Commit to a Healthy Organization for 2023; Conduct an HR Check-Up

It’s the start of a new year when many of us commit to personal goals and healthy resolutions. For employers, the new year presents a valuable opportunity to conduct an HR check-up, evaluating and updating HR policies and practices to ensure legal compliance while attracting and retaining a diverse, engaged, and talented workforce. Consider the following questions as you assess the HR health of your organization:

  • When did you last update your employee handbook? Many federal and state employment laws and regulations have evolved in recent years, and your handbook policies may need updating to ensure compliance with current laws.
  • Do you have partial or fully remote employees? Have you implemented policies and procedures addressing remote work? Remote work policies should address such issues as schedule expectations, data security and confidentiality, reimbursement for home office expenses, and tracking and recording work time. Employers should also consider specific practices to ensure remote workers feel included, engaged, and connected to on-site activities and colleagues.
  • Do you have remote employees working in other states? Employers should review the applicable employment laws in any city and state where employees are living and performing work for the organization. Standard HR policies and practices may need to be customized and/or supplemented to reflect legal requirements in those local areas.
  • Are you taking deliberate steps to retain your key employees and rising stars? As a new year begins, employees may be considering their career goals and future opportunities within the organization. Providing practical and engaging opportunities for professional growth and development can help your organization retain and maximize its talented workforce.
  • What steps are you taking to ensure that all applicants and employees are attracted to, welcomed within, and included in your workplace? Consider conducting an equity audit of your job postings, position descriptions, and general HR policies and procedures with the goal of removing unnecessary barriers to employment and advancement. Create a workplace culture that invites, values, and encourages employees of all backgrounds and experiences to perform their best and contribute to your team’s success.

These are just a few questions to consider as you assess your organization’s HR health moving into 2023. Contact your partners at Lake Effect HR & Law to help evaluate all of your HR policies and practices and ensure that you stay in good shape for the coming year.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about federal and state employment laws and HR best practices. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments that affect employers. Please watch our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Benefits Limits for 2023

Each year, the IRS sets new limits for employee benefits plans and retirement plans. Please see below for Lake Effect’s ready reference chart setting forth the Benefits Limits for the 2023 tax year. A PDF of this information is available on the here.

 

2022 2023
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)
Healthcare FSA max election (per year) (incl. LTD FSA) $2,850 $3,050
Healthcare FSA max rollover $570 $610
Dependent Care FSA max election (per year) (Single or Married Filing Jointly) $5,000 $5,000*
Dependent Care FSA max election (per year) (Married Filing Separately) $2,500 $2,500*
Transportation Benefits
Parking Account $280/mo $300/mo
Transit Account $280/mo $300/mo
High Deductible Health Plan Requirements to Contribute to an HSA
HDHP min annual deductible - Self-only $1,400 $1,500
HDHP min annual deductible - Family $2,800 $3,000
HDHP out-of-pocket max - Self-only $7,050 $7,500
HDHP out-of-pocket max - Family $14,100 $15,000
HSA max contribution limit - Self-only $3,650 $3,850
HSA max contribution limit - Family $7,300 $7,750
HSA catch up contribution limit (age 55+) $1,000 $1,000
ACA Plan Limits
Maximum Out-of-Pocket (Self-only or Individual in a Family) $8,700 $9,100
Maximum Out-of-Pocket (Family) $17,400 $18,200
QSEHRA (Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement) – Max Employer contribution 
To Individual $5,450 $5,850
To Family $11,050 $11,800
Salary Thresholds for Non-discrimination Testing
Highly compensated employees $135,000 $150,000
Key employees $200,000 $215,000
Retirement Plans (401(k), 403(b))
Max employee elective contributions for those 49 and younger $20,500 $22,500
Max employer + employee contributions for those 49 and younger $61,000 $66,000
Max employee catch-up contributions for those 50+ $6,500 $7,500
Max employee elective contribution plus catch-up for those 50+ $27,000 $30,000
Max employer + employee contributions for those 50+ $67,500 $73,500

 

 


EEOC Issues Updated “Know Your Rights” Poster

On October 19, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an updated "Know Your Rights: Workplace Discrimination Is Illegal" poster. The poster replaces the prior “EEO is the Law” poster. It summarizes federal employment laws and explains steps individuals can take if they believe they have experienced any form of prohibited discrimination. Employers must physically and/or virtually display the poster in a conspicuous location where notices to applicants and employees are usually posted. Organizations are well-advised to work with a reputable employment poster service to ensure compliance with all federal and state notice posting requirements. Your partners at Lake Effect HR & Law LLC can provide further guidance or answer specific questions.
Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about federal and state employment laws and posting requirements. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments that affect employers. Please watch our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Employers Face New Challenges Under Colorado’s Revised Non-Compete Law

Effective August 10, 2022, employers who aim to protect business interests by requiring employees in Colorado to sign non-compete and customer non-solicit agreements will face new challenges under amendments to Colorado's restrictive covenant law. Key provisions include the following:

  • Post-employment non-compete agreements, including customer non-solicitation agreements, are presumed void unless all of the following are established:
    • For a non-compete agreement, the employee is “highly compensated” at the time of signing and termination, with annual earnings at or above the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s highly compensated worker threshold (currently $101,250 per year, to be increased each year);
    • For a customer non-solicit agreement, the employee earns at least 60% of the highly compensated worker threshold (currently $60,750 per year, to increase each year);
    • The agreement is for the purpose of protecting trade secrets; and
    • The agreement is no broader than reasonably necessary to protect the employer’s interest in protecting its trade secrets.
  • Employers must provide a separate written notice of the terms of a non-compete and/or customer non-solicitation agreement:
    • For a prospective employee, the notice must be given before the individual accepts a job offer.
    • For current employees, notice must be given at least 14 days prior to the effective date of the agreement or the effective date of additional compensation or other change in conditions of employment that provides consideration for the agreement, whichever is earlier.
    • Notices must be signed by prospective and current employees.
  • Non-compete and/or customer non-solicitation agreement with employees who primarily work or live in Colorado at the time of termination will be governed by Colorado law, and employers may not require employees to adjudicate them outside of Colorado.
  • The amendments apply to agreements entered into on or after August 10, 2022, but they do not apply retroactively to agreements signed before that date.
  • Violations of the amended law can result in penalties up to $5,000 per employee or prospective employee. The amendments also provide a private right of action to individuals, who may recover actual damages, declaratory/injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
  • The amendments do not affect employee non-solicitation agreements, restrictive covenants related to the sale of a business, agreements for the recovery of training and educational expenses, and “reasonable” confidentiality agreements, as defined by the statute.

If your organization has or plans to hire employees in Colorado, please reach out to your partners at Lake Effect to ensure you comply with the amended non-compete and customer non-solicitation agreement requirements.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about restrictive covenants and applicable state laws. We continue to monitor important legal and HR pments that affect employers. Please watch our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Employers Take Note: Updates on Required Federal Forms and Reports

Form 1-9
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have extended the flexibility in complying with requirements related to Form I-9 until October 31, 2022. See our earlier blog for more information on how to obtain, remotely inspect, and retain copies of the identity and employment eligibility documents to complete Section 2 of Form I-9.

EEO-1 Component Data Report
On April 12, 2022, the EEOC announced that data collection for 2021 EEO-1 Component 1 filing is now open. Private employers with 100 or more employees must file and certify their EEO-1 Component data report(s) by May 17, 2022.

Employers can visit the EEOC’s dedicated website to access the EEO-1 Component Online Filing System and obtain other resource materials. The EEOC has also created a new Filer Support Team Message Center to answer questions and assist employers.

We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Spring Cleaning: Is Your Handbook House in Order?

The time has arrived when thoughts turn to warmer weather and spring-cleaning projects. It is a good time for employers to review their employee handbooks to insure they comply with applicable laws and reflect best practices and emerging trends. This spring, a review may be particularly important, as many employers face two key challenges: 1) welcoming current employees back to the post-pandemic workplace; and 2) recruiting and retaining talented employees amidst a persistent labor shortage.

As you assess the experience of current employees in your post-pandemic workplace, consider reviewing handbook policies that address:

  • Telecommuting/hybrid/remote work
  • Unique leave requirements under applicable state laws
  • Time reporting procedures for remote or hybrid non-exempt employees
  • Anti-harassment/respectful workplace requirements
  • Reasonable accommodation policy as it may apply to COVID-19 situations
  • Flexible scheduling options for employees who may continue to experience pandemic-related challenges

If you are struggling to hire and keep qualified and committed employees, examine whether your handbook policies reflect your inclusive and engaging work experience. Consider policies that highlight:

  • Your organization's distinctive mission, vision, values, voice, and culture
  • Your wide array of benefits and perks
  • Opportunities for professional development and advancement
  • Tuition assistance for lifelong learners
  • Wellness/mindfulness benefits
  • Volunteer or civic engagement opportunities
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Summer schedules and/or other unique flexible scheduling arrangements
  • Time off policies that encourage positive work/life balance

Your employee handbook should be a dynamic tool to ensure legal compliance, communicate expectations and benefits, and enhance relationships with all employees. Take some time this spring to give it a fresh look and ensure that it accomplishes these goals. The Lake Effect team is here to help.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about handbooks and innovative employment policies. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

EEOC’s New COVID-19 Guidance: Employee Caregivers and Religious Exemptions

The EEOC recently revised its What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws guidance document to address two issues: the treatment of pandemic-related caregivers (Section I), and religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine (Section L).

With respect to pandemic-related caregivers, referring to employees who are caring for their family members and loved ones, the new EEOC guidance confirms:

  • Employees do not have a right to any accommodations to handle caregiving duties under federal EEO laws. However, they may have rights under the FMLA or analogous state leave laws.
  • Employers need not excuse poor performance that results from caregiving duties. However, performance standards must be applied consistently to all employees.
  • Employers may not treat female employees better or worse because of gender-based assumptions about pandemic-related caregiving responsibilities. For example, an employer may not:
    • pass women over for promotions or high-profile projects requiring overtime or travel out of fear they will need more time off;
    • require pregnant workers to telework or limit contact with colleagues or customers;
    • grant male employees less flexibility than females to care for family members infected by COVID-19.
  • Employers must require the same process for employees of any race, gender, national origin, etc. who request COVID-19 related schedule changes or leaves.
  • Employers may not discriminate against caregivers based upon their association with an individual with a disability. For example, an employer may not:
    • refuse to hire an applicant out of fear that their caregiving responsibilities for a person at high risk of COVID-19 complications will increase healthcare costs;
    • refuse an employee’s request for leave to care for a parent with long-COVID while approving other employees’ leave requests to handle other personal responsibilities.
  • Employers may not assume that older workers with caregiving responsibilities need special treatment or lack the stamina to perform their job while providing caregiving duties.
  • Employers must take steps to prevent and respond to workplace harassment or retaliation based upon an employee’s pandemic-related caregiving responsibilities.

Additional examples and details may be found in the related EEOC technical assistance document.

On the issue of religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine, the new EEOC guidance clarifies:

  • Employees must tell employers that they are requesting an exception to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate based upon a sincerely held religious belief, but they need not use any “magic words.”
  • Objections to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement that are based on social, political, economic views, or personal preferences do not qualify as religious beliefs or justify an exemption.
  • The EEOC’s internal religious accommodation request form is one example of a form employers could use for employee requests. This form is just an example and not required in this format.
  • Employers should normally assume that a religious accommodation request is based upon a sincerely held religious belief, but it may ask for additional information if it has an objective basis for doing so (i.e., suspicious timing or inconsistent behavior), and employees must cooperate with the inquiry.
    • While prior inconsistent conduct by the employee may be relevant to the question of sincerity, it is not conclusive because a person’s beliefs may change over time.
    • No one factor is determinative on the question of sincerity, and employers should evaluate objections on an individual basis.
  • Employers should consider reasonable accommodations to vaccinations, including telework and reassignment, if they do not impose an undue hardship. If there is more than one possible accommodation, the employer may choose which one to offer.
  • Employers need not bear more than a  minimal cost to accommodate an employee’s religious belief. Costs include both monetary costs and any burden on the employer’s business (i.e., where it would impair workplace safety, diminish the efficiency of other jobs, or cause coworkers to shoulder too much of the hazardous or burdensome work). Another relevant consideration is the number of other employees who are seeking a similar accommodation, thus resulting in a burdensome cumulative cost to the employer.
  • An undue hardship assessment must be based on objective information, not speculation or hypotheticals.

While serious COVID-19 infection rates are falling nation-wide, complicated issues may arise as more employees return to the physical workplace. Please reach out to your Lake Effect partners for any help you may need.

Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about COVID-19 compliance and will continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please watch our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

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