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The HR I.Q. Test: May ’10

Test your knowledge of recent trends in employment law, comp & benefits and other HR issues with our monthly mini-quiz …

Tide turns against employees who sue over stock-based retirement funds that lose money


Lately, employees have been winning when they sue over profit-sharing or retirement plans based on company stock that rapidly lost investment value. In the wake of the Enron bankruptcy scandal, juries sympathized with workers who paid the price for lousy (or illegal) management. Now, employers are gaining the upper hand again, as courts recognize that companies are often in a no-win situation when it comes to providing stock information.

Is it time to restore your 401(k) match?

Eighty percent of employers that stopped contributing to employees’ 401(k)s in 2009 plan to restore company matches by the end of this year, according to Hewitt Associates. To make it easier for employees to amass adequate retirement savings, Hewitt recommends four steps employers can take:

Small employers: New rules on pension deposits


Employers with pension and welfare benefit plans with fewer than 100 participants must deposit participant contributions within seven days of receiving them. The U.S. Department of Labor issued the new rule in January.

Obama proposes automatic IRA enrollment


President Obama used his State of the Union address in January to call on Congress to create a new kind of employer-sponsored retirement account: the “automatic workplace IRA.” By default, workers would be enrolled in a direct-deposit individual retirement account. Workers could opt out of the program, but they would proactively have to do so.

Aurora trucking firm sued for bilking employees on benefits


The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Mid-State Express, alleging that the trucking company collected health care premiums from its employees, but never actually used them to buy insurance. As a result, employees face more than $3 million in unpaid medical bills.

Eagles’ Vick still dogged—this time by pension woes


Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick may be back in the NFL, but the litigation continues. The Employee Benefits Security Administration discovered that pension funds in one of Vick’s companies were improperly diverted to Vick to pay his criminal restitution. Now Vick must pay $400,000.

Pension Protection Act of 2006

HR Law 101: The Pension Protection Act of 2006 allows employers to more easily move employees from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. It also established tougher standards for employers to meet to ensure existing pensions’ solvency.

Make sure attorney coordinates your response to disability retirement claim and ADA defense


Employees who manage to win both disability retirement benefits and an ADA case get the best of all possible worlds—a regular retirement check, plus a lump-sum jury award for their employer’s failure to accommodate their disability. Employees can pursue both claims if they can show that, with an accommodation, they could have performed their jobs. But if it’s very clear from their testimony in the disability retirement case that they couldn’t possibly perform their jobs under any circumstances, then their ADA cases will be dismissed.

Eaton Neck Fire Department settles age discrimination suit


The Eaton Neck Fire Department agreed to settle an EEOC age discrimination suit that challenged the department’s practice of not allowing the time firefighters serve after their 65th birthdays to count toward length-of-service awards. And those awards are critical to firefighters because they’re used to calculate pension benefits.