The UK Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld the Employment Tribunal’s finding that Uber drivers are “workers”. It rejected Uber’s argument that Uber is simply a technology platform acting as an agent to connect self-employed Uber drivers with users of the ride-hailing app.

What Is the Issue?

The United Kingdom recognises three categories of employment status: employees, workers and self-employed contractors, each with varying levels of protection under employment law. Employees and workers are afforded greater protection than self-employed contractors, with employees having the full suite of UK employment rights. Workers are entitled to core rights such as statutory holidays, sick pay and breaks, and national minimum wage.

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The SEC recently confirmed that the new CEO pay ratio disclosure rules mandated in the Dodd-Frank Act will go into effect in the 2018 proxy season. To assist companies in preparation of the new disclosure, the SEC published interpretive guidance on September 21, 2017.

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To recruit and retain top talent, employers often offer benefits more generous than required under the law. Such benefits include unlimited vacation, paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave. However, a recent US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit filed against Estee Lauder Companies, Inc. (Estee Lauder) reveals how even the most well-intentioned of programs can result in a discrimination lawsuit.

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On October 12, 2017, McDermott Will & Emery filed a lawsuit on behalf of The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) challenging new reporting requirements under Oregon law as applicable to retirement plans subject to ERISA. Below is a press release from ERIC and Q&As regarding this litigation.

OregonSaves is the state of Oregon’s state-run retirement program that automatically enrolls employees of employers into individual retirement arrangements (IRAs). Unless an employee opts out of OregonSaves, a portion of each paycheck is added to an IRA account in the employee’s name. Oregon is the first state to establish an auto-enrollment IRA program.

An employer that offers a qualified plan is not required to participate in OregonSaves, but only if it has a valid and current certificate of exemption. Obtaining this exemption depends upon reporting to the state of Oregon regarding an employer’s qualified plan. For employers with 100 or more employees in Oregon, this filing is due by November 15, 2017. The ERIC lawsuit alleges that ERISA’s express preemption provision preempts this reporting requirement.

This is the latest action by a state to impose reporting requirements on ERISA covered plans. Previously the state of Vermont (and other states) sought to require ERISA medical benefit plans to report their claims experience for purposes of compiling a so-called All Payor Claims Database (APCD). In the 2016 case of Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, the US Supreme Court held that ERISA preempted Vermont’s APCD reporting requirement.

ERIC supports state auto-enrollment programs intended to increase access to retirement savings plans if such programs do not infringe on employers that already provide ERISA-governed retirement plans. Tracking and complying with additional reporting burdens imposed by state-run retirement plans on a state by state basis would be unduly burdensome for employers.

View the full ERIC Q&A here.

There has been some prominent coverage on this case, including Industry group sues over Oregon retirement plan, Employers sue to block OregonSaves requirementsERIC files lawsuit against Oregon Retirement Savings BoardERISA Industry Committee sues to stop OregonSaves reporting demands and Oregon’s retirement-savings plan faces legal challenge. The team will continue to monitor and provide regular updates.

Offering employer stock in a 401(k) plan investment lineup can seem like a win-win situation. It can enable employees to become company owners—real, skin-in-the-game, participants in their employer’s economic future—through a simple deferral election. The U.S. Supreme Court has even recognized the value of employer stock funds, confirming that Congress sought to encourage their creation through provisions and standards contained in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).

However, in the wake of a series of high-profile employee lawsuits seeking recovery against Enron, Lehman Brothers, and other employers for losses from 401(k) investments in employer stock, such funds can—almost as easily—seem a recipe for disaster. This article examines the quandary that employer stock funds pose for plan sponsors, who must navigate ERISA’s careful balance of (1) ensuring fair and prompt enforcement of employee rights under employer-provided retirement plans while (2) encouraging employer creation of these plans.

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Originally published in Bloomberg Law, May 25, 2017

A US District Court recently dismissed a claim that an insider’s election to satisfy an income tax obligation by having shares withheld from the delivery of an award constituted a non-exempt sale of shares back to the issuer for purposes of Section 16(b) of the Exchange Act, unless the share withholding was required, rather than merely permitted.

While an encouraging development, this decision is now on appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and there are similar unresolved complaints in other jurisdictions. Until this matter is resolved, public companies should continue to consider what steps are appropriate to avoid Section 16 exposure and to review this situation with their executive officers.

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McDermott will be holding its annual Employee Benefits Innovators Roundtable Series this month. The roundtables offer experienced benefits professionals an opportunity to discuss cutting-edge, topical employer-driven benefit programs with their peers and members of McDermott’s employee benefits team. We are meeting in four locations this year. Join us in one of the following cities:

May 9 | Silicon Valley, California

May 11 | Los Angeles, California

May 22 | Chicago, Illinois

May 24 | New York, New York

The topics for our roundtable series sessions will include:

  • The Future of Employee Benefits Under the Trump Administration
  • Should Your Plan Cover All Drugs? (FDA-Approved/Unapproved, Off-Label, Marijuana, etc.)
  • ERISA Retirement Plan Fee Litigation – Learning From Recent Class Actions
  • Paying Off Student Loans as an Employee Benefit
  • Equal Privacy and Cybersecurity – Now Part of Your Plan’s Independent Audit
  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Equality Index – Opposite-Sex Domestic Partner Benefit

 

For more information about how to register for one of our roundtables, please contact Erin Nelson.

On March 20, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Revenue Procedure 2017-28, which provides guidance to employers on obtaining employee consents used to support a claim for credit or refund of overpaid taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA). This OTS describes the new procedures and provides valuable information regarding the rules for amending past employment tax returns due to the over- or under-payment of Social Security, Medicare and Federal income tax on employee wages.

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