Most “large employers” ( those employers with at least 50 employees working an average of at least 30 hours a week) are very aware that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes numerous deadlines and commitments for them in 2013 and 2014. But you may not know that the ACA also prohibits retaliation against employees who make complaints that the ACA has been violated. The US Department of Labor issued an interim rule last week which provides guidance on this issue.
Workers who give their employer, the federal government or a state attorney general information about acts or omissions that they reasonably believe violate Title I of the ACA — which prohibits denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions or using factors like medical history to set premium rates — will be protected from retaliation under Section 18C.
The ACA also prohibits retaliation against employees who receive health insurance tax credits that could translate to a tax penalty for certain large employers.
Retaliation complaints under Section 18C have to be filed within 180 days of when the alleged violation occurs, which means when the retaliatory decision has been made and communicated to the worker. The limitations clock starts ticking when the employee is aware or reasonably should be aware of that decision, OSHA said, though the time for filing a complaint can be tolled.
Complaints under Section 18C don’t have to be written down, or be in English. An oral complaint can suffice, and if the complainant can’t file in English, any language will do. As long as the employee consents, any person can file a complaint on a worker’s behalf under the rule.
The take away for employers: If an employee complains that you have violated the ACA take the complaint seriously, investigate it, and make sure the employee is not retaliated against in any way.
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