So far, the US Department of Labor has announced a $22.2 million national emergency grant to Louisiana to aid workers displaced by the hurricane. Emergency grant funds are available to employers, small business owners and self-employed workers as well as employees displaced by the natural disaster.
The funds will be used to create more than 4,000 (more…)
As of January 28, 2008, relatives and spouses of active military, Reserve and National Guard are eligible to take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave to care for an injured soldier.
The traditional FMLA (Family Medical and Leave Act) provided job-protected, unpaid leave to eligible employees for up to 12 weeks.
The expansion of the FMLA is a result of President George W. Bush signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, HR 4986 into law on January 28, 2008. The law went into effect immediately, allowing families of military personnel to take FMLA leave immediately.
The NDAA provision to expand the FMLA has several purposes. One, the Act gives families of military extended leave beyond the traditional FMLA allotment of 12 weeks. Two, the Act adds “next of kin” to the list of eligible family members, which could allow in-laws, cousins and aunts and uncles to take FMLA to care for an injured or ill soldier. Three, the Act provides leave for a spouse, parent, son or daughter to stand in for military personnel called to active duty. While the soldier is away, the relative or spouse can care for whoever was in that soldier’s charge, including watching over healthy children.
The term used in the NDAA for the third provision of the expanded leave is “any qualifying exigency.” As yet, the details for this provision and for the entire NDAA have not been published. That duty falls to the U. S. Department of Labor, which is working to finalize regulations for White House approval. Once approved, the rules for FMLA will be enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the U S. Department of Labor.
Since, technically, the NDAA isn’t in effect until the Secretary of Labor publishes the regulations, the U. S. Department of Labor requests employers “act in good faith” to grant all eligible families the expanded FMLA leave. FMLA protocols and procedures already in place, such as medical certification and substitution of paid leave, are excellent tools to manage the new leave.
In 1993, a ground-breaking federal law was passed. The Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) was the first law to require employers to provide unpaid, job-protected leave for employees with health concerns.
Passage of the FMLA provided a standard for employers with over 50 workers within a 75 mile radius. Under this law, employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for their own illness, or to care for a seriously ill parent, spouse or child. FMLA also covers recovery time and care of the baby after childbirth, plus adoptions and newly fostering a child under 18.
A new law, NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act of 2008) was recently passed to expand FMLA, and is the first major expansion of that law since 1993.
The law guarantees that when the employee returns to work, he or she will still have a job. Usually, the original job is available. If not, the company is required to provide a job with similar working conditions, wages and benefits.
Prior to FMLA, an employee who missed work because of major surgery or chemotherapy was at risk of becoming unemployed. Companies dealt with these cases on an individual basis, using their own company policy. If an employee needed leave for medical reasons, the business decided how much for how long. Often, after a worker missed 2 to 3 weeks of work because of illness, the company simply fired him or her.
The NDAA of 2008 will expand the federal FMLA. To what degree is currently unknown. The U. S. Department of Labor has not yet published the regulations for this new act. Once those regulations are finalized, all eligible employers will be required to follow the new mandates.
Expanding FMLA isn’t completely new. Eleven states have increased their FMLA benefits already. Hawaii includes grandparents and in-laws in its definition of family member. Other states allow more than 12 weeks of leave, while other states increase the amount of benefits.
Do you have health insurance provided through your employer? Does your plan cover mental health care? If it does, a recent update to the law will interest you.
Louisiana employee benefit plans are affected by a recent low profile decision concerning group health insurance. The MHPA, or the Mental Health Parity Act, has been extended through the very end of this year. The president recently signed his approval to extend the 1996 bill until December 31st.
Millions of Americans are provided health care coverage through their employers. The Employee Benefits security Administration, or EBSA, enforces the federal regulations regarding all of the various group health care plans that are employer provided. The MHPA states that any group health insurance plan that provides the funding for mental health treatment has to do so at an equal rate as it covers other medical treatments, including surgery.
In 1986, EBSA was actually called PWBA, or the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration. Before that, when it began in 1974, it was known as the Pension and Welfare Benefits Program. The Employee Benefits security Administration is currently the most appropriate name, because they deal with just as many health care issues as they do pension problems.
Normally, mental health insurance covers psychiatric visits, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, and inpatient mental health care (in a hospital or mental health facility). Treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress are also often covered. Regardless of which treatment is being covered, it should not be covered at a lower rate than medical types of treatment.
The annual limits on mental health must also be at least equal to those of other medical treatments. If the annual limit for the coverage of surgery is $120,000 that has to be the minimum at which mental health treatment is covered. Anything less than that would be a violation of the law.
Here’s good news for anyone covered by a Louisiana employee benefit plan. A recent ruling extends benefits under the MHPA.
This ruling, made by the US Employee Benefits Security Administration, impacts employers who have health insurance plans that cover mental health treatments. The US Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is a federal agency that monitors compliance with pension and health insurance laws.
As you may remember, several years ago the MHPA was enacted to ensure that healthcare plans that covered mental health, did so at the same level as other medical treatments such as surgery.
The ruling EBSA issued recently impacts Louisiana employee benefits plans because the Mental Health Parity Act, also known as MHPA, has been extended. The Mental Health Parity Act has been a law since 1996, and even though it was to expire at the end of September, 2001, the law’s expiration date has been extended 5 times.
This law requires that group health insurance plans place the same limits on mental health coverage that they place on other medical treatments. Insurance companies used to be able to set a maximum lifetime benefit for medical treatments and surgery at one amount and then set a lifetime benefit maximum for mental health treatments at a lower amount. MHPA requires that these amounts be the same.
For instance, if a group health insurance plan has a lifetime maximum benefit for surgery or other medical treatments of $250,000, the lifetime maximum benefit for mental health treatments also has to be $250,000. This rule also applies to the benefit amounts allowed per year. The coverage amount allowed for medical treatments must be the same as the amount allowed for mental health treatments.
If a business has a group health insurance plan that does not cover mental heath treatments, MHPA has no impact. This law only applies to group health insurance plans that have coverage for mental health treatments.
In the state of Louisiana, it is possible as well for an employer with accurate and backed up records to dispute an unemployment claim against their record. Such instances can arise, as we have seen, when an employee formerly on your pay roll was let go because of some fault of their own—whether they quit or resigned or whether you let them go because of some sort of disciplinary action. Remember—unemployment benefits are supposed to only go to former employees in the state of Louisiana who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
Again, another instance when unemployment insurance claims shouldn’t be charged against you is if, simply, that employee never worked for you. Or, on the other hand, if they did work for you but you know you weren’t their last employer. It is the last employer, after all, who is responsible for making those payments on their tab.
In Louisiana, if you can prove that you shouldn’t be the employer footing the bill for the unemployment insurance benefits of a certain employee, then the payment of those benefits can then get charged to the “generic kitty” in the state, as it’s called casually (with the formal name being “Social Charge” account). In that case, you will not be charged for that employee, and your taxes may not go up because of that possible charge.
When you do submit such a protest in the state of Louisiana, there is an analyst in the state that goes through the process of reviewing your request. They are responsible for making any adjustments if necessary, and then you will get notice from the state if your protest has been accepted or not. As with all of your personnel files and documents, this response from the state, as well as the benefit charge statement that tells you how much your account still has been charged, should be kept in your records.