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Articles Posted in Employee Benefits

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The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently tightened the definition of who could be considered an employee whistleblower in Sexton v. Panel Processing, Inc.The case involved Brian Sexton, who worked as a general manager for Panel Processing in its Coldwater, Michigan facility, as well as trustee for the company’s employee retirement program. In 2011, Sexton and one of the other trustees campaigned on behalf of two employees who were running for Panel Processing’s board of directors. Though these employees won election, the board refused to seat them because it would violate the company’s bylaws, which placed a limit on the number of inside directors. The board also removed Sexton and the other trustee from the retirement plan trusteeship.

Sexton responded by sending an email to the chairman of the board. In it, he complained that the board’s actions were violations of both ERISA and the state’s Corporations Business Act, as well as other state and federal laws. Sexton stated that he intended to bring these violations to the attention of the federal Department of Labor and the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs unless they were corrected immediately.
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As of today, July 24, 2009, the U.S. minimum wage will increase by 70 cents to $7.25 an hour. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, this is the third increase in the minimum wage in the last three years and this increase will affect between 3 million and 5 million workers. While many states have their own minimum wages that are already higher than the federal minimum wage and will thus not be affected by this increase, Kentucky and Indiana have both set their minimum wage to be the same as the federal minimum wage. Therefore employees in Kentucky and Indiana who earn the minimum wage will soon see an increase to their paychecks.

The previous federal minimum wage (and therefore the Kentucky and Indiana minimum wage) was $6.55 an hour. Therefore, employees in Kentucky and Indiana who receive the 70 cent an hour increase will receive an additional $28 per week (assuming a 40 hour work week). To see the minimum wage of other states you can visit the U.S. Department of Labor.

If you feel that you are not receiving the new minimum wage you can contact the Department of Workplace Standards of the Kentucky Labor Cabinet at (502) 564-3070 or contact an employment lawyer at Miller and Falkner.

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In a recent article, MSNBC discussed cost cutting measures many employers are implementing as a consequence of the current economic recession.  While much attention has been placed on the rising unemployment rate which hit 8.5 percent in March 2009 with 663,000 jobs lost, the employees who have so far survived the lay offs are not out of the woods.  A recent poll by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 15 percent of employers have implemented salary reduction and that 24 percent were likely to do the same in the next half of the year. 

The poll also listed some of the top cost cutting measures employers have made in the previous six months.  These measures include:

Health Care Coverage for employees:  Reduced 78%, Frozen 22%

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After losing a job, one of the primary concerns for many individuals is their loss of health insurance. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows workers and their families who lose their health benefits due to circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events, the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for a limited period of time. One main problem however for many individuals who have lost their job is how they are going to pay for this coverage as it is generally much more expensive than their health insurance premiums had been when they were employed.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009 provides a significant reduction in premium cost for COBRA to certain qualified individuals and also expanded eligibility for COBRA. Under the ARRA, individuals may be eligible to pay a reduced premium amount that is only 35% of the premium costs for your COBRA coverage for up to 9 months.

To qualify for this reduction the individual must be qualified for COBRA because they or their family member were involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009.