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
In January 2020, the Supreme Court decided it would not hear the issue of whether Facebook broke the law in Illinois when it instituted a photo-tagging feature that honed in on users’ faces and tagged them without their consent, and Facebook has now settled with the users for $550 million. The Illinois law is part of a patchwork of laws applicable to facial recognition technology (FRT). McDermott’s Ashley Winton contributes to the second installment of a three-part article series on FRT. This article examines the applicable legal framework and regulatory guidance, including intellectual property rights, general privacy legislation, specific state biometric data laws and more. Access the full article. Originally published on Cybersecurity Law Report, 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
This year, the US Supreme Court will get a chance to say whether federal civil rights law protects gay and transgender employees from discrimination, and California courts will grapple with recent changes making it harder for Golden State businesses to label workers as independent contractors. McDermott’s Michael Sheehan looked at these and other cases to watch in 2020 in a recent article for Law360. Access the full article. Originally published by Law360, January 2020
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...
The US Supreme Court recently agreed to review the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Thole v. US Bank, in which the Eighth Circuit held that participants in an overfunded defined benefit pension plan lack standing to sue for fiduciary breaches under ERISA. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case—the third ERISA case accepted by the court this term—could have significant implications for plan sponsors and plan fiduciaries. Many believe that if the Supreme Court rules that the plaintiffs have standing to bring suit, it could encourage a proliferation of litigation against plans where there is no actual impact on participants’ benefits. 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.