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
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
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
In a relatively slow year for benefits rulings, multimillion-dollar settlements were the star of the show. And amid the slew of settlements this year, two court rulings stood out. McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl contributes to a Law360 article that breaks down the Ninth Circuit ruling allowing benefit plan managers to force fiduciary-breach suits into solo arbitration and the Tenth Circuit holding that insurers who determine workers’ profits from 401(k) investments aren’t fiduciaries. Access the full article. Originally published by Law360, December 2019
A decision in Texas v. United States was issued by a divided three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on December 18, 2019. This case presented once again the question whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional and sustainable, and questions of severability remain for the near future. Access the full article.
As we wrote in a previous On the Subject, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had signaled that it might rehear its August 2019 decisions in Dorman v. The Charles Schwab Corp., in which the Court compelled arbitration of ERISA class-action claims relating to a 401(k) plan. After ordering additional briefing, however, the Ninth Circuit denied the plaintiff’s petition for rehearing, leaving the Court’s decisions unchanged and requiring the plaintiff to arbitrate his ERISA breach-of-fiduciary-duty claims. Access the full article.
Finally! First Circuit Overturns the Sun Capital ERISA Multiemployer Plan Liability Case—But Risks Remain for Private Equity
The First Circuit issued a decision holding that two private equity funds involved in a case are not required to pay for the withdrawal limit of a portfolio company. Despite the limited victory, the guiding rule with respect to defined benefit plan and multiemployer plan pension liabilities remains “buyer beware,” as applicable law continues to provide that such liabilities may become liabilities of private equity funds under certain circumstances. Access the full article.
In Florida’s federal courts, there has been an epidemic of class actions alleging that employers failed to provide technically proper notice of the right to continued healthcare coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. A dozen such lawsuits have been filed (each by the same law firm) with mirror image allegations. These cases illustrate why it is necessary to sweat the details in issuing COBRA notices, which McDermott’s Megan Mardy and Julie McConnell walk through in a recent analysis for Law360. Access the full article. Originally published by Law360, October 2019
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). Access the full article.
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. Access the full article.