A federal district court denied class certification to health plan participants who claimed the plan promised them lifetime benefits. The court found too many individualized questions about what the plan told each participant, and the claims could not be resolved on a class-wide basis. Fitzwater, et al. v. Consol Energy, Inc., et al., No. 2:16-cv-09849 and 1:17-cv-03861 (S.D.W.Va., October 15, 2019).
Recently the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration announced the cost-of-living adjustments to the applicable dollar limits on various employer-sponsored retirement and welfare plans and the Social Security wage base for 2020. In the article linked below, we compare the applicable dollar limits for certain employee benefit programs and the Social Security wage base for 2019 and 2020.
The Ninth Circuit signaled that it might rehear Dorman v. The Charles Schwab Corp., where earlier this year it held that a mandatory arbitration provision required arbitration of an ERISA fiduciary-breach claim.
The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule that, if finalized, would expand its existing guidance and liberalize rules for electronic disclosure of retirement plan notices under ERISA. The proposed rule, which sets forth a notice and access safe harbor, would permit electronic disclosure as the default method of delivery while permitting participants to opt out and continue to receive paper disclosures.
Most major jurisdictions have pay equity laws, but their approach is far from uniform. Global companies need to evaluate compliance with these laws on a country-by-country basis whilst simultaneously addressing their compensation policies globally.
A sample of the rules across several countries helps to identify trends that can drive effective global policies.
The Australian Workplace Gender Equality Act of 2012 mandates equal pay for equivalent or comparable work. There are annual reporting requirements for employers with 100 or more employees. Those reports must include the following indicators: gender composition of the workforce, gender composition of governing bodies, and equal compensation between men and women.
Employers are penalised by being publicly named if they fail to lodge a public report on time, or inform employees or other stakeholders that a public report was lodged, or give the requested compliance data under the Act.
OSHA’s general duty clause now applies to workplace violence in healthcare Sec. of Labor v. Integra Health Mgmt., Inc., OSHRC Docket No. 13-1124 (March 2019), requiring healthcare employers to maintain workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
Abigail M. Kagan authored a primer for healthcare employers on the clause. In an article originally published on Bloomberg Law, she discusses:
- The four criteria OSHA considers in determining whether a general duty violation has occurred
- Engineering controls and administrative controls healthcare employers should take to protect workplaces
- A checklist healthcare employers can utilize to begin protecting employees
Reproduced with permission from Copyright 2019 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) www.bloombergindustry.com.
The IRS recently issued guidance on the tax treatment, withholding and reporting for required distributions from tax-qualified retirement plans. Plan sponsors should contact their retirement vendors and trustees to ensure that they implement the tax requirements of the new guidance appropriately for their tax-qualified retirement plans.
In the string of pension-plan related, actuarial equivalence lawsuits, the court in DeBuske, et al. v. PepsiCo, Inc., et al. recently handed down the first decision favorable to plan sponsors. The DeBuske court’s narrow decision may, however, have limited impact going forward.
While campaigning for President in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt promised a crowd in Pittsburgh that he’d balance the federal budget while cutting “government operations” by 25 per cent. When he returned to Pittsburgh during his 1936 campaign, Roosevelt asked his staff how to answer questions about that unfulﬁlled promise and was told “deny you were ever in Pittsburgh.”
So much has changed since then: what is said and done is now instantly visible. This lesson came earlier to politicians, it is now unavoidable for business entities. There is no option to deny that you were there.
Let’s look at some consequences of this global visibility:
- El Super, a small California-based grocery chain with approximately 600 unionized workers, failed to resolve a routine labor dispute at one store with the union representing those employees. As a result of this dispute involving just one store, El Super’s Mexican parent company, Chedraui Commercial Group, found itself subject to double barrel complaints ﬁled by US and Mexican labor unions under the North American Free Trade Agreement labor agreement and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines.
- Vedanta found itself subject to a lawsuit by individuals living more than 5,000 miles away when an appellate court in the United Kingdom held that farmers from a Zambian village could bring a claim against Vedanta and its Zambian subsidiary (Lungowe and Ors. v Vedanta Resources PLC and Konkola Copper Mines PLC [November 2017] EWCA Civ 1528). The court’s decision expanded the potential “duty of care” that parent companies have under UK law to employees of their subsidiaries, to include even non-employees who might be affected by its subsidiaries’ operation.
As presidential hopefuls bemoan the high cost of healthcare, McDermott’s Ted Becker imagines a stack of lawsuits pushed toward corporations and insurance companies. If workers can use the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to challenge 401(k) plans’ fees and investments, why can’t they use it to sue over how their health insurance plans are managed?
In a Q&A recently published on Law360, Becker discusses his prediction that health and welfare plan management suits will be the next frontier for ERISA plaintiffs, and how McDermott is preparing clients.