Regulation rollbacks might affect HR professionals

Unified Agenda identifies rules to be repealed, delayed, or examined further

Posted July 24, 2017

A biannual list of priorities from federal agencies includes several items that will likely affect Human Resource professionals.

The Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions lists agencies’ intended regulatory activity; an agency might describe plans to propose new regulations or withdraw existing regulations, for example. However, not all items listed move forward. In fact, 469 actions were withdrawn since the Fall 2016 agenda, and another 391 were delayed for further review.

Notable items from the Spring 2017 Unified Agenda that are likely to affect HR include:

Overtime exemptions and tip pools

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) intends to request information regarding a regulation that raised the salary threshold for the white-collar exemptions from $455 per week to $913 per week. That regulation was blocked by a court injunction, and remains tied up in court. After gathering information from affected employers, the Secretary of Labor may propose a new salary level between those amounts.

The WHD also intends to repeal a regulation affecting tip pools. Some employers pay the full minimum wage to tipped workers rather than taking a tip credit, then share pooled tips among all workers, including non-tipped workers such as cooks and dishwashers. A regulatory change from 2011 prohibited this, allowing only tipped workers to share in a pool. The WHD proposes to repeal that regulation and allow all employees to receive a distribution from a tip pool, if all employees are paid at least the full minimum wage. Employers paying less than minimum wage and claiming a tip credit would still have to limit tip pool distributions to workers who actually received tips from customers.

Employee benefits

For more than a year, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has been considering changes to the Form 5500 Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan. Employers sponsoring health plans, retirement plans, or other employee welfare plans must file this report annually. The EBSA gathered input between July and December of 2016 and will spend the rest of 2017 examining comments, then publish its analysis in January 2018.

The EBSA also intends to review a regulation affecting claims for disability benefits. In December 2016, the EBSA published new requirements for evaluating disability benefit claims, issuing denials, and handling appeals of denials. The regulation took effect in January 2017, but applies only to claims filed after January 1, 2018. The EBSA is “reviewing these amendments for questions of law and policy.” The regulation impacts employers offering short- and long-term disability plans, as well as other benefits based on a determination of disability such as certain retirement benefits.

This article was written by Edwin Zalewski of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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