It’s the beginning of a new year, which means new laws are officially taking effect, carrying implications for HR and benefits teams—and for your employees. Navigating complex federal, state, and local laws will help you set the stage for success in the year ahead. As conversations around paid family leave policies continue at the federal level, more employers are implementing inclusive and innovative family benefits that augment legally-mandated policies like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to meet the demands of millennials in the workforce and keep a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top talent. Still, compliance with legal requirements remains a major focus, and having a finger on the pulse of updated state laws around the country helps give you a glimpse of what the future could hold.
Here’s a roundup of the new laws focused on women and families that you need to know about going into 2020.
IVF coverage now mandated in New York state
As of January 1, 2020, health plans in New York are required to cover up to three rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF). In April 2019, lawmakers in Albany passed the budget measure that requires insurance plans for employers with 100 or more workers, cover IVF and associated medications, as well as testing for infertility. While plans may not place annual dollar limits on IVF coverage, families will have a lifetime limit of three IVF cycles and services will be subject to an individual’s cost-sharing requirements, like deductibles or co-pays. Under the new law, large-group plans are also required to cover medically necessary egg and sperm freezing or embryo storage, such as for individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy. The new law will cover an estimated 2.4 million New Yorkers, helping to lift the financial burden of fertility treatments for many women and families. While this is an important step, New York state’s definition of infertility is embedded within the law, which means that coverage will exclude many individuals, including LGBTQIA+ couples, as it requires an individual be diagnosed with infertility in order to be eligible for this coverage from their insurer.
Oregon implements expanded pregnancy employee protections
Oregon has a new law taking effect that ensures employees have strong protections related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, which includes lactation, effectively expanding upon existing federal and state law. The new law, which was signed in May 2019 by Oregon governor Kate Brown, intends to prevent workplace discrimination for women who are pregnant or have recently returned to work after having a baby. Under the new law, Oregon employers with 6 or more employees may not discriminate against an employee or applicant on the basis of an employee’s need for reasonable accommodations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, listed as things like “modification of work schedules or job assignments” or longer or more frequent break periods. This builds upon another new law that took effect in Oregon in September 2019 requiring employers of all sizes to provide more flexible lactation breaks for employees who are breastfeeding. The new law requires employers to provide “a reasonable rest period to express milk” each time an employee needs it. Under the new pregnancy accommodation law in effect as of January 1st, employers must provide written notice on new protections to all current employees and new hires including through posters and notices in the office.
Paid leave for any reason takes effect in Nevada
Nevada now requires that private employers with 50 or more employees provide up to 40 hours of paid leave for any reason per benefit year, making it only the second state to pass this type of legislation (with Maine, which also passed paid leave for any reason last year to go into effect in 2021). Under the new law, the paid leave benefit extends to any employee who works 40 hours a week. Employees may use the leave without telling their employer the reason for its use, but in situations where the employee is on FMLA leave, employers can ask if an absence is being used as FMLA leave and the provisions of the FMLA will continue to apply. While this amount of paid leave is not substantial for a new parent, this is the first time Nevadans will be able to access any paid leave after welcoming a new baby as FMLA leave remains unpaid in the state.
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