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Year-end Update on Employment Regulations and Issues Facing Employers

At KMA, one of our goals is to keep you up-to-date and informed to meet continually changing employment regulations and requirements. As we approach the end of 2017, let’s take a look back as well as review where we are currently on employment regulations and issues facing employers. We are also providing pertinent dates and information as we look forward to 2018.

Affordable Care Act

With no agreement yet to pass a repeal or to replace the law, we are still living with the current employer Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements, although eliminating the individual mandate is part of the Senate tax bill as of this writing. Employers required to offer coverage need to continue reporting to employees and the IRS on health care coverage provided. The deadlines for reporting 2017 coverage are as follows:

ACA Reporting Deadlines

January 31, 2018:  1095-C forms delivered to employees
February 28, 2018:  Paper filing to IRS
March 31, 2018:  eFiling to IRS

Penalty Notices – Watch Your Mail!

The IRS began sending penalty notices (Letter 226J) late this year for applicable large employers (ALEs), employers with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees, if it determined that for at least one month in the year, one or more of the ALE’s full-time employees was enrolled in a qualified health plan for which a premium tax credit was allowed, and the ALE did not qualify for an affordability safe harbor or other relief for the employee. The notices are for coverage in the 2015 calendar year.

The determination of a payment due is based on the information employers reported on Forms 1094-C and 1095-C to the IRS and information about employees who were allowed a premium tax credit. Penalties can apply if for at least one month in a year a full-time employee received a premium tax credit because the ALE did not provide health coverage compliant under ACA. Employers have just 30 days to respond to the letter regarding proposed payment, so timely action is needed if a notice is received. Employers can request a pre-assessment conference.

See the IRS Q&A (55-58) for more information:

IRS Q&A

The Overtime Rule

Last year, one of the major issues facing employers was the impending change in the federal minimum salary level for employees to be exempt from overtime pay. About a week before the rule was to take effect, a federal judge issued an injunction to stop the implementation, and then in August struck down the rule.

The Department of Labor has indicated it is considering a new overtime rule. Earlier this year, Labor Secretary Acosta indicated he was open to a more modest minimum salary amount, somewhere around $33,000. For now, we continue to follow the current requirement to pay exempt employees a minimum of $455 per week annualized to $23,660, and we will watch for changes in 2018.

EEO-1 Pay Data Reporting

A new requirement to add pay information to the EEO-1 collection process would have affected employers with 100 or more employees. This requirement was rolled back in August and covered employers will continue to report only gender, race, and ethnicity on their EEO-1 reports. The deadline for reporting was moved from the normal September date to March 31, 2018 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is keeping this filing deadline in place. The employment data used for the 2017 EEO-1 report should be selected from a payroll period in October, November, or December, the fourth quarter of calendar year 2017.

Electronic Reporting of OSHA Injury and Illness Data

Effective this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires certain establishments to electronically submit injury and illness data from their OSHA logs. Originally, the deadline for reporting 2016 data was July 1. However, the OSHA injury tracking application (ITA) was not available until August 1, so the deadline was first pushed to December 1 and then extended to December 15 to submit 2016 OSHA Form 300A Summary of Injuries and Illnesses data.

Covered establishments for reporting include those with 250 or more employees, who are currently required to maintain OSHA logs, and those in certain industries with under 250 employees that have historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.

Click below for the list of covered industries for establishments with under 250 employees:

List of Covered Industries

Looking Ahead

In 2018, the reporting deadline will be July 1 for 2017 OSHA logs, and covered establishments with 250 or more employees will also be required to submit information from their OSHA forms 300A, 300, and 301. Establishments in covered industries that are under 250 employees will continue to submit only the OSHA summary log Form 300A.

Beginning in 2019, the deadline for reporting will be March 2.

For establishments that are partially exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements due to industry, electronic reporting is not required regardless of employee count.

Business groups have opposed the rule as the OSHA log data could be made public on the OSHA website, which they stated could harm employers. With two lawsuits over the rule, OSHA has asked for litigation to be halted while it considers new rules. In addition, we are also awaiting a new Assistant Secretary of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health. The Senate confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee Scott Mugno was Dec 5. We will watch for further action here after the new agency head takes office and expect to see changes sometime next year.

Click below for more information and FAQs concerning OSHA ITA:

FAQ/OSHA ITA

Maine Act to Update Statutes to Promote Clarity for Workers and Employers

This new law became effective November 1. It updated several provisions regarding Maine employment including employment notices, rest breaks, payment of wages, wellness programs, etc. This law makes the following changes to Maine labor laws:

  1. It requires posters regarding video display terminal safety and minimum wage and overtime requirements to be posted in the same location as other posters required by the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Standards, and establishes a penalty structure for violations of the posting requirements within the section of law requiring posting.
  2. As part of conditions of employment, it adds that it does not prohibit an employer or an agent of an employer from offering a voluntary wellness program that offers incentives for the cessation of use of tobacco products in compliance with applicable federal regulations.
  3. It amends the law regarding rest breaks to clarify the differences between paid rest breaks and unpaid lunch breaks.
  4. It amends the exemption from rest breaks for those employees who have frequent rest breaks during the work day to specify that the exemption only applies if the rest breaks are paid rest breaks and of shorter duration than the 30 minutes otherwise required.
  5. It amends the law regarding timing of payment of wages to specify that payments must be made on the next business day when the payment date occurs on a day when the business is closed. The bill prohibits an employer from increasing any pay interval without providing notice to its employees.
  6. It removes the “reasonable time” requirement and instead specifies that when an employee leaves employment, that employee must be paid on the next established payday. The bill also specifies that payment of vacation is payable only in accordance with the employer’s established policy or practice.

Click here for the full list of changes.

2017 Labor Law Update

Marijuana Legalization

While recreational marijuana was legalized earlier this year, Maine employers still have the right to prohibit its use in their workplaces. Employers should update their policies on this prohibition and communicate these policies to employees if they have not already done so.

To drug test in Maine, a state approved plan is needed or testing may be done pursuant to federal testing requirements. Impairment training from a qualified professional is recommended to help identify when an employee is not able to properly perform his or her job functions.

New Form I-9

The Form I-9 was revised again after a more electronically-friendly form was created last year. This form is required for all employees to verify eligibility for employment in the U.S. The newest version, revised 7/17/17, contains changes in instructions and the list of acceptable documents and can be obtained by clicking the button below.

I-9 Documents

Retirement Plan Contribution and Social Security Taxable Earnings Increases

401(k) and 403(b) Contribution Maximum Increase: The employee contribution limit has increased to $18,500 up $500 for 2018, with the over age 50 additional catch-up contribution limit remaining at $6,000.

IRAs: The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.

Social Security: The maximum taxable earnings for Social Security withholding for 2018 are $128,400. This is up from $127,200 for 2017. 

Sexual Harassment and New Maine Requirements

With all the news related to sexual harassment in the workplace, such heightened awareness may lead to more employees feeling comfortable coming forward with complaints, which employers need to be prepared to handle. In addition, this year Maine revised its harassment training and notification law.

While the requirements to train and notify employees were previously in place, effective November 1, employers are now required to maintain training records and make them available for Department of Labor inspection upon request. There are penalties for not posting the Maine sexual harassment poster, not providing employees with an annual harassment notice, or not training employees on harassment (which is required in workplaces with 15 or more employees).

This act replaces the requirement that the Maine Human Rights Commission provide employers with a training guide and instead directs the Department of Labor to develop a compliance checklist and post it on the department’s website. Employers must use the checklist to develop their required sexual harassment training program. Training to create a harassment free workplace is highly recommended for all employers as well as ensuring proper notification and communication to employees.

Click the buttons below for the current Maine poster on harassment which should be in all of your workplaces and the training checklist.

Posters

Publications

In addition to the anti-harassment training KMA currently offers at employer workplaces, KMA is offering an anti-harassment training session on January 10, 2018 at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth to help employers, employees, and other members of the public prevent and stop the damaging effects of all types of harassing behaviors. Participants will learn about legal requirements and what to do when harassment occurs. Click on the button below for more information and to register for this event.

More Info & Register

For more information on sexual harassment in the workplace and what employers need to know, read our recent blog on the topic.

Read More

Tax Reform

Next year we may be facing other changes and challenges related to tax reform. We are all watching and waiting as the House and Senate decide on legislation that may have a major impact on businesses, employee benefits, and individual tax payers. KMA will be evaluating the impact of the tax bill, and will keep you informed with updates.

For More Information

Need more information or have questions? As always, KMA is here to assist with your employment and compliance-related questions and issues. Contact us today!

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