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Searching for Articles published in September 2016.
Found 8 Results.

Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage Officially the Tax Law of the Land

Posted on September 1, 2016, Authored by Mary Ellen Schill, Filed under Employment

Effective tomorrow, September 2, 2016, new IRS final regulations will take effect which provide that for federal tax purposes, the terms “spouse,” “husband,” and “wife” mean an individual lawfully married to another individual.  The terms “husband and wife” mean two individuals lawfully married to each other.  Lawful marriage means the marriage is recognized by the state, possession, or territory of the United States in which the marriage is entered into, regardless of the domicile of the individuals.  For foreign marriages, the foreign marriage is considered lawful for federal tax purposes if the foreign marriage would be recognized as marriage under the laws of at least one state, possession, or territory of the United States. Wasn’t this already the law of the land?  Is the IRS just now catching up?  No, the IRS was already on board with the recognition of same-sex marriages back in 2013 after the United States Supreme Court decision in Windsor.  But then came the Obergefell decision in 2015, followed by proposed IRS regulations issued in October 2015.  Now, the IRS has finalized those October 2015 proposed regulations with a couple of tweaks in response to comments submitted on the proposed regulations.  One of which was to make clear that only couples that actually entered into a lawful marriage would be treated as married, as opposed to couples whose relationship might be lawful marriage in a state, possession, or territory of the United States.  The best example of this is a couple living in a state which does not recognize common law marriage.  There are some states that do recognize common law marriage, however.  The proposed regulations would arguably have treated that couple as legally married for federal tax purposes just because there was a state that would have recognized their relationship as lawful. Whew!  Good thing there are astute tax people out there pointing out nuances that rival only the upcoming college football season for excitement (Go Irish!). Anyway, tomorrow’s final regulations should serve as a reminder to review both personal tax situations, as well as employee benefit plan documents maintained by employers.

IRS Finalizes Same-Sex Marriage Recognition Regulations

Posted on September 1, 2016, Authored by Mary Ellen Schill, Filed under Tax Deductions

It took almost eleven months, and minimal comments from the public, but the IRS has now finalized its October 2015 regulations which recognized same-sex marriages as lawful marriages for purposes of the tax code.  More information on that found here Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage Officially the Tax Law of the Land.  No need to go through your Code book and cross out all those references to husband and wife!

DOL Overtime Rule Update: Breaking News!!!!!

Posted on September 22, 2016, Authored by Sara J. Ackermann,

On September 20, 2016, two lawsuits were filed in an attempt to block the DOL’s proposed overtime rule (the "Rule").  Wisconsin joined 20 other states in filing one suit while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with 50 other business groups filed the other.  Both suits, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, are an attempt to block the Rule by raising a multitude of challenges, including the argument that the DOL has exceeded its statutory authority in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and violated the 10th Amendment as the Rule is applied to state workers.   The Rule, which is set to take effect on December 1, would raise the minimum salary threshold required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s so-called white collar exemption to $47,476 per year, more than double the current threshold of $23,660. (See previous legal update regarding the Rule Today the DOL Announced its Long-awaited Final Rule!) In response to the lawsuits, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez made it clear the DOL was not backing down, stating, “We are confident in the legality of all aspects of our final overtime rule. It is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process.  Despite the sound legal and policy footing on which the rule is constructed, the same interests that have stood in the way of middle-class Americans getting paid when they work extra are continuing their obstructionist tactics.  Partisan lawsuits filed today by 21 states and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seek to prevent the Obama administration from making sure a long day’s work is rewarded with fair pay. … I look forward to vigorously defending our efforts to give more hardworking people a meaningful chance to get by.” These recent lawsuits are not the only attempt to thwart the Rule.  Also this week, a bill, (H.R. 6094), was introduced in the House of Representatives that would provide for a 6-month delay in the effective date of the Rule.  Also pending in the House is the proposed Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act, (H.R. 5813), that would direct the DOL to revise the Rule so the increase in pay would increase incrementally over the next 4 years, i.e., $35,984 for 2016, $39,7820 in 2017, $43,628 for 2018, with the proposed $47,476 salary threshold not effective until 2019. Bottom Line:  While there is pending litigation and legislation that could change the Rule, as of right now, the proposed Rule is still set to go into effect on December 1, 2016.  We will continue to keep you apprised as to the progress of the lawsuit and any Congressional action.  In the meantime, for more information regarding the Rule and how to prepare your company, contact any member of our Employment Law team.

Hairstyle Is Not a Protected Category but Sexual Orientation Likely Is

Posted on September 20, 2016, Authored by Dean R. Dietrich, Filed under Employment

Several recent decisions have opened the door to further scrutiny regarding discrimination and the basis for a finding of discriminatory conduct by an employer.  These decisions continue to show the volatility of discrimination claims and determinations of whether or not an employee can claim discrimination based on company actions. In one court decision, it was determined a company policy that required professional hairstyles on employees did not rise to a per se violation of Title VII on the basis of race discrimination.  In this case, the company had a policy requiring professional hairstyles that was interpreted to mean dreadlocks was not an appropriate hairstyle.  The EEOC pursued a claim against the company arguing that the hairstyle policy was a per se violation of Title VII because unacceptable hairstyles could be directly attributed to individuals of a particular national origin.  The EEOC did not argue that the company policy had an unequal adverse effect on a particular race but rather argued that the establishment of such a policy was in direct violation of federal law.  The Federal Court of Appeals refused to extend the protections of Title VII for race discrimination to such a level of protection simply based upon the policy developed by the company.  Rather, the Court of Appeals held that a policy of that type did not constitute per se discriminatory conduct and the EEOC failed to show that the policy was applied in a manner that had discriminatory effects on a particular race or group of employees.  The Court held that the protection of race discrimination did not include general policies requiring a professional hairstyle for all employees of the company. The EEOC has recently issued a bulletin confirming its position that members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) community were protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  The EEOC will pursue claims against companies that discriminate based upon any type of sexual orientation, especially when used in the employment selection process.  A recent decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, held that sexual orientation was not a protected category under the sex discrimination protections of Title VII.  This decision runs contrary to the recent pronouncements from the EEOC and therefore, EEOC is pursuing an appeal of the decision.  This debate over whether sexual orientation is prohibited under Title VII is an interesting intellectual endeavor, however, most states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation within the state discrimination laws, so companies in many states around the country must comply with such laws and avoid sexual orientation discrimination.  Sexual orientation discrimination is clearly prohibited under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, so Wisconsin employers need to be careful in making decisions about hiring and must ensure a harassment-free workplace as it relates to employees with different sexual orientation backgrounds.  Transgender issues have become quite popular of recent days, however, there have not been decisions at the state or federal level regarding protection against conduct in the workplace directed at transgender employees.  Employers must, however, be sensitive to this issue and take steps to prevent inappropriate conduct that interferes with the sexual identity of its employees.

Congress Actually Agrees on Something: Bitcoin

Posted on September 30, 2016, Authored by Ruder Ware Attorneys, Filed under Banking and Financial Matters

Shortly before Congress recessed for the November election, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s (R-IL) resolution urging the United States to “adopt a national policy for technology to promote consumers’ access to financial tools and online commerce to promote economic growth and consumer empowerment.” The Resolution (H.Res. 835), without specifically referencing it by name, gives Bitcoin a big boost by highlighting “emerging payment options, including alternative non-fiat currencies, [that] are leveraging technology to improve security through increased transparency and verifiable trust mechanisms to supplant decades old payment technology deployed by traditional financial institutions.”  While Rep. Kinzinger’s Resolution is non-binding and no regulatory or legal impact will result, this could be the first step in the U.S. government’s evolution of thinking towards payment technologies. Read H.Res. 835 here.

Will FinTech Replace Bank Branches?

Posted on September 15, 2016, Authored by ,

The automated teller machine revolutionized banking by allowing a depositor to withdrawal money anytime, anyplace without the need of a single bank employee.  FinTech and the increased depositor adoption of banking mobile apps may do the same thing to entire bank branches. A recent survey by the American Bankers Association (ABA) has found that more than half of all Americans manage their bank accounts at least once a month from their mobile device and only one in seven people use branch offices as their primary method of banking.  Not only are Americans using banking apps to manage their accounts, deposit checks, and pay bills, nearly 75% of respondents to the ABA survey said they were highly satisfied with their bank’s app.  These stats raise two questions: What percentage of your customers who come into your branch would rate their experience as highly satisfying? Does your financial institution have an app? Read more about the ABA banking preference survey here.                              

Annual Employment, Benefits & Labor Relations Law Conference - Fall 2016

Posted on September 28, 2016, Authored by ,

Westwood Conference Center 1800 Westwood Center Blvd Wausau, WI  54401 Conference Cost: $100 Non-SHRM, Non-SPAHRA members $85 SHRM, SPAHRA members, or members of local HR organization Conference materials, refreshments, and lunch included in conference fee.  HRCI credit approval is pending. Register online by October 28, 2016. Printable invitation Registration:  7:30 a.m. Welcome and Introductions:  8:00 a.m. 8:05 a.m. - 8:15 a.m. Proposed DOL Overtime Rule Update: Is This Really Happening? Attorney Sara Ackermann Sara will give a brief summary of the Rule and provide an update regarding whether any pending legislation/litigation has affected the “go” date of December 1, 2016.  8:15 a.m. - 9:20 a.m. ACA and Wellness Program Update Attorney Mary Ellen Schill Mary Ellen will cover employee classification (FT vs. PT); ensuring insurance policies match employment policies and practice (i.e., definition of full-time employee is 30 hours by policy and in Plan Document); appropriate documentation of offer of coverage; how to handle mismatch notices, when employer and employee reporting don't match; reporting and Disclosure Requirements Update - 2016 Tax Forms 1094 and 1095.  Mary Ellen will also provide a brief summary of the recent EEOC guidance and court decisions affecting employer health/wellness assessments.  Break:  9:20 a.m. -9:30 a.m. 9:30 - 10:40 a.m. Navigating Through the Changing World of Accommodations: Religious Observances, Military Service, LGBT Accommodations and Appearance Standards. Attorney Kevin Terry This session will discuss employer obligations of accommodation and tolerance in the workplace and legal and best business practices employers need to evaluate in minimizing legal liability. The presentation will cover: Religious accommodations and considerations in applicant processing. Meeting needs and business expectations of LGBT individuals. Military service and work time accommodations/work preservation rights. Meeting federal and state law compliance obligations related to ADA and grooming and appearance standards. Break:  10:40 a.m. - 10:50 a.m. 10:50 a.m. - Noon Morning Workshops (Choose One) What’s new with ADA and FMLA? Attorney Sara Ackermann Sara will cover recent decisions and hot topics in this complex and often frustrating area of the law.  Sara will have answers to FAQ’s like, “When can I deny intermittent leave?” How do I accommodate a service animal? Am I required to impose a “fragrance free ban?” How much leave should we offer after FMLA is exhausted? Can we ban “working from home”?   Bring your questions! Why Should You Care About What the NLRB and OSHA Think of Employee Policies and Handbooks? Attorneys Dean Dietrich and Bob Reinertson The NLRB has issued a number of opinions that affect employment policies, sometimes in surprising ways.  Dean and Bob will discuss how and why employers should bring their employee handbooks and policies in line with those opinions. They will also report on the status of the new (and controversial) OSHA rules on injury reporting, drug testing policies, and workplace safety incentive programs. Noon - 1:00 p.m. Lunch and Networking During lunch, Attorney Russ Wilson will share what’s hot in worker's compensation followed by a panel discussion of our attorneys who will invite attendees to ask questions.  Feel free to bring your “hypothetical” questions and try and stump the experts!

The Importance of Buy-Sell Agreements

Posted on September 14, 2016, Authored by Steven P. Lipowski,

When business partners form a company and get started in their new venture, optimism and opportunity are usually in full supply. At that point, it is only natural to avoid thinking about some difficult questions about the business. One key, and all too frequent mistake, is the failure to discuss and plan for how a business owner leaves the company. Unfortunately, this often leads to some of the most bitter, confusing and costly disputes among business owners. Whether your company is a corporation, limited liability company (LLC) or any other organization, it is important to formulate and document a plan for how business owners will leave the company – preferably at the time the company is formed. It may seem a little like planning for divorce on your wedding day, but a plan for a smooth transition of ownership in these instances will save time, money and headaches later. Usually, a buy-sell agreement (sometimes called a shareholder agreement) is the document which addresses these issues. The best time to execute a buy-sell agreement is at the time the company is formed, though it can be executed among owners at any time. The difficulty in doing so well after the company’s formation is that it may prove more difficult to get owners to agree on exactly how these terms should work several years into the venture. A well-written buy-sell agreement will define a plan for dealing with a range of issues, which may include: (1) a restriction on the transfer of ownership rights without first offering it to other owners and to the company itself, (2) certain transfers of ownership rights which may be permitted without approval (e.g., such as transfers to close family members, related companies, and so forth), (3) protections for minority owners such as so-called “tag along rights” which provide that majority owners can’t sell their ownership interest to a third party without also getting the third party to buy out the minority owner’s interest, and (4) protections for majority owners such as so-called “drag along rights” which allow majority owners to sell membership interests to a third party and prevent a minority owner from holding out on the sale of 100% of the company’s ownership interest. Buy-sell agreements will also address what happens when an owner dies, becomes incapacitated, gets divorced, or declares bankruptcy. In these cases, having an agreement that defines an orderly transition avoids undesired results, such as a deceased owner’s interest in the company passing to his family member who is not capable or interested in participating in the business. Of course, in many of these cases a key factor is how to determine the value of the ownership interest to be purchased or sold. A valuation of the ownership interest in the business may utilize appraisers, an objective formula based upon known criteria, or simply establish a fixed price. The price may be paid at once or over a specified amount of time. While there are endless variables, the key is that the buy-sell agreement sets forth the plan clearly so that the parties can have a defined, orderly transition. Obviously, the best plan for buying a party’s interest is only as good as the ability of the purchasing party to pay for the ownership interest. As a result, many buy-sell agreements will have requirements designed to ensure that whenever a triggering event occurs, the business or owners will have the cash necessary to buy out the ownership interest. For example, a buy-sell agreement may provide that an owner have a life insurance policy in place with the company as the insured. That way, if the owner dies, the company uses the life insurance proceeds to purchase the deceased owner’s interest and keep the remaining owners from having to deal with the deceased owner’s family members. Agreements are also particularly important where voting deadlocks can occur. A well-written buy-sell agreement provides a mechanism to permit owners to break the deadlock, possibly through a buy out process intended to separate the owners who are deadlocked. The alternative would be a judicial dissolution, which means a court ordered fire sale of the company’s assets likely for pennies on the dollar. Buy-sell agreements are many times used as integral parts of business succession plans or estate plans. Finally, because Wisconsin is a marital property state, buy-sell agreements must also address the rights of spouses. Buy-sell agreements are sometimes complex documents that are different for each case. To ensure your buy-sell agreement does everything you want it to, you’ll want to enlist the help of a business attorney experienced in buy-sell agreements, preferably when you form the company or shortly after. It requires some planning and perhaps difficult conversations with your fellow owners at the outset of your business venture, but it can go a long way to preventing messy and expensive disputes later.