The Ninth Circuit's recent en banc ruling that employers can't excuse sex-based pay gaps by pointing to workers' past salaries deepened a circuit split over the federal Equal Pay Act, a development that could push the issue up to the US Supreme Court. The majority's opinion puts the Ninth Circuit directly at odds with the Seventh Circuit amid a growing debate between workers' and employers' advocates over whether the common practice of basing salary offers on workers' past salaries perpetuates illegal pay disparities between men and women. Access the full article.
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
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
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.
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.
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. Access the full article.
The US Supreme Court declined to review a recent Ninth Circuit decision, blocking the interim rules that exempted employers with religious or moral objections from providing birth control coverage required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Until such time as this issue is clarified, it is prudent for employers with employees in certain states to comply with the ACA mandate and to cover contraceptives under their health plans. Access the full article. Teal Trujillo, a summer associate in our Chicago office, also contributed to this article.
Preemption technically means situations where federal law displaces state law: a function of the supremacy clause of the US Constitution. Often, lawyers speak of preemption even where it is one federal law displacing another or one state law displacing another. When statutory laws abut or overlap like tectonic plates, which should apply? As large-scale cases proliferate under federal and state wage-and-hour laws, there is more and more reason to study plate tectonics for potential defenses. Thinking about preemption requires looking beyond the intricacies of the case at hand to broader issues of public policy; applying preemption as a defense requires thinking about more than the statute alleged in the complaint. Finding preemption, like throwing the Eephus pitch, is an arcane but game-winning skill. Learn how to find it in this article from Michael Giambona. Access the full article. Originally published by Law360, April 2019.
The US Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Sulyma v. Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee, a case in which the Ninth Circuit ruled that ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations requires a plaintiff to actually read materials in order to start the running of ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations. ERISA § 413(2) bars actions more than three years after “the earliest date on which the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the breach or violation,” and the Ninth Circuit held that a plaintiff who receives all the relevant information relating to her claim, but does not read it or does not recall reading it, does not have “actual knowledge” to start the limitations period. The Sixth Circuit, however, has held differently; in Brown v. Owens Corning Investment Review Committee, 622 F.3d 564, 571 (6th Cir. 2010), it held that the failure to read documents will not shield a plaintiff from having actual knowledge of the documents’ contents. Several district courts...