Workplace Wise - Iowa Employment Law Attorneys

Friday, September 27, 2013

Paid Maternity Leave Federal Legislation Proposed

By  Megan Erickson Moritz

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut will be introducing legislation that would offer American workers paid leave to care for a new child. 

Currently, the Family Medical Leave Act entitles qualified employees to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.  FMLA leave, however, is generally available only to workers who have been employed for at least 12 months by a company that has 50 or more employees.  That means about 40-50% of US workers don’t qualify.  The U.S. remains the only industrialized country that has no paid maternity leave program.  In fact, the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries in the world not to offer paid leave (among Papua New Guinea, Liberia, and Suriname).  Most of Europe and Central Asia offer paid maternity leave; 31 countries provide a year or more of paid leave.

California and New Jersey have implemented statewide programs establishing paid family leave benefits.  A few other states have some level of income replacement available for new mothers.  Under Iowa law, most employees have up to eight weeks of leave for pregnancy-related disabilities.  While the Iowa law covers more employers, the required leave is also unpaid.

Although programs allowing paid leave often result in saved money for companies (in terms of lower turnover and better long-term productivity), American business owners have strongly opposed such initiatives in the past.  This isn’t the first time lawmakers have unsuccessfully proposed federal legislation for paid parental leave.  Particularly in light of the proposed amount of annual leave Gillibrand and DeLauro seek in their bill (12 weeks, which is twice as long as the 6 weeks offered by the two state programs), together with its proposed funding mechanism, it’s  unlikely this current proposal would pass, either.  It will be interesting, however, to see if this bill spurs further dialogue on the topic

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Iowa Employers Required to Provide Notice of Exchanges by October 1, 2013

By Cindy Boyle Lande

Beginning in 2014, individuals and employees of small businesses will be able to purchase health insurance through health insurance markets commonly known as the “exchanges.” Open enrollment for health insurance sold on the exchanges begins October 1, 2013.

The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) requires certain employers to provide their employees notices describing the exchanges, the open enrollment period, and potential tax credits available for employees who purchase insurance on the exchanges. The notice requirement applies to all employers who are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Unlike other requirements under the ACA, the exchange notice requirement applies to all employees, regardless of the employee’s enrollment status under the employer’s health plan or status as a full-time or part-time employee. 

Employers must provide the notice to current employees by October 1, 2013. Following October 1, 2013, employers must continue providing notice of the exchanges to all new employees at the time of hiring.

While the ACA requires employers to begin distributing the notices by October 1, 2013, the Department of Labor has indicated that it will not seek penalties for violations of this requirement at this time. 

However, employers should still attempt to comply with the ACA requirement by providing the notices by the October 1 deadline to the greatest extent possible. If an employer discovers that it has missed the October 1 deadline, it should distribute the notice to all employees as soon as possible and distribute the notice to new employees going forward. Although a penalty will not apply for failure to timely distribute the exchange notice, there may be other negative consequences under ERISA for failing to satisfy the requirement.

If you have questions regarding whether the exchange notice requirements apply to you, or if you require assistance drafting an exchange notice which complies with the ACA requirements, you should contact your BrownWinick employment law attorney. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013 Iowa Law Change on Unemployment Insurance

By Ann Holden Kendell

Effective July 1, 2013, there was an amendment to Iowa Code Section 96.3(7), "Recovery of overpayment of benefits."  The amendment marks a significant change regarding unemployment insurance.  Formerly, if an employer missed the fact-finding interview and later successfully challenged an award of unemployment benefits, the employer's account was credited for the overpayment.  With the amendment, if the employer does not participate in the fact-finding interview and challenges an award of benefits and wins, the business is still responsible for the overpayment to the former employee - the employer's account is no longer credited.  Further, the amendment also indicates that if an employer fails to "adequately" respond to the department's request for information, this can also result in the employer's responsibility for an overpayment.  Therefore, if the employer participates in the fact-finding interview and loses, but ultimately prevails on a challenge to the award of benefits, there is still a possiblity that the overpayment will not be credited back to the employer's account. 

The underlined language below shows the new language to the statute:

Section 1. Section 96.3, subsection 7, paragraph b, subparagraph (1), Code 2013, is amended to read as follows: (1) (a) If the department determines that an overpayment has been made, the charge for the overpayment against the employer’s account shall be removed and the account shall be credited with an amount equal to the overpayment from the unemployment compensation trust fund and this credit shall include both contributory and reimbursable employers, notwithstanding section 96.8, subsection 5. The employer shall not be relieved of charges if benefits are paid because the employer or an agent of the employer failed to respond timely or adequately to the department’s request for information relating to the payment of benefits. This prohibition against relief of charges shall apply to both contributory and reimbursable employers.

To make sure that there is an “adequate” response, Iowa employers should not only participate, but provide all documents to support the termination to Iowa Workforce Development in advance of the fact-finding interview and have those documents available during the fact-finding interview.  The employer should also have the appropriate witnesses participate in the fact-finding interview.

If you have questions regarding unemployment claims, you should contact your BrownWinick employment law attorney.