HR Focus - News Briefs - Summer 2014

Fines Assessed for Demanding Specific Documents During I-9 Process

A string of recent enforcement actions, resulting in substantial fines, serves as a reminder that employers may not demand specific documents, such as a permanent resident card or a U.S. birth certificate, during the I-9 employment verification process. Rather, employers must accept any genuine documentation that satisfies the I-9 requirements. Requesting specific documents, or documents beyond those required, recently resulted in the Office of Special Counsel assessing civil penalties of $115,000 against a Dallas-based concrete company and $75,000 against a Denver janitorial company. The Office of Special Counsel in April and May also assessed fines of more than $40,000 each against two other companies for similar discriminatory practices during the employment verification process.

New COBRA Notices and Special Enrollment

The Department of Labor has issued new model COBRA notices that explain alternative options for those who may qualify for COBRA coverage, including the possibility of obtaining more affordable coverage through the new health insurance exchanges. Employers should update their COBRA notices or talk to their COBRA administrators to make sure they are updating the forms. Employers should also review COBRA provisions in plan documents and/or summary plan descriptions to see if these provisions should be revised. In a related development, because individuals electing COBRA may not have realized that they were potentially eligible for subsidized coverage through a health insurance exchange, the federal health insurance exchanges are running a special enrollment period through July 1, 2014, during which individuals who are already eligible for or enrolled in COBRA may enroll in health plan coverage through the health insurance exchange. Employers are not required to, but may want to send a notice to COBRA participants informing them about the special enrollment period.