, consumer, antitrust and civil rights disputes.

    If the FAIR Act is ultimately signed into law, it would take effect immediately and "apply with respect to any dispute or claim that arises or accrues on or after such date," according to the bill. The law would not apply to arbitration provisions in collective bargaining agreements between employers and labor unions. 

    Employers should note that the new law banning pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate sexual-harassment claims, H.R. 4445, already took effect.

    For now, federal law does not ban pre-dispute arbitration agreements for other types of employment-related claims.
  • 03/17/2022 8:17 AM | Anonymous

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today released a technical assistance document, “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Caregiver Discrimination Under Federal Employment Discrimination Law,” and an update to its COVID-19 “What You Should Know” explaining discrimination against employees and job seekers with family caregiving responsibilities.

    The technical assistance provides pandemic-related examples of discrimination against caregivers. For example, it would be illegal if an employer refused to hire an applicant who is the primary caregiver of an individual with a disability who is at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 out of fear that the employer’s healthcare costs would increase. It also would be unlawful for an employer to refuse to promote a woman based on assumptions that, because she was female, she would focus primarily on caring for her children while they quarantined or attended school remotely.  

    Additionally, the technical assistance document addresses situations in which caregivers may encounter illegal harassment, retaliation, or discrimination based on pregnancy, gender, association with someone who has a disability, or other bases protected by EEOC-enforced laws. 

    In addition to this new technical assistance document and related “What You Should Know” updates, the EEOC also released a short video explaining caregiver discrimination in English and Spanish. More information about caregiver discrimination is available in the EEOC’s caregiver discrimination policy guidance, associated fact sheet, and employer best practices document.

Sioux Empire SHRM is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. | PO Box 1302 | Sioux Falls, SD 57101 | Chapter #217

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