Lessons Young Lawyers Should Learn Now for Professional and Personal Growth – Cordell Parvin

By | LXBN | December 26, 2013

No matter how well we fare over the years, there are always things we wish we had done differently when we were younger. It’s true in the personal world, and it’s doubly true in the professional arena. In the rapidly-changing legal landscape, there are some lessons young lawyers should learn now, and Dallas lawyer coach Cordell Parvin joins LXBN TV to share them as he explains what he wishes he knew when he was a younger lawyer. 

Before Trying to Avoid the Employer Mandate, Beware of Liability Under the Obamacare and ERISA

By | Washington Workplace Law | December 26, 2013
Contributing Research by Emily Kelly
The recent news about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been dominated by the rocky rollout of the Health Insurance Exchange website.  But cautious employers remain focused on a different part of the ACA: the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment.  Set to take effect in January 2015, this provision is more commonly referred to as the “employer mandate” because of the considerable requirements it will impose on many employers.
The mandate requires employers with over fifty employees to provide “affordable minimum essential coverage” to all full-time equivalent workers (those who work at least thirty hours per week).  Employers that fail to comply must make an “Employer Shared Responsibility Payment” on their federal tax return.
Organizations concerned about compliance costs may contemplate workforce changes to avoid the employer mandate.  For example, employers may consider reducing their workforce to fewer than fifty people or altering schedules to keep workers below the thirty hour full-time equivalent threshold.  But these workforce changes may have unintended consequences for the employer.
ACA Whistleblower Protections
Under the ACA, employers must pay a penalty if their employees purchase coverage through the exchange and receive tax credits or subsidies.  Employers therefore may be tempted to discourage employees from seeking tax credits or subsidies.  They may even consider offering financial incentives to employees who do not apply for credits or subsidies.
Yet these actions could be characterized as retaliatory and violate the ACA’s vigorous whistleblower provisions.  The ACA prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for, among other things, receiving a tax credit or subsidy as a result of participating in the exchange.
In February 2013, the Department of Labor established a procedure for employee complaints under these whistleblower provisions.  It is unclear how aggressively the Department of Labor will use these complaints to enforce the whistleblower provisions against employers.  For now, employers should avoid any action which could be perceived as discouraging employees from accessing the exchange or seeking tax credits or subsidies.
ERISA Anti-Discrimination Protections
Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), employers may not interfere with an employee’s rights under any benefit plan to which he or she is entitled.  29 U.S.C. § 1140.
If an employer shifts workforce hours to reduce the number of employees entitled to health insurance coverage, the employer could be exposed to ERISA claims.  Take an employee who averages more than thirty hours of work before the employer mandate.  If the company reduces the employee’s hours just before January 2015, the employee could argue that the company interfered with his or her right to health insurance coverage.
To address this concern, employers should carefully control internal and external communications about workforce changes and health benefits strategies.
As the employer mandate approaches, employers must grapple with difficult decisions about health insurance costs.  Possible exposure to liability under the ACA and ERISA make this task even more complicated.  Employers who have not already started preparing for the employer mandate should begin the planning process.
If you have any questions or require assistance complying with ACA employer requirements, contact the Foster Pepper Employment and Labor Relations practice or Health Care practice.

The recent news about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been dominated by the rocky rollout of the Health Insurance Exchange website.