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The Biggest Benefits Rulings of 2020: Midyear Report

The US Supreme Court took up several Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) cases this term, handing down both a major loss and a substantial win to employees looking to sue their employers over retirement plan mismanagement. In a recent Law360 article, McDermott Partner Chris Nemeth discusses these decisions. "It's going to be really interesting to see how this plays out," said Nemeth. Access the article.

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Use a Checklist to Avoid LGBTQ Discrimination in Your Benefits Programs

The US Supreme Court ruled June 15 in Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga. that the prohibition against sex discrimination in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation and gender identity. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including part-time and temporary workers. Following the decision, benefits experts advise that employers review their benefits programs to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) employees are treated equally. Employers can use a checklist to find and correct discriminatory language and practices, and thereby reduce the likelihood of being sued under Title VII or other statutes that provide employees with sexual-orientation and gender-identity protections. Access the full article.

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HHS Finalizes Anti-Discrimination Revisions to ACA Section 1557

On June 12, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the 2020 Final Rule) that rescinds certain protections afforded to LGBTQ individuals and persons with limited English proficiency. At the same time, the 2020 Final Rule removes burdensome disclosure requirements that may be a welcome relief for entities covered by Section 1557. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is forbidden under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although Title VII is not included in the precedential civil rights laws that gave rise to Section 1557, we nevertheless anticipate that the Supreme Court’s holding will lead to legal challenges in a number of areas, including healthcare and health insurance, religious exemptions and the 2020...

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LGBTQ Title VII Ruling May Impact Your Employee Benefit Plan

On Monday, June 15, 2020, the US Supreme Court held in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender, gay and lesbian employees (and prospective employees) from workplace discrimination based on sex. This means that the protective authority of Title VII for LGBTQ individuals generally extends to employer-sponsored healthcare benefits. Access the full article.

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COVID-19 Ate My Homework – Recent Extensions and Relief for Retirement Plans

In recognition of the difficulties faced by retirement plan sponsors, participants and beneficiaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new guidance extends the deadlines for notices and disclosures required by Title I of ERISA and extends deadlines for retirement plan participants and beneficiaries to submit benefit claims and benefit appeals. The new guidance also provides some welcome fiduciary relief for electronic disclosures, incomplete plan loan or distribution documentation, as well as delayed participant contributions and loan repayments. Access the full article.

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DOL Relaxes Deadlines for ERISA-Governed Group Health Plans

The US Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service and US Department of the Treasury, issued guidance and deadline extensions applicable to ERISA-governed group health and welfare plans. The guidance provides relief for plan sponsors, plan administrators and plan participants that may be struggling to comply with applicable deadlines and requirements in the midst of the chaos related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Access the full article.

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Justices Poised to Reshape Employer Religious Bias Issues

Ecclesiastes 3:1 states: "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." Now is apparently the time for religious issues in employment law. In its current term, the US Supreme Court could hear three cases concerning religion under Title VII. Therefore, it is a good time for a refresher on these recurring issues. McDermott’s Sarah Schanz authors an article for Law360 discussing the recurring issues we’re seeing, including the questions of what amounts to undue hardship and who qualifies as a minister to invoke the ministerial exception. Access the full article. Originally published on Law360, February 2020

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SCOTUS Holds Proof of ‘Actual Knowledge’ Required Under ERISA Statute of Limitations

The US Supreme Court handed workers a big win by preserving a six-year deadline to file ERISA class actions as the standard, but employers have already seized on language in Justice Samuel Alito's opinion as a road map for how to impose a shorter deadline. Justice Alito ended the unanimous opinion—which affirmed the Ninth Circuit's ruling that ERISA grants workers six years to sue except under special circumstances—by listing several tactics employers can use to invoke a three-year statute of limitations. McDermott’s Richard Pearl contributes to a Law360 article discussing the decision, including how employers should respond. Access the full article. Originally published on Law360, February 2020 See Richard Pearl's January 2019 On the Subject on this case: Ninth Circuit Clarifies 'Actual Knowledge' for ERISA’s Statute of Limitations

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ERISA Cases to Watch in 2020: All Eyes on the High Court

2020 is shaping up to be a banner year for benefits law, with three ERISA cases already on the US Supreme Court’s docket and a number of other high-profile lawsuits at the circuit court level that could attract the justices’ attention. While waiting on the high court’s ERISA decisions, lawyers are watching litigation trends develop in the lower courts and waiting to see if the high court picks up another two ERISA cases. McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl contributes to a Law360 article that look at what 2020 may hold for benefits litigation. Access the full article. Originally published on Law360, January 2020

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