BOSTON - A Massachusetts federal judge on March 28 concluded that two limited partnership private equity funds were under common control of a bankrupt subsidiary and, therefore, were liable to pay that firm's pro rata share of unfunded vested benefits, totaling $4.5 million, which it owed to a multiemployer pension fund from which it withdrew (Sun Capital Partners III LP, et al. v. New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund, No. 1:10-cv-10921, D. Mass.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40254).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A 4-4 U.S. Supreme Court issued a one sentence per curiam opinion March 29 affirming the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' decision in a challenge brought by teachers who objected to agency-fee requirements for non-union workers employed by public entities and sought to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed. (431 U.S. 209 ) (Rebecca Friedrichs, et al. v. California Teachers Association, et al., No. 14-915, U.S. Sup.).
FLINT, Mich. - A Michigan federal judge on March 23 denied a motion to certify a class of retired emergency workers who allege that their retiree benefits were improperly reduced (Craig Serafino, et al. v. City of Hamtramck, et al., No. 14-14112, E.D. Mich.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37353).
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A Kentucky federal judge on March 22 held that a plaintiff's breach of contract claim against her disability insurer, which is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), entitled her to take limited discovery from the insurer because there was a potential evaluator/payor conflict of interest (Nicole Myers v. Anthem Life Insurance Co., No. 14-948, W.D. Ky.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37411).
SAN FRANCISCO - A defendant won partial judgment on the pleadings March 22, when a California federal judge agreed that an amendment that eliminated the ability of pension plan participants to "age into" a subsidized early retirement benefit "appear to be the types of changes contemplated and authorized" by the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) (Juan R. Reyes v. Bakery and Confectionary Union and Industry International Pension Fund, No. 14-5596, N.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37221).
ST. PAUL, Minn. - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 22 found that when a trial court issued judgment against benefits plans administrators' claims brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act against Wells Fargo Bank N.A. based on a jury's verdict related to non-ERISA plans, it "failed to consider whether the parties waived application of collateral estoppel," leading it to vacate and remand for a determination of whether such waiver occurred (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank N.A., No. 14-3457, 8th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5198).
PHILADELPHIA - An expert's analysis of the tenure process at a university is beyond her expertise, a Pennsylvania federal judge held March 21, excluding testimony in a gender discrimination lawsuit on the social science of stereotyping (Kristen Stromberg Childers, Ph.D. v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, No. 14-2439, E.D. Pa.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35827).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - An Iowa federal judge did not err certifying and maintaining a class of Tyson Foods Inc. workers seeking pay for overtime activities that included donning and doffing despite a variance in the type of gear worn by the class members and the reliance on a representative sample, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 22 (Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Peg Bouaphakeo, et al., No. 14-1146, U.S. Sup.).
PHILADELPHIA - A New Jersey federal judge did not err in granting the Severance Pay Plan of Johnson & Johnson and Affiliated U.S. Companies (the plan) summary judgment on allegations that it violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by denying an employee's request for severance benefits, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concluded March 21 in an unpublished ruling (Alan M. Becknell v. Severance Pay Plan of Johnson & Johnson and Affiliated U.S. Companies, No. 15-2660, 3rd Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5071).
NEW YORK - A retiree filed a class complaint March 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing the administrator of his multiple retirement plans of being irresponsible with its expenses, specifically its mailing costs (Harold Jay Lefkowitz, et al. v. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association [TIAA], No. 16-1932, S.D. N.Y.).
CHICAGO - A retirement plan established by a church-affiliated organization is not exempt from the reach of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 17 (Maria Stapleton, et al. v. Advocate Health Care Network, No. 15-1368, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 4908).
CHICAGO - A handwritten agreement between an employee and a former employer in which the employee agreed to drop her bias and retaliation charges in exchange for $210,000 is enforceable despite the employee's attempt to later change her mind, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 16 (Martina Beverly v. Abbott Laboratories, No. 15-1098, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 4799).
NEW YORK - A New York federal judge properly rejected allegations that the fiduciaries of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) invested exclusively in Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. stock breached their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by failing to recognize Lehman's imminent collapse, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 18 (In Re: Lehman Bros. Sec. and ERISA Litig., No. 15-2229, 2nd Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on March 21 denied a request to consider whether parties can agree to classify an employer's unpaid contributions to an employee benefit plan as plan assets under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (The Board of Trustees of the Carpenters Health and Welfare Trust Fund for California, et al. v. Gregory Bos, No. 15-755, U.S. Sup.).
CHICAGO - A retirement plan administrator did not err when interpreting the term "payable" as requiring an offset in benefits by the total value of benefits received by a plaintiff under a different plan administered by a previous employer, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 16 (Roger Cocker v. Terminal Railroad of St. Louis Pension Plan for Nonscheduled Employees, No. 15-2690, 7th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 4801).
SAN FRANCISCO - The Teamsters Joint Councils 7 and 42 and several individuals filed objections March 15 asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to deny preliminary approval of a proposed $12.25 million wage settlement between drivers and Lyft Inc., a company that provides drive-sharing services (Patrick Cotter, et al. v. Lyft, Inc., No. 13-4065, N.D. Calif.).
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 14 vacated a trial court's summary judgment dismissal of claims brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Arizona Civil Rights Division on behalf of a class of female prison workers who allege gender discrimination and harassment, finding that the two agencies sufficiently conciliated their claims (State of Arizona, et al. v. The Geo Group, Inc., et al., Nos. 13-16081 and 13-16292, 9th Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 4646).
BOSTON - A disability plan's limitations period of three years is inapplicable, and Puerto Rico's 15-year statute of limitations must be applied because the insurer violated Employee Retirement Income Security Act regulations when it failed to inform the disability claimant of the plan-imposed time limit for filing a suit, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said March 14 (Dionisio Santana- Diaz v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 15-1273, 1st Cir.; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 4670).
OAKLAND, Calif. - A California federal judge on March 11 granted a motion to remand a labor violations class complaint, finding that the amount in controversy is not met because attorney fees in a Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) case must be apportioned among the total number of aggrieved employees (Wayne Russell, Jr. v. Aramark Refreshment Services, LLC, et al., No. 16-613, N.D. Calif.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31838).
NEW ORLEANS - In a March 11 amicus curiae brief, Secretary of Labor M. Patricia Smith told the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that a consolidated Employee Retirement Income Security Act action against BP PLC satisfies the pleading standard set in Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer (134 S. Ct. 2459 ) and should proceed (Ralph Whitley, et al. v. BP PLC, et al., No. 15-20282, 5th Cir.).
PHILADELPHIA - An administrative law judge (ALJ) on March 14 ruled that Chipotle Services LLC's (doing business as Chipotle Mexican Grill) social media code violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and that the fast food chain committed further violations by directing an employee to delete certain tweets, prohibiting the employee from circulating a petition challenging the chain's break policy and terminating the employee for his actions (Chipotle Services LLC d/b/a Chipotle Mexican Grill and Pennsylvania Workers Organizing Committee, a Project of the Fast Food Workers Committee, Nos. 04-CA-147314 and 04-CA-149551, NLRB Judges Div.).
PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania federal judge on March 10 denied a request to expand the scope of the class in a wage-and-hour dispute to include both salaried and hourly employees, finding that the lead plaintiff who was salaried failed to show that hourly employees were similarly situated (Julie L. Schneck v. Lawrence D. Brudy & Associates, Inc., No. 15-1058, W.D. Pa.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31050).
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A Connecticut federal judge on March 11 ruled that a correctional officer applicant was barred from bringing gender bias class claims both due to a failure to show that her alleged injuries would be redressed by a ruling in her favor and under the doctrine of res judicata (Denisha Davis, et al. v. State of Connecticut Department of Correction, et al., No. 15-57, D. Conn.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31399).
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - A Minnesota federal judge on March 10 decertified a class of sales persons who allege that they were forced to work off the clock and granted summary judgment to the employer on the claims brought by the two remaining plaintiffs (Kenneth Lindsay, et al. v. Clear Wireless LLC, et al., No. 13-834, D. Minn.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31663).
BATON ROUGE, La. - A Louisiana federal judge on March 10 affirmed a lower court's ruling that there is no professional liability coverage for federal allegations that a labor staffing company insured violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), granting the insurer's motion for summary judgment on the insured's claims for breach of contract and bad faith (Treo Staffing LLC v. AXIS Surplus Insurance Co., et al., No. 15-332, M.D. La.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30764).