As the year comes to a close and operators continue seeking ways to grow through acquisitions and capitalize on some of the COVID relief to grow their businesses, we provide this article and overview of the key issues to consider in corporate transactions.
While mergers and acquisitions present considerable potential benefit, they can also present substantial compliance risks. Key regulatory and employment law considerations include:
- Regulatory considerations. In home care, a license does not “transfer” with the sale of stock or membership interests of an organization. Thus, the duration of any change of ownership process should be considered, as well as the practical operational issues related to the business as the buyer is waiting for the license transfer process to be completed. Who will run the business until the change of ownership is complete, and what protections will the seller have while the license is still under their name from any liabilities that the buyer-operator may incur? These are important issues to address before signing off on a transaction.
- Implications of federal, state and local laws applicable to the specific type of service being provided by the seller. In home care, wage parity is a major financial and operational burden that, upstate or out-of-state buyers should carefully consider and analyze before undertaking the acquisition of a downstate entity.
- Proper classification of workers that qualify as exempt or independent contractors, especially sales personnel. Depending on the nature of the transaction, wage and hour issues that exist with the seller entity could be deemed assumed, or “inherited,” by the surviving or buyer entity. Thus, these issues should be carefully reviewed to ensure the buyer is not buying a liability. Further, in healthcare generally, 1099 relationships with marketing and business development professionals could carry significant antikickback violations that the buyer might not wish to assume.
- The status of the license, if any, or contracts for services that the seller holds. The value of a business or an asset for licensed providers depends in large part on the contracts and licenses that the business holds. Thus, a buyer will want to ensure that the license or contract is “secure” with the seller. Did the seller have a bad survey recently that could result in revocation proceedings? Is the seller a CDPAP FI that did not receive the “lead” FI award and, thus, will have to cease operations at one point? Is the seller currently under investigation by regulators for fraud or other serious issues that could result in asset diminution? These are all issues that should be considered by a buyer.
- Inclusion of non-discretionary bonuses when calculating overtime. For a bonus to qualify as discretionary, three key standards must be met: the employer has the sole discretion in determining whether to pay the bonus; the employer has the sole discretion in determining the amount of the bonus; and the bonus payment is not made according to any prior contract, agreement or promise.
- Billing errors. If the seller bills any government payors, a prudent buyer will conduct a review of the claims submitted and paid, as well as claims submission process, to assess the level, if any, of noncompliance with federal, state or contractual billing requirements. Depending on the structure of the transaction, regulators, like the Attorney General or OMIG, may seek recoupment of wrongfully paid claims against a third-party buyer.
- Successorship obligations when acquiring a unionized workforce. If a purchaser is deemed to be a successor, the purchaser is obligated to recognize and bargain with the union representing the seller’s employees. Therefore, the obligations and costs of the union contract must be carefully assessed.
- Immigration employment issues and associated I-9 obligations. Does the seller retain all the documentation necessary to comply with immigration laws? Common problems include incomplete or fraudulent documents, failure to retain documents, and failure to track expiration dates, among others.
- Employee background check obligations and prohibitions. Employers must meet specific obligations at three different stages: before a background check is requested; before “adverse” action is taken based on a background check; and after adverse action is taken based a background check. In addition, exclusion checks in the healthcare field have to be conducted on staff as a condition of billing for such staff services. The seller’s procedures in regards to background checks should be a subject of due diligence.
- Affordable Care Act requirements and the penalties associated with non-compliance. Under the Act, employers with 50 or more full-time employees, or with a part-time employee equivalent of 50 full-time employees, must offer affordable minimum-value health insurance to employees working 30 or more hours per week. Employers failing to comply must pay considerable penalties.
- Federal and state tax consequences of “Golden Parachute” arrangements. For example, such payments often are not deductible by the corporation and are subject to an excise tax on the recipient.
- Federal and state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice (WARN) obligations. Generally, employers with 100 or more employees who work more than 20 hours per week must assess whether compliance with the federal WARN Act is required relative to any certain job-reduction action. The same assessment must be made concerning compliance with the New York State WARN Act.
- OSHA COVID prevention and mitigation requirements. OSHA’s enforcement of Covid and non-Covid related workplace hazards remains robust. Employers must have in place a Covid-19 prevention and mitigation policy, and that policy must be distributed to employees.