HR Blog

Do You Feel Lucky?

By Dee Yingst

Department of Labor and other Compliance Fines have Increased

Quick – what celebration do you think of when you think of March?? I'd be willing to bet you said St. Patrick's Day: the day of shamrocks, leprechauns, green beer, and the luck o' the Irish.

We talk a lot about luck in March but it's not luck that protects your checkbook from the DOL; it's planning. If you've not found a good reason to do some planning in this area how about this: the fines have increased for noncompliance.

Here's what's happened. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 was recently amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 which provides for automatic increases of certain penalties. Got all that? Stay with me….

What all that means is that some penalties have increased. Among the categories with increases are ERISA (pension rules and health insurance), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and OSHA. There are others and if you really want to know what the changes are to regulations such as the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act or Black Lung Benefits just let me know and I'll be happy to share the full text of the Federal Register that has the entire table.

To be sure, the increases aren't huge but they're still increases. These increases apply to all penalties assessed after January 13, 2017 – even if the infraction happened before then. So, if your noncompliance was in 2016 but you weren't assessed penalties until after January 13, 2107 then you'll pay the higher fine. 

The amount of the fine is tied to when the penalty is imposed, not the date of the infraction. 

Here's a quick snapshot: First you'll see some ERISA stuff that relates to health insurance– 5500 filing, audit or requests for information, CHIP, SBC, and FMLA (which is technically not overseen by the same agency as ERISA but it made more sense to lump them together). Next you'll see some OSHA penalties and a change to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. You may not need in-depth knowledge of these last two but you should have at least a basic understanding of what they mean. The Polygraph Protection Act compliance starts with simply having the right poster (which, by the way, is the one with 07/16 in the polygraph and minimum wage boxes – don't have it? Get it here.)

EPPA Chart

Keep in mind that these penalties are indexed for inflation each year so these will continue to climb. 

Each fine by itself may not seem like much but it's important to remember that these things tend to accumulate and there are still lots of other fines that aren't shown here.

Ignore these increasing fines at your own peril and don't rely on luck to keep you out of harm's way. Compliance is important; it's takes a little time and effort but it's well worth it!