Maximum penalties for violating many employment and benefits laws were increased as part of an inflation adjustment rule published January 2 (83 Fed. Reg. 7) by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
This department-wide rule represents the second annual adjustment made to implement the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. This law directed agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation each year using a much more straightforward method than previously available, and required agencies to make "catch up" increases as well.
Prior law also had required that penalties be adjusted for inflation, but imposed various caps and rounding rules that, in practice, kept them from doing so, according to the DOL. As a result, some of the increases made by the agency in a July 2016 interim rule were significant.
The DOL followed this rule with an annual round of adjustments in January 2017, and now the latest version that applies in 2018.
The affected penalties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) apply to a number of notice, reporting, and plan administration requirements. For example, the maximum penalty for failing to file a Form 5500 increases from $2,097 to $2,140 per day, and failing to provide a Summary of Benefits and Coverage required by the Affordable Care Act now carries a penalty of up to $1,128 (formerly $1,105).
A group health plan sponsor or insurer that violates the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act now is subject to a penalty of $114 per participant or beneficiary per day, and a minimum of $2,847 for a violation not corrected before notice is received from DOL—$17,084 if the violation is not deemed to be "de minimis."
The notice and filing requirements for retirement plans and multiple employer welfare arrangements also were affected.
The penalty adjustments also apply to other laws enforced by the DOL, including:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act
- The Mine Safety and Health Act
- The Immigration & Nationality Act
For example, the Wage and Hour Division's maximum penalty for willful minimum wage and overtime violations under the FLSA rises from $1,925 to $1,964. The maximum penalty for failing to post FMLA notices increases from $166 to $169.
The DOL has compiled a chart of the penalty adjustments. The new amounts apply to civil penalties assessed by the DOL after January 2.
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