Department of Labor Releases Notice Extending Relief from Certain Requirements of Employment Law
The Department of Labor has recently released EBSA Disaster Notice 2021-01, an update to the original Notice released last year around this time. As a reminder, last year (at the beginning of the pandemic period) federal agencies had released a Disaster Relief Notice, which provided relief to employers and employees from the provision of certain documents/procedures required by law from the period of March 1, 2020 and onward. The final rule applied to the following actions:
- ERISA 30 day special enrollment periods;
- COBRA 60 day election period;
- COBRA period for making premium payments;
- ERISA notifications by employees of a qualifying event or determination of disability;
- The date under which individuals may file a claim under the plan’s claim procedure;
- The date by which an employee must file an appeal/external review of an adverse benefit determination under the plan’s claim procedures
The agencies allowed these processes to be delayed (essentially “freezing” the clock on when these actions were due) until 60 days after the end of a “national outbreak” period. However, this extension was not meant to exceed one year and, absent an extension, would sunset on February 28, 2021.
The EBSA Disaster Notice 2021-01 is that extension, providing further guidance now that the one-year mark is approaching. The Notice states that in NO event will extensions be permitted past one year of the date that the individual action would otherwise be required (regardless of the continuation of an emergency declaration). For example, an employee whose COBRA elections were due on March 1, 2020, will still only have until March 1, 2021 from the extension: whereas documentation normally due on October 1, 2020 will have until October 1, 2021. As such, this Notice functions more as clarification than extension.
You can read the entire Department of Labor Notice HERE.
Heather Reynolds, ESQ