Although multi-jurisdictional compliance is a challenge in relation to every aspect of employment law, the structure of employment contracts and the enforcement of global policies require particularly careful consideration.

The need to coordinate individual country compliance across numerous countries whilst still maintaining a common company culture requires extensive knowledge of national laws and considerable flexibility.

Continue Reading Global Employment Contracts: The Modern Tower of Babel

A US Supreme Court case pitting pensioners against US Bank could have a wide-ranging impact on who can bring suit under ERISA, whether they participate in a defined benefit pension plan or a 401(k) plan.

Recently, on Law360, McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl weighed in on the impact of Thole v. US Bank, one of three ERISA cases that the US Supreme Court will decide this term. The case, discussed in greater detail in our On the Subject, will address whether defined benefit pension plan participants have standing to bring suit under ERISA if their plan is fully funded.

Although the case focuses on participants’ ability to bring suit on behalf of defined benefit pension plans, according to Pearl, the case seems to ask the high court to answer a question that often crops up in defined contribution plan litigation, as well: Whose injury matters, the plan’s or the person’s? As a result, the court’s decision could impact not only litigation involving defined benefit pension plans, but also defined contribution plans, where case law is still being developed around what gives a participant grounds to sue on behalf of a plan.

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This month, Assembly Bill 5 (A.B. 5) was signed into California law. A.B. 5 codifies the “ABC Test”—used to determine if a worker is an independent contractor—which is broader, harsher and more inclusive than the common law test with which most businesses are familiar.

A.B. 5 appears to be the death knell of convenience for retaining contractors in the Golden State, as well as the advent of a new wave of wage and hour litigation.

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In today’s high-stakes environment, in-house counsel and HR professionals are often on the frontlines, responding to headlines that threaten business and reputational objectives.

Join McDermott Will & Emery’s Employment and Employee Benefits practice groups at a half-day forum in our Chicago office on Oct. 10. This forward-looking program is designed to drive conversation around emerging trends to help employers craft their own narrative, instead of being held captive by it.

See full event details and register here.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has once again extended the temporary nondiscrimination relief for frozen defined benefit plans, now through 2020. Frozen pension plans are pension plans that have been closed to new participants but continue to provide ongoing benefit accruals for certain participants. This extended relief is intended to enable frozen pension plans to satisfy certain nondiscrimination testing requirements. In most cases, the relief allows the frozen defined benefit plan to be aggregated with a defined contribution plan to satisfy the nondiscrimination testing requirements. The relief assists the aggregated plan in passing nondiscrimination requirements that apply to accrued benefits and to certain rights and features relating to those benefits.

Continue Reading Once Again, IRS Extends Nondiscrimination Relief for Frozen Defined Benefit Plans

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) recently issued a press release announcing that the Multiemployer Insurance Program remains in a dire financial condition, nearing insolvency. The agency’s insurance program for multiemployer pensions, covering more than 10 million people, will likely run out of money by the end of fiscal year 2025, according to the FY 2018 Projections Report. On the other hand, the PBGC’s projection for the Single-Employer Program shows continued improvement. However, these positive projections are subject to a range of potential outcomes due to the Program’s sensitivity to economic conditions.

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An employer learned the full cost of ambiguity when a Connecticut federal district court agreed with an employee’s widow that the word “maximum” was ambiguous in the company’s life insurance plan, thus making the widow entitled to an additional $4 million in benefits. This decision serves as a warning for employers sponsoring insured benefits.

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A Texas federal court certified a class in case brought by participants in one plan, and allowed those participants to represent participants in unaffiliated plans. The claims alleged that the defendants, who marketed and provided services to all of the plans, breached fiduciary duties by imposing excessive fees. See Chavez, et al. v. Plan Benefits Services, Inc., et al., No. AU-17-CA-00659-SS, United States District Court for Western District of Texas (Aug. 30, 2019).

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In two opinions—one published and one unpublished—the Ninth Circuit overturned prior precedent and held that a Plan amendment requiring arbitration meant that an individual had to arbitrate, on an individual basis, purported class claims alleging imprudent and disloyal management of 401(k) investments. This decision, although unpublished, provides support for plans wishing to add binding arbitration provisions that apply to ERISA 502(a)(2) claims.

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A growing number of medical organizations, courts and administrative bodies have stated that transition-related medical care is medically necessary and should be covered by employer-sponsored medical plans. Access to employer-sponsored healthcare coverage for transgender workers has become an issue of focus for civil rights advocacy groups such as Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, and there has been an uptick in discrimination lawsuits filed against health plans and insurers denying such care.

These trends highlight the importance of weighing the legal and business considerations that come with providing (or not providing) comprehensive health benefits for transgender workers. Health plan sponsors and insurers should consider how the decision to provide or exclude transition-related medical coverage will affect their legal compliance, overall costs and workplace culture—all of which are discussed in this article.

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Originally published in Benefits Magazine, August 2019.