Department of Labor (DOL)

To recruit and retain top talent, employers often offer benefits more generous than required under the law. Such benefits include unlimited vacation, paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave. However, a recent US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit filed against Estee Lauder Companies, Inc. (Estee Lauder) reveals how even the most well-intentioned of programs can result in a discrimination lawsuit.

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Mary Samsa and Allison Wilkerson discussed that the majority of ERISA disclosures are in fact employee communications – many of which are viewed as “routine” by employers.  As such, plan sponsors are continually balancing the best way in which to relay complex benefit plan information in a manner to best be understood by employees but equally satisfy the applicable regimented disclosure requirements. Some key takeaways from their presentation included not only the compliance and content requirements, but methods for delivering communications to employees, traps for the unwary (i.e., inconsistent information communicated, the advantage of having these communications reviewed by legal counsel, and oversight of third parties who assist in preparing communications) and some common sense approaches for routine reviews of communications and continuing education to participants so that periodic communications are not always monumental tasks.

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According to U.S. News & World Report, estimates for the cost of Hurricane Harvey’s damage have come in as high as $190 billion, and damage estimates for Hurricane Irma are still rolling in but range up to $100 billion. To assist taxpayers affected by these devastating storms, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation have granted multiple forms of relief to taxpayers impacted by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and other disasters enumerated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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The Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor relaxed some deadlines for eligible employee benefit plans and expanded the availability of withdrawals and loans for eligible defined contribution plan participants in the disaster area. However, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation announced that some of its required filings will not be extended automatically.

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Amy Gordon, Jeffrey Holdvogt, Susan Nash and Mary Samsa wrote this bylined article on health system employee benefit opportunities and challenges in 2017. The authors urged health systems to review internal controls for 403(b) plan compliance and new design opportunities for 457(f) plans, to review their short- and long-term health plan operation in light of any Affordable Care Act replacement.

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