Stay Informed with the Handcuff Headlines
March is here and the frenetic pace of tax compliance, benefits enrollment and budgeting has come to an end. Lest you think you can put your feet up, March Madness is right around the corner and millions of hours of productivity could be lost. So KRESS poses a question to keep you on your toes; Can an employer fire an employee who has a legal adult website and never mentions it at work? Read below to find out.
Your Employee Runs an Adult Website on the Side–Can You Fire Them?
In many states it is illegal for an employer to use information from an employee’s private life against them. It’s a violation of privacy. More and more states are even passing laws to protect individuals from being forced to hand over social media passwords to potential employers. However, if the employee manages to bring the company into disrepute with postings on social media, then they have crossed a line and that behavior is not protected.
There have been more cases involving this hobby than you want to know about, but the determination is fairly consistent; if an employee’s private life affects the workplace, whether the activities are related to their employment or not, the employer can discipline them without violating privacy or First Amendment Rights. (Since state laws about privacy vary, KRESS advises you always consult your employment attorney for the best advice.)
Where does this leave employers with regards to screening social media? The jury is still out but it’s a hot topic and we would really love to know if you use social media when you screen your candidates. Take the survey below and tune in next month to see how your answers compare and what’s trending in social media screening.
“Social Media and Screening” Survey
Join KRESS as we discover how you and your competitors are leveraging social media in the hiring and screening process. For your participation, we will give you a Starbuck’s gift card immediately and a copy of the report “Social Media and Screening” upon its completion.
Highlights for HR: Job Flexibility, Healthcare Changes, and Social Media Use
HR Leads in Job Flexibility
According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HR professionals are one of the most widespread occupations in the U.S. There are HR professionals in almost every industry sector, thus creating high demand and flexibility. The only occupational descriptions that were more prevalent across industry sectors were CEO and managers.
President and Living Wage
According to a new modification to the Affordable Care Act, the employer mandate will not go into effect for every business until January 2016. Sources from the Treasury Department say that “employers need a little more time to adjust to providing coverage.” So far, only 6 million Americans are covered under the Affordable care Act.
Responsible Social Media in the Workplace
Do you know there are more facebook users than cars, and that several judges have protected social media postings as free speech? This infographic shows the state of things for HR and social media.
In the upcoming months, KRESS will be reviewing this trend and offering you best practices for using social media as an HR professional.
“Stupid Criminals”: What Men Will do for Miller Lite and a Single Hot Dog
Indiana Man Faces Felony Theft Charge For Allegedly Stealing Hot Dog
He paid for the drink, but pocketed the hot dog. He then landed in jail with a $4,000 bond. Courtesy of UPI.
Facebook Posers Land in Jail
After posting pictures of themselves with stolen merchandise, including an expensive Mercedes, two young men from the U.K. will have time to contemplate their decisions. Courtesy of Metro.
This smash and grab made the “Jimmy Kimmel Show”. Two men stole a car and drove it right though the front of a local Valero just to get…a single case of Miller Lite beer. That must be some beer! Courtesy of KSBY.
Assessing the Candidate Now Available
Here’s a preview from the article…
“At this point you should be seeing consistency in where their eyes go (left or right) when they are recalling facts from memory and you should begin to see their natural sitting state and the state of their hands while they answer questions like this. Then you can ask them “describe one thing you regret about leaving a certain position or company.” Tim Sackett said he uses this question to understand the candidate’s level of self-insight. He further explains that, “If a person can look back on a job, and say you know what, the company might have sucked, but I could have done ‘this’ better, that’s someone who gets it.”
I agree with him, but I’ve always used this question to determine if a candidate is results-focused and to gain insight into where his or her sense of self-esteem comes from and determine his or her emotional maturity.”
For more, read “Assessing the Candidate”.
2014 is underway, and the busy season is in full swing for most HR professionals. Between MVRs, new compliance guidelines and tax information updates, there is barely a spare moment in February. However, 2014 is predicted to be a big year for HR, so you must be ahead of the curve. In the spirit of keeping you on the leading edge, we bring you news on a few of the hottest topics in HR–social media screening and employment trends. Also, we bring you stupid criminals, because everyone enjoys laughing at a criminal thwarted by an unlocked door.
Stay with the KRESS blog for interviewing secrets with Chandra Kill, and watch your inbox for the latest article series and eBook, “Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Drug Testing”.
Highlights for HR: Economic uncertainty, living wages, paid internships and social media screening
The president weighs in during State of the Union
An inconclusive jobs report, paired with stock market drops and unexpected tumbles in certain industries, has economists nervous. Much is riding on the January jobs report, to be published on Friday.
President and Living Wage
Obama has been actively campaigning for a “living wage” of $10.10 an hour. Couple this with the talk of ending unpaid internships, and doing business in these United States may get more expensive. However, the minimum wage legislation is not predicted to take effect until 2015 at the soonest.
Social Media Screening Gaining Traction
While the interest in social media has wavered since 2012, a significant percentage of the Fortune 500 and smaller companies are engaging in this practice to find the best employees. In the upcoming months, KRESS will be reviewing this trend and offering you best practices for learning more about prospective and current candidates while remaining compliant.
Would-be Burglar Pulls and Pulls
A would-be burglar pulls on an unlocked door for seven minutes straight in Chicago. His attempts are foiled by a door clearly marked “push”. Courtesy of the Huffington Post.
McNuggets Rage Leads to Thrown Punches
A young woman finds McNuggets unavailable at 6:30 a.m. and goes on a drive-thru rampage. After being treated for injuries, she cools off in a local jail (and still without McNuggets).Courtesy of the Huffington Post.
Woman Traps Burglar in Garage
After taking a woman’s keys and jumping into her parked car, the thief was foiled by a garage door. The victim closed the garage door, locked the internal door and called 911. When the police pulled up, the criminal was waiting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition. Quick thinking saves the day! Courtesy of Clumsy Crooks.
Welcome to 2014 from KRESS Employment Screening. The New Year is underway, and hiring is already in the headlines. In 2013, the EEOC made headlines as they were defeated in major corporate lawsuits; now, the Senate is working to legislate ignorance in hiring. Get ready for an exciting year for HR professionals.
KRESS is committed to keeping you informed of those changes that will affect your hiring process. This year, you’ll also find news you can use and HR information here. Also, in this issue, we offer a light-hearted look at the hiring process and the return of “Stupid Criminals”.
We look forward to working with you in 2014.
New Applicant Privacy Bill Proposed
Should individual rights be granted at the expense of the employer?
Once again, the senate is reviewing legislation to regulate the private sector, which business persons rightly anticipate with mixed emotions. Senator Warren has proposed a bill, S. 183 7 entitled “Equal Employment for All Act of 2013″, similar to a bill proposed in Feb. 2013 to protect the privacy of the individual. This law would prohibit employers from using a consumer report for hiring purposes unless it is required by law or national security clearance is necessary. While this may seem similar to “Ban the Box” or Texas’ recent bill supporting companies that choose to hire individuals with a criminal record, the repercussions of this bill could be far more profound because this bill requires ignorance of an applicant’s financial and criminal past.
A consumer report typically includes a criminal record and a credit record–will this mean that criminal record checks are no longer permissible, even for those working with children or in the home? How will this apply to those positions that have influence over a company’s financial assets–must we now wonder if our accountant has previous charges for embezzlement, or if she is millions in debt, with no way to find out?
Anyone who has functioned in business for more than a day knows that “ignorance is bliss” is not only a fallacy–it’s dangerous. KRESS will be following the progression of this bill–watch the KRESS blog to stay informed of any legislative changes that will affect your hiring process.
Stupid Criminals Returns
Victim Drives Carjacker Straight to the Cops
The carjacker jumped in and demanded the victim drive. He did, and the L.A. resident went directly to the local police station.
Criminal Drunk on Mouthwash Searches for More
This bank robber, allegedly drunk on mouthwash imbibed days earlier, entered the local grocery store to purchase more mouthwash but then unintentionally robbed the store and kicked off a crime spree.
Criminal Impersonates an Officer–to a Cop
This criminal mastermind probed an undercover officer about stolen merchandise, and, despite the officer’s attempt to ignore him, persisted in his inquiry until he was arrested.
“How Not to Hire” Now Available
“Possible hiring strategy: Stand in a chair and yell, “Dance, monkey, dance!” Require endless personality and occupation assessments; prepare interview questions like, “If you were a fruit, what kind of fruit would you be?”
No…as fun as it may be, it’s wrong. (And, you should not torture applicants for facebook fodder.) Again, consider if you were in the applicants’ shoes.”
For a better strategy, read “How Not to Hire”.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from KRESS Employment Screening. Many of us are still wrapping up the holiday shopping while planning for next year. Others have their mind altruistic giving, which is highest at this time of year. Still others are working through this holiday season, including the state of Texas and their recent lawsuit filed against the EEOC.
In this issue of the Handcuff Headlines, we’ve covered those topics most relevant to you at this time of year, and we’ve included some of our own holiday surprises for you. Look for the release of our newest article, “How Not to Hire” later this month.
Texas vs. the EEOC
Texans should be able to hire whom they choose
Earlier this year, Texas passed a law to protect employers willing to give applicants with a criminal record a second chance. The EEOC has also been busy this year, filing suit against three major corporations for background screening and hiring practices. In response to these lawsuits and the requests of Texas employers, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is asking a federal judge to set aside the recent EEOC guidelines that, in practice, create a protected class of convicted felons and prevent employers from deciding not to hire them.
KRESS will be monitoring the progression of the suit and keep you informed about any decisions that may affect your hiring practices. Check our blog regularly for updates.
KRESS supports local charitable organization
Last year, this slogan struck home for us, and we began a pro bono partnership with the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation. We provide the background screens for every person who works at the chapter office so that the recipients of the wishes can enjoy the moment worry-free.“Make-A-Wish is an important partner for us because we believe in what they are doing,” said Chandra Kill, CEO of KRESS Employment Services. “We are glad to provide this critical service for them.”
To learn more about the Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana chapter of Make-A-Wish, please click here. Thank you for supporting our partner this season as they make Christmas wishes come true!
November brings volunteer background checks, charity screening and holiday shopping predictions
We are all wedged between the economic stasis of October and the optimism of the holiday season. Employees are thinking about year end bonuses, managers are focused on year end reviews and everyone is looking at their budget. Still somehow, in November and December we find time for charitable giving, gift giving and volunteerism. We transition from employers and employees to community and family members.
As you make that transition this year, we would like to offer some options to help you make informed decisions about charities and volunteers. Background checks are not only for the business world, and screening goes beyond your employees. If you are involved in church or community organization, have you been screened? If not, then other volunteers have also not been screened. Are any of these un-screened volunteers working with children or handling money? Also, how does your charity of choice stack up against the rest? How do you make sure your donations actually get to the people in need?
Read on for tips and tools to protect those you love and your hard-earned dollars.
Temporary Staff and Volunteers
How Much Harm Could They Possibly Do?
It may be the most wonderful time of year for many retailers, but it’s also the time of year when employee theft increases dramatically.
Thieves from within take a bigger bite out of companies’ bottom lines with inventory lost as a result of employee theft, shoplifting, administrative error or vendor fraud, especially when the economy is weak. Seasonal employees and volunteers account for a higher percentage of employee theft because often a more relaxed system of checks and balances is at play.
Q: They’ll only be employed for the holiday season. Do I really need to screen part-time employees?
A: Yes, you really do. You are as liable for your part-time labor force as with your full-time labor force and seasonal employees are less invested in their positions, which can lead to a higher risk.
Q How long does it take to screen a part-time employee?
A: A criminal background check can usually be completed in 24-48 hours.
Q: How much does a basic criminal background check cost?
A: A thorough criminal background check will cost you $34.99 per employee but there are options starting as low as $14.00.
Q: How long does it take to set up an account with KRESS?
A: We vet our clients carefully, to ensure we are only offering information to legitimate businesses for permissible purposes. If you pass our vetting process, your account can be set up in one business day.
With a growing culture of entitlement among workers and a decreased sense of loyalty from seasonal employees, don’t leave yourself open. Whether you use KRESS or screen through another provider, protect your bottom line.
Do you know where your dollars are going?
Screen Your Charities!
The Firefighters Charitable Foundation helps victims of fire and disaster and The National Veterans Services Fund, Inc. serves veterans and their families. What do these two charities have in common? These two charities are on Charity Navigator’s Top Ten List of Consistently Low Rated Charities for consistently performing far below industry standards and below nearly all similar charities.
It is assumed that big charities are most likely to use your donation effectively, but that’s not always the case. Before donating even one of your hard earned dollars, screen your charity. Here are a few websites to help you:
- Charity Navigator: This website independently ranks over 5,000 charities. U.S. non-profits. www.charitynavigator.org
- GuideStar: This website contains comprehensive information on more than 1.8 million nonprofits and also gives users the opportunity to interact with the nonprofit community. www.guidestar.org
- GiveWell: This website provides information on the highest-impact nonprofits and rates them accordingly. www.givewell.org
Santa Comes Early for Consumers
Are the accelerated holiday advertising and sales enough to pick things up in the fourth quarter?
The holiday shopping season will kick off Nov. 8 this year, and retailers are ready. It seems to come earlier each year, but this year in particular the public is hungry for some good news and that is not lost on retailers. We find more advertisements and sales aimed at consumers who have been wading through depressed economic forecasts, hoping to hit that all magical emotion button, prompting us to open our wallets. Toys”R”Us recently surprised children with free toys and hopes to spread their joy.
The children’s glee provides a stark contrast to the reactions to the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. “The labor market lost, rather than gained, momentum over the summer, leaving us with less than a desirable cushion just as the government was shuttered in response to political shenanigans,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in a piece by the New York Times.
It will be January before people can expect to see a jobs report unaffected by the government shutdown. The next report is slated for Nov. 8. In the meantime, enjoy the sales when you find them and the deals when you can get them. If there’s one good thing about a shaky economy, it’s the effect it has on the free market for consumers.
- Affordable Healthcare and the SMB
- Dates and Deadlines
- Notification Letters
- SHOP and Individual Enrollment
It’s October, and the 2013 government shutdown is still underway. Politics has caused a halt in IRS audits and e-Verify services. However, the government is still going strong, with the EEOC filing 45 cases in October and the IRS releasing statements to the public that they must continue their tax payments. The job reports are on hold until the furlough ends as well.
October 1st also marked the first day for the Health Insurance Exchange, and the first day of related requirements for the SMB. In this issue, we’ll strive to provide tips you can use and resources as you work through this process with your company.
Affordable Healthcare and the SMB
What employers need to know now
The rollout has not gone smoothly for the American government or for individuals trying to enroll. According to a recent article by Forbes, the number enrolled may still be in the single digits as of Oct. 7th. Many states, including Texas, have opted to delay publicity for the exchange until late October or early November to create a better experience for users.
As long as registration is complete by Dec. 15, 2013, coverage will begin Jan. 1.
Dates and Deadlines
- Oct. 1, 2013: Notification letters must be sent
- Oct. 1, 2013: Enrollment begins (for individuals and SMB)
- Oct. 1, 2013-Dec. 15, 2013: Enrollment available for 2014 calendar year
- 2014: Healthcare enrollment available for companies of 50-100 employees
- March 31, 2014: Open enrollment period ends
- Oct. 15, 2014: Next enrollment period begins
- Healthcare employer mandate has been delayed until 2015
- 2016: Healthcare enrollment available for all businesses
- Letter for those companies that do not offer insurance
- Letter for those companies that do offer insurance
The deadline for employees to receive the correct letter was Oct. 1, 2013. Moving forward, each new hire must receive the appropriate letter within 14 days of their initial hire.
SHOP and Individual Healthcare Options
The healthcare employer mandate has been delayed until 2015.
The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) allows employers with 50 or fewer employees to purchase health insurance. (In 2016, larger employees will also be able to participate in SHOP.) In order to use SHOP, your company must meet the following requirements:
- All employees who work 30 or more hours must be covered
- At least 70 percent of your employees must enroll in SHOP
- Healthcare costs must not exceed 9.5% of their gross family income
- Employers must cover at least 60 percent of premium costs of employee health care coverage.
Penalties for failing to cover employees:
- The penalty for small businesses not covering their workers is $2,000 per employee and $3,000 if they purchase health insurance through the exchange with premium credits
- The first 30 workers are excluded from the penalty.
- High end insurance plans will be subject to a 40% excise tax.
Healthcare tax credits will not be available for businesses until they have purchased insurance on the exchange for two years. For more on SHOP, please see http://obamacarefacts.com/insurance-exchange/shop-exchange.php.
Individual Healthcare Options
Individuals are welcome to remain on their current plans, test the waters on the exchange, or chose not to be insured at all. You can sign up for health coverage on the exchange anytime between now and March 1, 2014. If you do not enroll in that window, you will not be able to get health coverage through the insurance exchange marketplace until the next annual enrollment period unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Penalties if you chose not to be insured:
- The penalty in 2014, the fine to remain uninsured, is $95 per person (up to a family maximum of $285, or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater).
- The penalty will increase more than sevenfold in the next two years, with the fine running as much as $695 per person by 2016. The family maximum would be as high as $2,085 (or 2.5 percent of family income, whichever is greater).
September brings mixed economic news and safety updates
September is here, and with it a return to school and the beginning of budgeting season. Summer is over, and adults and children alike are getting their heads back in the game. Some literally–the first game of the NFL season was Sept. 5th.
If education verifications are a part of your screening process, school is back in session and those lingering checks from the summer can finally be completed.
As some business processes are wrapping up, others are just beginning. While the fourth quarter does not officially begin until October, many businesses are already preparing for 2014 planning. This includes the Fed; they are carefully examining the economic indicators and have decided to stay the course.
In your business planning for 2014, are you planning to maintain the status quo, or are you improving safety standards? Make sure you’re covered this year.
The Economy and its…Recovery
Mediocre employment data and inflation leaves the Fed concerned, but consumers show recovery signs
July’s economic forecast continued the mildly positive trend of the past year as far as job growth and employment, and August’s is no more encouraging.
In August, only 169,000 jobs were added, though economists predicted more. (This is slightly more than half of the 300,000 new jobs needed monthly to create traction in the “recovery”.) The number of discouraged workers declined, but Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans, worries that this may be problematic as those new workers are returning to the workforce, thus increasing the jobless rate as they renew the job search now that the prospects look better.
Evans, in a recent interview, goes on to point out that until inflation starts to rise, we are not in the clear. While consumers may enjoy low inflation (on things other than gasoline and food) and record low interest rates, this combination indicates a still-struggling economy.
If the Fed doesn’t believe that the recovery is real, how can employers plan for a positive future? Consumers are spending again, and the personal consumption expenditures index is on the rise. Additionally, the average expenditures per consumer exceeded $50K for the first time since 2008. In most areas, the housing market is recovering. The people believe the economy is on the mend, and sometimes, that can make a big difference.
Is Safety a Priority for 2014?
Your greatest risks may be internal
For most companies, the answer is an automatic yes. Schools have tightened security, the NFL has hired the TSA and banned coolers, and most workplaces have restricted access in response to the tragic events of the past year. However, how effective is your security once someone has entered the building? Are you protecting the company and your employees from potential safety and financial threats from within?
In life, situations change. Again, this seems an overly simplistic statement, but oftentimes it is easily forgotten when dealing with employees. Many companies screen their employees as part of the hiring process then trust that the individual will remain the same over the course of his or her career with the company. But, with an average tenure of almost five years, how much can a worker change? What if those changes impact your business?
One example of potential change is in an employee’s personal finances, especially relevant since the economic downturn. Since 2006, personal bankruptcy rates in the U.S. have more than doubled. If an employee with a previously perfect credit score falls on hard times, will that have an impact on your business?
Would an employee’s criminal conviction from a past crime have a negative effect?
Each employee is an important asset to a business but also a highly unpredictable one. Companies that recognize the employees’ potential for change (both positive and negative) engage in annual or bi-annual companywide background checks. As with all security procedures, the old adage of better safe than sorry applies, especially when the repercussions could be devastating.
Today Show Airs Public Security Warning
Another warning against letting violent felons into the home
After so many warnings and tragedies, companies still hire contractors without background checks because they are not federally mandated. Then, unknowing people let potential felons into their home without protection because they trust the companies to protect them. This recent piece by “The Today Show” is a consumer warning piece, and it interviews several people who are pursuing tougher legislation to prevent felons from coming into homes.
The responsibility for these tragic events is complex. Is it the responsibility of the state to mandate consumer safety, of the company to hire only safe contractors, or of the consumer to take precautions when they have someone they don’t know in their home?
What do you think? KRESS has two opposing views on our blog and we’d love to get your opinion on our blog.
195K New Jobs in June and 7.6% Unemployment – This is Good News, Right?
June’s employment report was nothing to sneer at, but we would need more than five years of continued job growth at this rate to get back to a healthy level of unemployment. The Federal Reserve has been talking about “tapering” its efforts and in response interest rates have jumped up. The housing market is trying to bounce back, but that bounce now has to contend with sharply rising mortgage rates having risen by a third since the Federal Reserve started talking about relaxing its efforts.
Employers are not blind to that fact that we have no real job-creation policy to count on. Employers also know the trade deficit rose to $45 billion in May while the exports slipped .3% and American farm products dropped to their lowest point in more than two years. A sustained unemployment number is not enough to fool employers or investors. It’s an inadequate recovery at best, and flat unemployment numbers are a far cry from actual growth, which may be why the government revised down its estimate for first-quarter economic growth to an annual rate of 1.8% from 2.4%.
So where is the good news? Well, investment in equipment and software is well above pre-recession levels and rising. U.S. factories cranked out more business equipment, home electronics and automobiles in June, boosting manufacturing output for the second straight month. And the average hourly earnings rose 10 cents to $24.01. For now, that will have to be enough. Subscribe Below
The EEOC Challenges the Screening Policies of both BMW and Dollar General
What Can You Learn From Their Policies?
In both cases, they are claiming disparate impact, but if you look closer at the details it seems the policies could easily impact any applicant negatively. The courts will eventually issue definitive rulings, but employers everywhere should take note of the specific parts of their screening policies that may have landed these employers in trouble.
BMW seems to have a strict policy regarding certain criminal convictions that denies facility access to BMW employees and employees of contractors. It appears that in this case the contractor screened employees according to its own criminal conviction policy, which limited review to convictions within the prior seven years while BMW’s policy had no time limit for convictions. If your screening policies do not extend to your contingent workers, you might be leaving yourself open to potential liability. At some point, the contract with BMW ended and employees who had previously worked at the BMW facility were reprocessed for formal employment directly with BMW. Some of these employees were then told they no longer met the criteria for working at BMW.
The Dollar General case, includes two different cases with very different lessons for employers. The first involves an applicant originally offered conditional employment, even though she had disclosed a six-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Additionally, her application showed she had previously worked for another discount retailer in the same position for four years after the conviction. If your screening policy does not consider rehabilitation efforts or similar positions held post-conviction, you might be leaving yourself open to potential liability. Dollar General’s policy uses her type of conviction as a blanket disqualification factor for the prior 10 years and her job offer was revoked. The second case involves an applicant whose report showed a felony conviction that did not belong to her. Even after she advised Dollar General of the mistake, they did not reverse the decision to fire her. If your policy does not include time for applicants to dispute the information reported on a background check, you might be leaving yourself open to potential liability.
These situations must have had the EEOC salivating because on the surface they are prime examples of how blanket policies may be lacking and how unfair barriers to employment exist for those who have been labeled incorrectly as having a criminal record, without the opportunity to dispute the information. In two of the cases, the applicants held a similar position prior to applying. We could get into recidivism rates, predictive modeling, and calculations that define why an employer would want to exclude applicants with criminal convictions, but will safety standards and predictive modeling hold up in a court room if the applicant has recently proven they can fulfill the position requirements? We will have to wait and see as these cases unfold. In the meantime, partner with a trusted source for employment screening and review your policies in order to stay compliant with the current EEOC guidelines. For further information check out KRESS’s 10 Things Every Employer Should Know to Stay Compliant Subscribe Below
The Definition of “Spouse” and “Marriage” is Now Governed by State Law
Leaving more questions than answers, the decision on DOMA affects the benefit plans for many employers
On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision regarding same-sex marriage. The ruling not only redefines “spouse” and “marriage” but also means that a same-sex marriage recognized at the state level is now considered a legal marriage at the federal level. The ruling leaves many unanswered questions regarding when same-sex marriages will be considered valid for purposes of employee benefit plans.
Employers in states that either issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or recognize same sex marriage from another state, are all busy addressing their policies regarding pension rights and other benefits previously available only to married heterosexual couples. With a completely new definition of the word “spouse” on the books, you would think that would be enough to focus on but most employers we have polled are more concerned with the deeper complexities that lie within. The devil is always in the details.
- Can a widowed same-sex spouse who previously was not able to claim spousal benefits, now be in a position to request death benefits?
- Does the change of status qualify alterations to be made outside of a company’s annual open enrollment period?
- Is it the state of residence at the time of pension payments or when the benefits accrued?
- If a same-sex couple legally marries in the state they live in, but then moves to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, is the couple still treated as married for federal employee benefit purposes? What if only one party moves to the other state?
- To what extent, if any, will same-sex marriages be recognized retroactively and how might that affect minimum required distributions, maximum benefit limitations and taxes already paid?
These little details seem to be padding the pockets of our trusted attorneys and advisers, without whom I would not suggest proceeding. If that is not enough, let’s all raise our hats to the poor multi-state employers. For they are indeed in a sticky wicket. Organizations that have employees in multiple states are left to flail about in the legal abyss as these laws are challenged in court for an unknown number of years.
It is important to note that the decision does not mean that all group health plans will be required to provide coverage to same-sex spouses. Insured group health plans are generally subject to state insurance laws, but self-insured group health plans allow employers the ability to choose the definition of spouse for purposes of eligibility and benefits. All employers are well advised to be mindful of the state laws with which they are working, legal developments in their respective state(s), the type of plan they are employing, and the definition of spouse therein. Subscribe Below
Recent Press Releases
06/25/2013 KRESS Launches New and Improved Website!
03/14/2013 KRESS Announces Lower International Background Screening Prices in Over 200 Countries
01/05/2013 KRESS Gives Back Announces Pro-Bono Background Checking Services for Make-A-Wish Foundation
Deep dish pizza? Italian beef? Chicago dogs? Yes, yes and yes! But don’t worry, we had all the calories removed when it crossed the Mason-Dixon line. We will be featuring The 20 Best Examples of Feedback, How To Engage Your Employees Through Social Media, New FMLA, EEOC and ADA Guidelines, and more. Join KRESS for our annual “Get Completely Up To Date In One Night” event. Get your hands on the latest and greatest for what is sure to be the most informative Pepcid AC moment this year!