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HR Compliance Updates – February 2021

By February 3, 2021March 1st, 2021No Comments

Proposed Rule Amending HIPAA Privacy Rule

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), under the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) issued a proposed rule modifying the Privacy Rule under HIPAA. As you may remember, the Privacy Rule protects the privacy and security of individuals’ medical records and other protected health information (PHI). The HIPAA Privacy imposes federal requirements to protect PHI held by covered entities and their business associates, gives patients’ rights with respect to that information, and permits covered entities and business associates to disclose PHI for patients and other purposes. If finalized, the rule would take effect 60-days after any final rule is published and covered entities and their business associates would have 180-days from the effective date of any finalized changes under the rule. Stay tuned for further developments.

Sixth Circuit Invalidates Contractual Limitation Periods Under ADA & ADEA

On January 15, 2021, the Sixth Circuit held that an employee cannot waive statutory limitation periods within ADA or ADEA by agreeing to a shorter contractual period of limitations. This is illustrative in two court cases, Thompson v. Fresh Products, LLC, and Logan v. MGM Grand Detroit Casino. Employers are encouraged to review their applications, handbooks and other employment contracts to determine whether they include limitation periods shorter than 180-days for claims under Title VII, ADA or the ADEA.

EEOC Announces 2021 EEO-1 Collection Schedule

On January 12th, the U.S. EEOC announced that it will begin collecting EEO data again in 2021, starting with the EEO-1 report in April 2021. Employers that are subject to EEO-1 reporting requirements should begin preparing to submit 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 data in anticipation of the April 2021 collection schedule.

These employers and other entities that are subject to EEO reporting should also watch for updates regarding the exact dates that collections will begin and end.

Additionally, employers that may have switched HRIS vendors or changed their database software since 2018 should make sure they can access the full workforce data for this 2-year period.

DOL Issues Final Rule on Independent Contractor Status

On January 7th, the DOL published a final rule to clarify the standard for independent contractors under the FLSA. The rule will take effect on March 8, 2021, and will make it easier for employers to classify workers as independent contractors.

The rule will also allow employers to provide certain benefits to independent contractors, provided that the independent contractor benefits differ from those of the employees.

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Use Disorder Benefits Parity

The Consolidated Appropriation Act, 2021 signed into law in December 2020, includes several provisions requiring that group health plans and health insurance insurers provide comparative analysis regarding utilization with the MHPAEA, with the goal of monitoring and improving access to mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits.

The MHPAEA is a federal law that prevents group health plans and group and individual health insurance issuers that provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than imposed on medical/surgical benefits. The rules reflect Congress’ intent to have such benefits treated in the same manner as medical/surgical benefits in regards to coverage and limitations.

The MHPAEA generally applies to most group health plans and group health insurance coverage.

New Federal Marketplace/Exchange Special Enrollment Period – February 15, 2021

On January 29th, President Biden signed an EO on Strengthening Medicaid and the ACA. The EO instructs the DHHS to consider establishing a special enrollment period for individuals to enroll in or change their current coverage under federal health insurance marketplaces.

The CMS has established that the special enrollment period will begin on February 15, 2021, and will continue through May 15, 2021.

This special enrollment period will be available to individuals within marketplaces using the Healthcare.gov platform.

If you missed the previous December 15, 2020, deadline and would like to obtain coverage or know someone who may be interested, please contact our very own Dawn Freeland, Health Insurance Advisor.

SBA to Re-open Paycheck Protection Program

On January 13, 2021, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it would re-open its PPP loan portal to eligible lenders with $1 billion or less in assets for PPP loan applications on January 15th and then fully re-open to all participating PPP lenders on January 19th.

DOL Issues New Q&A’s About FFCRA Leave Requirements

We continue to field client questions as it relates to the employee leave mandate under FFCRA, which expired on December 31, 2020. While continuing to administer employee paid leave beyond the deadline is NOT mandatory, employers remain interested in the pros and cons of doing so. The DOL’s Q&A may be helpful to you.

Use of Telehealth to Support FMLA Leave Extended into 2021

For the foreseeable future, the DOL will allow employees to use telemedicine visits to establish a serious health condition that renders them eligible for time off under the FMLA. Employers should review their FMLA leave policies and train managers with respect to these changes.

IRS Lowers Standard Mileage Rate for 2021

For 2021, the IRS decreased to 56 cents per mile – down 1.5 cents – the standard rate that many employers use to reimburse employees who drive their own vehicles for business activities. In addition to the safe harbor rate, employers can choose other reimbursement options.

Employment Law Posters

It’s been quite a year for labor law posters, and it’s likely that 2021 will be hectic as well. New posters are being added and old ones are being updated, and compliance questions arise as more workers telecommute.

Review this excellent SHRM article for guidance.

The Latest COVID-19 Vaccine News

It seems that everyone is talking about the COVID-19 vaccine, including employers, and the pros and cons of mandating or keeping it voluntary within their workplaces. SHRM has some excellent resources, including Q&A’s, policies and forms. Additionally, the CDC remains a resourceful site for the most current information and guidance relative to the vaccine.

SHRM Resources
CDC Website

Michigan Isolation & Quarantine Requirements for Workers – PA 239

The following are the most current guidelines for employers:

  • Isolation requirements for employees who have tested positive for COVID-19: Employees may not return to work until they are advised by a health care provider or public health professional that they have completed their isolation period or all of the following conditions are met:
    • If the employee has a fever, 24-hours have passed since the fever has stopped with or without the use of fever-reducing medications; the isolation period has passed; the employee’s principal symptoms of COVID-19 have improved AND if the employee has been advised by a health care provider or public health professional to remain isolated, the employee is no longer subject to such advisement.
  • Isolation requirements for employees who display COVID-19 symptoms, but who have not yet tested positive: Employees may not return to work until one of the following conditions have been met:
    • A negative diagnostic test result has been received; or, all of the following apply; the isolation period has passed since the principal symptoms of COVID-19 started, the employee’s principal symptoms of COVID-19 have improved, if the employee had a fever, 24-hours have passed since the fever subsided with or without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • Isolation requirements for employees who have come into close contact with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19: Employees under these circumstances may not return to work until one of the following conditions is met:
    • The quarantine period has passed since the employee last had close contact with the individual; or, the employee is advised by a health care provider or public health professional that they have completed their period of quarantine.

Live Well, Work Well

This month’s healthy living and working tips to share with your staff.

Carrie A. Nicholson, PHR, SHRM-CP

HR & Benefits Compliance Advisor

Our Employee Benefits team is here if you have any questions or would like us to help you with your group benefits. Contact Us

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