States Update Employee Leave Requirements for Coronavirus
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, states have passed new laws and issued new regulations and guidance about employee leave taken for COVID-19 reasons. These provisions are in addition to the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, passed on March 18 as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and it’s continued (voluntary) extension through September 2021. In general, employee leave permitted under new state COVID-19 rules and guidance varies with respect to factors like which employers and employees are covered by the leave, the length and purpose of the leave, whether the leave is compensated and at what rate, and whether the leave is provided under a new law or rule or covered under an existing provision.
We have provided an updated list of state leave requirements, accessible here. Employers should monitor the websites of their state departments of labor for new laws, rules and guidance related to COVID-19 employee leave.
EBSA Releases FY 2020 Enforcement Results
Through its enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) – an agency within the Department of Labor – is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the private employee benefit plan system in the United States. EBSA’s oversight authority extends to nearly 722,000 retirement plans, approximately 2.5 million health plans and a similar number of other welfare benefit plans. These plans cover about 154 million workers and their dependents and include assets of over $10.7 trillion. In FY 2020, EBSA recovered over $3.1 billion in direct payment to plans, participants and beneficiaries.
Even during a pandemic, EBSA managed to increase its recoveries from the previous year and set new highs. As always, employers that sponsor ERISA-covered plans should review their plans to make sure that they are meeting their fiduciary duties, including all of their reporting and disclosure requirements.
The Blues Reach Class-Action Antitrust Settlement
In October 2020, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, while not admitting guilt, agreed to a class-action settlement with subscribers related to licensing agreements within the Blue Cross and Blue Shield System. This includes providing monetary payments to certain individuals and groups.
The $1.9 billion net settlement fund will be split into two separate settlement funds. A $1.78 billion fund will be created for individuals, insured groups and their employees. A $120 million fund will be created for self-funded accounts and their employees. Eligible employer groups include:
- Individuals and insured groups that purchased coverage from Feb. 7, 2008, through Oct. 16, 2020; and
- Self-funded groups that purchased coverage from Sept. 1, 2015 through Oct. 16, 2020.
The formula used to determine settlement amounts can be found in the settlement notice.
Members of the damages class will be given court-approved notice of their rights as part of the settlement, including information about settlement approval and claims administration processes, by May 31, 2021. They may also keep abreast of their rights and file a claim, once information is provided, here at the Blue Cross Blue Shield settlement website.
Employers may be contacted by law firms offering to file claims on their behalf. While this will most likely not be necessary to file a claim and receive settlement funds, employers should review their options with their own counsel.