Employee Assistance Programs

In addition to providing a valuable benefit to employees, does having an EAP limit a company's legal liability? Also, is an EAP considered an ERISA plan, regulated by COBRA laws, etc.?


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  • An EAP doesn't limit legal liability any more than any other plan, however, in certain circumstances it shows that the organization has a means of assisting employees who need help and that, indirectly, helps the organization. An EAP is subject to ERISA and COBRA.
  • Many EAPs are ERISA Plans and are subject to COBRA requirements. It depends on the services provided under the program. Those that provide telephone ot other counseling services directly to employees will almost certainly be considered subject to ERISA and COBRA. On the other hand, there is authority that a program that provides only a referral service may not be subject to these requirements. Again it will depend on the individual circumstances but many employers just decide to consider them subject to COBRA and offer coverage upon qualifying events. Obviously that will have to be coordinated with the provider.
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