SEATTLE - The en banc Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 10 upheld a $300,000 punitive damages verdict in a sexual harassment case despite the fact that only nominal damages were awarded, finding that the verdict did not violate due process (State of Arizona, et al. v. ASARCO LLC, No. 11-17484, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23255).
PHILADELPHIA - An employee's claim of whistle-blower retaliation under the Dodd-Frank Act is subject to arbitration, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 8, upholding a trial court ruling (Boris Khazin v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation, et al., No. 14-1689, 3rd Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23098).
CHICAGO - An Indiana police officer who was paid only a small portion of his longevity benefit for the preceding year due to time away for military service is owed his full payment under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 9 (Robert D. DeLee v. City of Plymouth, Indiana, No. 14-1970, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23148).
CINCINNATI - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 8 found that a lower federal court did not abuse its discretion in exercising jurisdiction over a declaratory judgment lawsuit, affirming the lower court's ruling that a hay wagon driver's injury is not covered under a commercial general liability insurance policy because the driver is an "employee" under the policy (Western World Insurance Co. v. Burt Hoey, et al., No. 13-2388, 6th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23036).
NEW ORLEANS - A welder failed to prove that his former employer subjected him to harassment and discrimination based on his race or retaliated against him based on his complaints, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 4, upholding a trial court's ruling (Warren R. Watkins v. Recreation and Park Commission for the City of Baton Rouge, No. 14-30346, 5th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22862).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The time warehouse workers spend waiting to undergo and actually undergoing security screenings is not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled Dec. 9 (Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, et al., No. 13-433, U.S. Sup.; 2014 U.S. LEXIS 8293).
ATLANTA - After finding that all jurisdictional prerequisites were met and that a seaman's claims against his employer fell within the scope of a collective bargaining agreement, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 3 affirmed a court's ruling compelling arbitration under Italian law (Ralph Jonathan Alvarado Vera v. Cruise Ships Catering and Services International, et al., No. 14-12494, 11th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23004).
PASADENA, Calif. - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Dec. 3 reversed a nearly $2.48 million jury verdict for a warehouse worker who alleges age discrimination, finding several errors that necessitate a new trial (Alfonso W. January v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., et al., No. 12-56171, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22695).
DENVER - A disability insurer did not act arbitrarily or capriciously by terminating benefits under the any-reasonable-occupation disability standard of a plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, despite a contrary determination by the Social Security Administration (SSA) under the SSA all-occupation disability standard, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Dec. 3 (Christy M. Liebel v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 14-6046, 10th Cir.).
NEW YORK - A plan sponsor breached its obligations under a supplemental retirement plan by terminating monthly benefits and paying a lump sum to the plan participants pursuant to a change-in-control provision, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ordering the plan to reinstate the monthly benefits and take a credit for the amount of the lump sums paid, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Dec. 3 in an unpublished opinion (Daniel E. Gill, et al. v. Bausch & Lomb Supplemental Retirement Income Plan I, et al., No. 14-1058, 2nd Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22980).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Answering three certified questions from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the affirmative, the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 4 found that although the estate of a deceased employee of an insured has standing to bring a breach of contract lawsuit against the insured's employer's workers' compensation and employer liability insurer, a workers' compensation exclusion and release prevent the estate from collecting a $9.5 million wrongful death judgment from the insurer (Leticia Morales, et al. v. Zenith Insurance Co., No. SC13-696, Fla. Sup.; 2014 Fla. LEXIS 3555).
ST. LOUIS - An employee who retired at 55, citing health issues, failed to prove his claims of constructive discharge, harassment and bias, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 2 (Donald Rickard v. Swedish Match North America, Inc., No. 13-3729, 8th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22741).
SAN FRANCISCO - An employee who was terminated after requesting an accommodation for his hearing impairment failed to prove that his employer's proffered reason - a long history of making threats to co-workers - was pretextual, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 2 (Michael P. Curley v. City of North Las Vegas, No. 12-16228, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22658).
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - An Alabama federal judge on Dec. 2 dismissed a disability claimant's allegations against her employer because the employer is the plan sponsor and not subject to liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (Susan Saunders v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, No. 14-1181, N.D. Ala.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166876).
SEATTLE - An injury arising from potential exposures both as a direct employee and as a contractor is indivisible, and the employer is immune under Washington state law, a federal judge held in rejecting plaintiffs' "dual persona" argument on Dec. 2 (Alan McMann and Donna McMann v. Air & Liquid Systems Corp., et al., No. 13-5429, W.D. Wash.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166984).
OKLAHOMA CITY - A federal judge in Oklahoma on Dec. 3 modified an order enjoining the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive mandate, expanding it to prevent the government from interfering with insurers or third-party administrators (The Catholic Benefits Association LCA, et al. v. Sylvia M. Burwell, et al., No. 14-240, W.D. Okla.).
SAN FRANCISCO - A long-term disability plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act properly offset a firefighters' workers' compensation settlement, but remand is necessary to determine the amount of salary continuation benefits that the plan can properly offset under the plan terms, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 2 in an unpublished opinion (David Barboza v. California Association of Professional Firefighters, et al., Nos. 12-17439 and 13-16652, 9th Cir.).
NEW YORK - The Employee Retirement Income Security Act does not preempt New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) Section 5205, which shields a savings incentive match plan for an employee's retirement account/individual retirement account (SRA/IRA) from garnishment by judgment creditors, a federal judge in New York ruled Dec. 1 (VFS Financing, Inc. v. Elias-Savion-Fox LLC, et al., No. 12 Civ. 2853, S.D. N.Y.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166240).
SCRANTON, Pa. - Because the plain language of a long-term disability policy grants the insurer a discretionary duty to review disability benefits, the denial of a claimant's benefits is subject to review under an arbitrary and capricious standard, a Pennsylvania federal judge said Dec. 1 (Jason Jabara v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 13-CV-02041, M.D. Pa.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166268).
COLUMBIA, S.C. - A South Carolina federal judge on Dec. 1 granted a motion to consolidate two complaints filed by exotic dancers seeking unpaid wages (Kaleigh R. Dittus, et al. v. KEG, Inc., et al., No. 14-300, Nicolet Arcieri v. Shadow Management Company, Inc., et al., No. 14-3029, D. S.C.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166116).
MIAMI - An orthodontics company lacks standing to challenge the delay in implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s employer mandate, a divided 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Dec. 2 (Kawa Orthodontics LLP v. Secretary, U.S. Department of the Treasury, et al., No. 14-10296, 11th Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) when it refused to accommodate an employee's lifting restrictions that were caused by her pregnancy even though it provided accommodations for other employees with lifting restrictions, the employee's attorney told the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments on Dec. 3 (Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 12-1226, U.S. Sup.).
CAMDEN. N.J. - A named trustee of a multiemployer welfare arrangement (MEWA) and the marketer of the MEWA breached their fiduciary duties with regard to diverted funds that were plan assets within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal judge in New Jersey ruled on remand from the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in an opinion filed Dec. 1 (Secretary of Labor v. James Doyle, et al., No. 05-cv-2264, D. N.J.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166354).
CHICAGO - An employer must pay the withdrawal liability assessed by a multiemployer pension plan because the employer's demand for arbitration was not timely under the rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA), the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Nov. 26 (Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, et al. v. Allega Concrete Corp., No. 14-2512, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 22406).
FRESNO, Calif. - A California federal magistrate judge on Nov. 26 granted preliminary approval to a $2.3 million settlement to be paid by a California grape grower and a labor contractor to end a class complaint filed by workers seeking unpaid wages (Margarita Rosales, et al. v. El Rancho Farms, et al., Angel Lopez Cruz, et al. v. El Rancho Farms, et al., No. 09-707, E.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165711).