Another year has ended, and environmental law firms working for trade unions are busier than ever trying to cut competition from you and increase costs of construction.
They’re using the state’s environmental law - the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) - as grounds to object to permits and approval of proposed construction projects.
Once the developer agrees to a Project Labor Agreement or some other deal with unions, the environmental objections are resolved and The Planet Is Saved, again. Praise Gaia.
By the way, this is how the "Green New Deal" you are now reading about in the news will be implemented in California - not with laws, but with extortion.
Law firms hired by the unions deliberately submit documents to governments at the very last minute (to maximize cost, time, and stress for the developer). It’s difficult for the public to track this practice.
Fortunately, there are experts in this business, supported by people like you: Us.
The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction is constantly tracking union “greenmail” - blackmail using environmental laws. We have identified, extracted, processed, uploaded, and complied with more than 500 examples of such documents submitted on behalf of unions since 2014. And we provide the list to the public. Thanks to our efforts two separate lawsuits are now suing the unions over their greenmail with a good chance of being successful!
Thanks to the chart we created, no one - not the unions, not the news media, not even Governor Gavin Newsom - can claim that unions aren’t abusing the state’s environmental laws to obtain Project Labor Agreements. This means a great deal in these court cases.
You can see this incredible, one-of-a-kind list at our Phony Union Tree Huggers website: DOCUMENTED CONSTRUCTION UNION ABUSE OF CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT (CEQA) 2014-2019
Now we’re gearing up for another year of union harassment. Will you help us with some funding to maintain and grow this chart of abuse? A donation today will help us maintain our ability to fight all of this and to help win those court cases!
You can use a credit card HERE and help us right now! Or, should you prefer, you can send a check to CFEC at P.O. Box 1627 Poway, CA. 92074. Either way it will make a difference.
Here's to a wonderful New Year, a year where we finally put an end to environmental extortion.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has changed many things for employers, employees, and the health insurance industry. One of the ACA provisions relates to the amount insurers must spend on health care and improving health care quality from each premium dollar received. It’s what called the Medical Loss Ratio or MLR.
Individual and Small Group MLRUnder the ACA, insurers must spend at least 80% of their premium income from Individual and Family Plan (IFP) and Small Group policies on health care claims and quality improvements. The remaining 20% can go toward insurance company expenses like administration, marketing, and profits.
Large Group MLRFor Large Group plans, health insurers must spend at least 85% of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements.
Self-Funded PlansThe MLR provision of the ACA applies to all types of licensed health insurers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs); however, it does not apply to self-funded plans where the employer or another plan sponsor pays the cost of health benefits from its own assets. Nor does it apply to a self-funded plan administered by an insurer on behalf of an employer.
MLR RefundsSince 2012, an insurance company not meeting the established ACA MLR standard has been required to issue a refund. Annually, it must provide notice to enrollees of any rebates they will receive or that will be paid to their employer.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a non-profit organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente health plans, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), more than $1.3 billion in refunds for 2018 will be issued across all markets in 2019. This amount exceeds the previous refund record of $1.1 billion for 2011 (paid in 2012).
According to KFF, the 2019 MLR figures includes $312 million to Small Group insureds and $284 million for Large Group insureds paid to 289,000 employers. The remaining $743.3 million in rebates is being distributed to 2,748,000 individual subscribers. Rebates can be paid out as a lump-sum or as a premium credit for those currently enrolled with their same insurer (if their coverage is in force at the time of the refund payment).
Rebates vary by state and market. In the California Small Group market, $78 million in refunds are being paid out. Data for Nevada was not included in the KFF analysis.
Employers have several options when it comes to dispersing MLR amounts, and they have 90 days to take action after reimbursements are paid (the ACA requires distributions by insurers no later than September 30).
There are three options provided by the Department of Labor for distributing MLR rebates:
If a health plan is solely funded by the employer, then the employer may keep the rebate check – so long as the funds are not considered “plan assets” under ERISA law. If refunded amounts are considered “plan assets,” the funds must be used to enhance employees’ benefits.
December 4, 2019 by Paul Roberts
The closing of the calendar year – and beginning of a new one – brings annual compliance responsibilities to employers regarding their health plans. It is imperative for such employers to adhere to these responsibilities because a miscalculation, a missed deadline, or an overlooked compliance item can result in significant non-compliance penalties. Here’s what you need to know as we sunset 2019 and welcome a prosperous 2020 new year.
Affordable Care Act (ACA): Applicable Large Employer (ALE) Determination
Each employer must determine whether it is considered an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) according to the ACA. If an employer is an ALE, it is subject to the ACA’s shared responsibility “employer mandate.” Under the mandate, ALEs must offer all eligible Full Time (FT) employees at least Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) that is affordable and meets a “Minimum Value” standard, which is a Bronze tier (or better) health plan. ALEs must also offer at least MEC to those FT employees’ dependents.
To determine whether an employer is an ALE, the employer must calculate its workforce size on January 1st annually, by averaging its workforce count for all 12 months of the preceding tax year. This means, for each month of 2019, the employer should count all its FT employees and its Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees, then average those results to get its final workforce size. If the group size averages 50 or more FT + FTE, it is an ALE – and it must comply with the employer mandate in 2020 and related reporting responsibilities in 2021. If it has fewer than 50 FT + FTE employees, it is not an ALE and is not mandated to offer health coverage in 2020 or report offers of coverage to the IRS.
An employer’s result will remain in place for the entire calendar year going forward, regardless of fluctuations in size. January 1st is the only time an employer’s ALE status can change.
The ACA considers an employee to be FT if he or she averages at least 30 hours of service per week or 130 hours of service per month. FTEs are fractions of FT employees who, when totaled together, equal the equivalent of one FT employee. To calculate FTE count, total the part-time employees’ hours of service for each month (using a maximum of 120 hours for each PT employee, even if he or she averaged 121-129 hours of service), and divide each month’s total by 120.
Refer to Word & Brown’s exclusive ACA Group Size Calculator and FTE Calculator for California employers and for Nevada employers for help making this determination.
ACA: Reporting Responsibilities
If the employer determined on January 1, 2019, that it is an ALE for all of 2019, it must also report on the coverage it offered (or did not offer) to any person employed FT for one full calendar month of 2019. Employers usually complete this reporting during December or January using IRS Forms 1095 and 1094.
Copies of IRS Form 1095 are due to employees on or before March 2, 2020, which is a 30-day extension (announced 12/2/2019) of the former January 30, 2020, deadline. IRS Forms 1095 are due to the IRS on or before the end of February if submitting by paper, or the end of March if submitting electronically.
Note: The IRS may postpone more of these dates, but employers should not assume date changes until officially announced by the IRS. Refer to Word & Brown’s exclusive IRS Reporting Deadlines chart for details on form submission deadlines, and refer to Word & Brown’s exclusive Employer Reporting Penalties reference sheet for details on reporting non-compliance penalties.
Word & Brown annually hosts a series of webinars for brokers and employers on ACA reporting to the IRS. Please join us for the ACA IRS Reporting Webinar Series: Don’t Fear the Forms! scheduled in December 2019 and January 2020.
COBRA Group Size Calculation
Employers must also determine COBRA responsibilities annually on January 1st, by evaluating workforce size under COBRA law. Unfortunately, it is a different (yet similar) calculation than the ACA’s ALE count.
Employers that have employed at least 20 employees on 50% or more of the typical working days in 2019 are subject to federal COBRA law for all of 2020 if they sponsor a group health plan(s).
Employers domiciled in California, with California group health plan(s), that have employed fewer than 20 employees on 50% or more of the typical working days in 2019 are subject to Cal-COBRA law for all of 2020.
In Nevada, there is no state COBRA continuation; employers with fewer than 20 employees are not subject to COBRA law in Nevada. Federal COBRA law, however, applies in all states.
When making the COBRA determination, both full-time (FT) and part-time (PT) employees are counted. Each PT employee counts as a fraction of a FT employee. To calculate PTs as FTEs in COBRA, the employer should total all PT employees’ hours of service and divide it by whatever the organization considers to be full-time.
Different benefits and administrative billing charges/fees on premiums are associated with federal COBRA and Cal-COBRA, so it is very important for the employer to make the determination accurately at the beginning of the year. An employer must generally notify its carriers and applicable COBRA Third Party Administrators (TPAs) of any changes to COBRA status as soon as the determination has been made.
Just like the ACA calculation, the employer remains in its COBRA category for the entire calendar year – regardless of future fluctuations in workforce size.
IRS Controlled Groups
If an employer has ownership in multiple businesses, its employees can be combined for purposes of determining group size – even if the businesses have separate tax IDs and are otherwise not related.
It is critical for a tax professional to make this determination for employers in accordance with IRC Section 414, subparagraphs (b), (c), (m), and (o).
California’s New Individual Mandate
California is implementing a new health insurance individual mandate effective 1/1/2020. It requires all Californians to carry Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) for the tax year, or be subject to a tax-penalty fine. Refer to our previous column for a deep dive into the new state mandate, to understand what it means for employers and their employees – California’s Individual Mandate 2020: What You Need to Know.
Booming Success in 2020 and Beyond
Word & Brown partners with you throughout the year to ensure your success. Stay tuned for more information on the ACA, IRS Reporting, COBRA, the California Individual Mandate, and more. For extra help with employer group size determinations, refer to the Word & Brown exclusive employee count reference.
More about the author:Paul Roberts is our Compliance Manager, leading the General Agency’s educational initiatives and providing support for the compliance team in California and Nevada. Paul is a tenured veteran in the health insurance industry, carrying a long history of health insurance experience and an education in business management. He has performed nearly every operational role at Word & Brown General Agency, and has a fervor for education and keeping health insurance brokers and employers in-line with compliance. Paul can be found at many industry events across the nation delivering CE, HRCI & SHRM courses, educating himself, advocating for the role of the agent, and working directly with brokers and employers. This gives Paul the best ability to innovate and improve compliance resources & education curriculums to support the businesses and abilities of brokers. Paul is passionate about education, diversity and helping others. He is grateful for his opportunity to support both brokers and employers and is committed to your success.
The share of workers quitting jobs hit a post-Great-Recession high in 2019, reports
the Bureau of Labor Statistics, challenging employers even further in this era of low
unemployment and competition for qualified workers. Construction companies
large and small are flush with projects. Yet, their ability to fulfill those projects could
be jeopardized by the realities of today’s labor market, in which workers are in such
high demand that both candidates and current employees are being actively
targeted by job recruiters.
And, according to the ADP Workforce Vitality Index, the industry suffers from an
average turnover rate of 21.4%. For business owners, this has sparked an increased
interest in strategies to reduce attrition, rehiring and retraining costs, and to create
long-term workforce stability.
Most employers are keenly aware of the need to pay competitive wages and,
therefore, include it in their projected costs. But it doesn’t stop there. They’re also
strategizing ways to improve the employee experience and create a positive work
An October 2019 report, “Workplace Satisfaction Report: What Workers Want—And
What Doesn’t Matter,” revealed that there is often a disconnect between what
employees want in their jobs and how often they experience those benefits. In short,
there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and the best way to find out what motivates
employees in the workplace is to start a conversation.
You need to specifically ask your employees, “What’s most important to you?” For
one employee, it might be more flexible hours. For another, it might be additional
time off. And for a third, it might even be the opportunity to lead a new initiative or
be considered for more responsibilities. Providing benefits that employees want but
don’t necessarily expect allows employers to deliver benefits that make a real
impact on employee engagement.
What Workers Want
As part of the survey, skilled trades workers were asked what factors they prioritize
in the workplace. The top responses were: opportunities for growth and
advancement, business practices in line with personal values, opportunities to gain
marketable skills, recognition for their work and job security. These factors aren’t
just valuable for the skilled trades, but for all employees. Keep them in mind as you
consider the following components for inclusion in your retention strategy.
1. Prioritized Onboarding
One company I work with sends each new hire an onboarding package that includes
a letter from the supervisor, as well as a hard hat, t-shirt, safety vest and short bios
about all the people they will meet during their first day. It’s a great strategy for
kickstarting a feeling of belonging for new employees. Effective retention of top
employees begins even before an employee’s first day on the job. Successful
onboarding strategies include:Consistent communication—Making contact with
candidates between the time an offer is made and their scheduled start date is
crucial to the onboarding process.
2. Culture of communication
Your employee value proposition (EVP) isn’t just for attracting talent; it also helps
retain workers by defining what your company (and current employees) stand for.
When creating an EVP, be sure to:
3. Consistent Feedback
Ensuring that employees feel productive, invested and appreciated will make them
more likely to say no to other job offers and choose to stay on your team. You can
offer your employees this security by:
correcting mistakes more palatable
keep in mind that high-performing employees might interpret a lack of
feedback as a lack of appreciation for their good work
4. Opportunities for Growth
Even satisfied employees are often looking ahead to the next chapter. Take
advantage of their strengths to help them succeed.
Upskilling, or training and advancement practices that help workers learn new skills
and take on new responsibilities, is being used more frequently to keep workers on
top of their game. Consider these best practices:
Today’s labor market is already challenging, and workers are setting the terms of
their employment. To make a real difference, companies need to know why workers
quit and understand how to create a work environment that makes them want to
Parke Jacquay is the director of business development, energy and construction at
Aerotek, a provider of recruiting and staffing services. Headquartered in Hanover,
Maryland, Aerotek operates a network of over 250 nonfranchised offices with more
than 8,000 internal employees. Visit aerotek.com.