The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program extends relief to workers and employees who don’t have access to state benefits, but it will almost certainly put pressure on gig economy companies to start paying into state unemployment insurance funds as government resources continue to diminish due to COVID-19, attorneys say.

Michelle S. Strowhiro, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, said, “To the extent that, post-COVID, we want to maintain unemployment benefits for those traditionally not eligible, … we’d have to contemplate a way that additional funding could be accessed for the long term.”

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A bill titled Jumpstarting Our Businesses’ Success Credit Act of 2020, which would make significant changes to the employee retention tax credits available under the CARES Act, is currently under consideration in the US House of Representatives. In this article, we outline the proposed changes, which are generally designed to increase the availability, scope and amount of the credits.

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced cost-of-living adjustments to the applicable dollar limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2021. Some of the dollar limits currently in effect for 2020 will change for 2021.

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Most states have issued some form of ‘shelter in place’ or ‘stay at home’ order to flatten the curve of COVID-19. As a result, many business operations have been temporarily suspended, unless the business is engaged in essential or critical infrastructure functions or supports businesses engaged in such functions.

For businesses that are considered ‘essential’ and have employees still reporting to work, what steps can employers take to keep their workplace healthy and safe?

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In recognition of the difficulties faced by retirement plan sponsors, participants and beneficiaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new guidance extends the deadlines for notices and disclosures required by Title I of ERISA and extends deadlines for retirement plan participants and beneficiaries to submit benefit claims and benefit appeals. The new guidance also provides some welcome fiduciary relief for electronic disclosures, incomplete plan loan or distribution documentation, as well as delayed participant contributions and loan repayments.

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The US tax rules governing the taxation of equity awards for globally mobile employees are complex and in some cases, uncertain. Among other things, employers must consider the type of award, grant and vesting dates, and sourcing rules to ensure proper reporting and withholding for non-US employees that have worked in the United States. The travel restrictions have caused US multinational businesses to review their existing processes for how they compute and report taxable income for non-US employees working in the United States, especially with regard to vesting of equity arrangements.

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The US Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service and US Department of the Treasury, issued guidance and deadline extensions applicable to ERISA-governed group health and welfare plans. The guidance provides relief for plan sponsors, plan administrators and plan participants that may be struggling to comply with applicable deadlines and requirements in the midst of the chaos related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Ninth Circuit’s recent en banc ruling that employers can’t excuse sex-based pay gaps by pointing to workers’ past salaries deepened a circuit split over the federal Equal Pay Act, a development that could push the issue up to the US Supreme Court.

The majority’s opinion puts the Ninth Circuit directly at odds with the Seventh Circuit amid a growing debate between workers’ and employers’ advocates over whether the common practice of basing salary offers on workers’ past salaries perpetuates illegal pay disparities between men and women.

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On May 1, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued updated Frequently Asked Questions and revised model notices under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA is a federal law that permits individuals to continue group health plan coverage for a limited period of time following certain events, such as a termination of employment, that are coupled with a loss of coverage. Employers are required to notify individuals of their rights under COBRA.

The changes in the model notices are primarily designed to help Medicare-eligible individuals understand their options for healthcare coverage. The model notices, however, do not include language that addresses DOL relief issued earlier in the week that provides additional time for individuals to elect COBRA coverage through the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Plan sponsors should work with their COBRA vendors and legal counsel to determine whether the model notice updates or coronavirus relief would necessitate any updates to the notices currently used by their group health plan to notify plan participants and beneficiaries of their rights under COBRA.