Ruth Anne Collins Michels

Profile

Ms. Michels practices exclusively in the area of employee benefits law. She represents clients in the areas of qualified retirement plans, health and welfare plans, fiduciary compliance best practices, nonqualified deferred compensation plans, ERISA compliance, COBRA administration, HIPAA privacy regulations, and compliance with other federal laws relating to employee benefits matters, including the Affordable Care Act.   

Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Ms. Michels worked at Air Quality Sciences, Inc. in employee benefits and as a manager of their reporting department and quality system. She served as the documentation coordinator and internal auditor trainer with respect to AQS’s ISO9002 certification. This real-world experience has been invaluable in understanding clients’ need for legally-compliant yet practical solutions to issues with retirement and health/welfare plan design and interpretation.

Ms. Michels regularly speaks on employee benefits topics, including new guidance regarding wellness programs, the Affordable Care Act, and fiduciary best practices.

Experience

Experience: 

Ms. Michels’ practice focuses on assisting clients in ensuring their retirement and health/welfare plans remain compliant with the myriad tax laws and new health care reform requirements.  

Ms. Michels’ experience includes, but is not limited to:

Retirement Plans – Qualified and Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans

Ms. Michels provides guidance regarding the corrections of errors in retirement plan administration through submissions under the IRS correction program for tax-qualified retirement plans. These submissions have included corrections relating to failed discrimination tests, failures to timely amend retirement plans for changes in the law, and conforming plan terms to plan operations.

Ms. Michels routinely advises employer on matters concerning the design, implementation, and operation of 401(k), 403(b), defined benefit pension plans, and executive deferred compensation plans. Her representation includes plan document and amendment drafting, self-correction advice, working with employers to correct significant plan failures including submissions to the IRS under the Voluntary Compliance Program, IRS determination letter filings, submissions to correct delinquent Form 5500 filings through the DOL Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program, and, advising clients on fiduciary best practices in relation to their retirement plans.
 
Representative engagements:

  • Worked with an employer to correct various failures under its 401(k) plan (including a failure to offer the plan to new employees, failure to properly administer the plan’s entry date rules) reaching back over 10 years (to the date the plan was initially put into place), including calculations of corrective contributions to be made to the plan, and drafting amendments to bring the plan into compliance not only with applicable laws but also to conform the terms of the plan to the operations of the plan.
  • Guided an employer in establishing its employee benefits committee, including advising on fiduciary best practices and assisting in the drafting of the committee’s governing charter.
  • Advised an employer regarding the correction of non-discrimination testing failures under its 401(k) plan that reached back over ten years and obtained IRS approval of the corrections through a submission under the IRS’ Voluntary Correction Program.
  • Assisted an employer in offering a lump sum window opportunity under its defined benefit plans, including drafting plan amendments and participant communications.

Health and Welfare Plans

Ms. Michels regularly works with employers in resolving issues related to their health and welfare benefits plans. Her experience includes advising employers on cafeteria plans under Code Section 125 (including issues related to participant elections and handling leaves of absence), drafting flexible spending account plans, compliance with COBRA (including failures to timely provide COBRA election notices), and providing advice on compliance with the ever-changing regulatory guidance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Ruth also has assisted numerous clients with compliance with the HIPAA privacy regulations — including the new requirements related to data breaches -- and has a recognized expertise in the application of this complex area of the law to employers and health plans. 

Representative engagements:

  • Guided an employer through the move from a fully-insured health plan to a self-insured health plan, including the establishment of a Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (or “VEBA”).
  • Assisted an employer in preparing and filing delinquent Forms 5500 for its health and welfare plans – reaching back six years.
  • Worked with an employer to correct COBRA failures related to its on-site clinic.

Education and Honors

Education: 

J.D., cum laude, Georgia State University College of Law, 2000
B.S.B.A., Central Michigan University, 1990

Honors and Awards: 
  • Georgia Super Lawyers “Rising Star” (2006, 2007, and 2009)

Professional Activities

Professional Activities: 
  • Atlanta Bar Association
  • State Bar of Georgia
  • Worldwide Employee Benefits Network (WEB) (Secretary of Atlanta Chapter, 2005-2006)
  • Women in Pensions
Speeches:
  • National Healthcare Access - "Health Care Reform Update" - Las Vegas - December 11, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "Hey - What's your ERISA doing in my HR matter?" - Pittsburgh - November 18, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "Affordable Care Act – Are You Ready for 2015?" - Scottsdale - October 3, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "Health Care Reform Update" - Hershey - September 24, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Watch Your Step! Avoiding Hazards with Employee Benefit Plans and Fiduciary Liability" - Las Vegas - May 8, 2014
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "Health Care Reform Update" - Pittsburgh - March 18, 2014
  • Sterling Education Services - "Health Care Reform" - Montgomery - November 5, 2013
  • Sterling Education Services - "Health Care Reform" - Atlanta - October 8, 2013
  • CAI 2013 Employment and Labor Law Update - "Are You Ready? The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Employer-Sponsored Health Plans" - Raleigh - May 22, 2013
  • Construction Financial Management Association - "Are You Ready? The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Employer-Sponsored Health Plans" - Atlanta - May 15, 2013
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies - "Fiduciary Duties, Plan Fees and Increase Potential Liability Exposure" - New Orleans - May 10, 2013
  • Ogletree Deakins Workplace Strategies Seminar - "Fiduciary Duties, Plan Fees and Increase Potential Liability Exposure" - New Orleans - May 10, 2013
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "FAQs on Health Care Reform - What's on Your Mind?" - Atlanta - April 4, 2013
  • Ogletree Deakins Webinar - "They're Baaack: What the Latest HIPAA Regulations Mean For Employer Health Plans" - March 14, 2013
  • Ogletree Deakins Seminar - "FAQs on Health Care Reform - What's on Your Mind?" - Pittsburgh - March 7, 2013