WASHINGTON, D.C. - Severance payments fall within the Federal Insurance Contributions Act's (FICA) definition of wages and are taxable, Assistant to the Solicitor General Eric J. Feigin told the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 14 in arguments presented on behalf of the United States (United States of America v. Quality Stores, Inc., et al., No. 12-1408, U.S. Sup.).
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Jan. 13 reinstated a former City of Chicago employee's failure-to-accommodate claim, finding that a reasonable jury could determine that the worker's sickle cell anemia substantially limited her walking (Janice Johnson v. City of Chicago, No. 13-1199, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 607).
SEATTLE - A district court correctly issued a preliminary strike injunction against "carrier employees" of an aircraft service provider because the employees had a duty under Section 2 First of the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to try to make and maintain agreements and settle all disputes, and they failed to do so, a divided Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Jan. 10 (Aircraft Service International Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters AFL CIO Local 117, et al., No. 12-36026, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 516).
CHICAGO - Two interrelated companies that were owned and operated by the son of a third company, which ceased doing business and was found liable for delinquent pension fund payments, may be substituted as judgment debtors for the third company as successors under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Jan. 9 (James T. Sullivan, et al. v. Running Waters Irrigation, Inc., et al., No. 13-1308, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 482).
NEW ORLEANS - Expert testimony that employers fare better than employees in arbitration of disputes was unreliable, a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Jan. 8 in affirming a district court's order dismissing a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit and compelling arbitration (Samantha Diggs v. Citigroup, No. 13-10138, 5th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 506).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. president has the power to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board during both inter-session and intra-session recesses, the U.S. solicitor general told the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 during arguments in a closely watched appeal (National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, a Division of the Noel Corp., et al., No. 12-1281, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 denied review of a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a former employee's claims related to his employer's severance plan were preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act even though the former employee was not a plan participant under the plan's definition (John D. Clayton v. ConocoPhillips Company, et al., No. 13-419, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 denied a plan participant's petition for a writ of certiorari seeking review of an 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a health plan insurer did not abuse its discretion in calculating benefits and that the insurer was not liable for penalties for failing to disclose documents it relied on in calculating the amount of the benefit (Brian Fox v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc., No. 13-342, U.S. Sup.).
CHICAGO - A former Chicago teacher's federal age discrimination lawsuit is barred by an earlier state lawsuit because she failed to show that the school board acquiesced to claim splitting, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 10 (Harriet Walczak v. Chicago Board of Education, No. 12-2808, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 556).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by a man who claims that a child suffered burn injuries due to an allegedly defective cigarette lighter (David R. Cummins v. Bic USA Inc., et al., No. 13-574, U.S. Sup.).
DULUTH, Minn. - A Minnesota federal judge on Jan. 8 conditionally certified a class of meat-processing facility workers seeking compensation for time spent working outside of their clocked hours, including donning and doffing protective gear, and denied a motion to dismiss the workers' breach of contract claim (Carol Knaak, et al. v. Armour-Eckrich Meats LLC, No. 13-829, D. Minn.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1903).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A retirement plan participant who challenged the amount of benefits she received upon the plan's termination did not have a cause of action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for the plan fiduciaries' alleged violation of the tax code or reliance on the advice of the plan's legal counsel, the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 7 (Denise M. Clark v. Feder Semo and Bard, P.C., et al., No. 12-7092, D.C. Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 218).
ATLANTA - Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a corporate employer undergoing bankruptcy reorganization cannot pursue an action for the benefit of its bankruptcy estate and, thus, its unsecured creditors against the employer's former owner for liabilities arising from the termination of a pension plan, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Jan. 7 (Durango-Georgia Paper Co., et al. v. H.G. Estate, LLC, et al., No. 11-15079, 11th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 251).
PASADENA, Calif. - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 9 upheld a trial court's rejection of a class complaint accusing a membership warehouse club of federal and state wage violations when it withheld wages from employees' final paychecks (Carrie Ward, et al. v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, No. 11-56757, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 450).
DAYTON, Ohio - Employees' health records are relevant and discoverable in a class complaint in which they accuse their employer of interfering with their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an Ohio federal magistrate judge ruled Jan. 6 (Michele Wilkinson, et al. v. Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, et al., No. 11-247, S.D. Ohio; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 909).
ATLANTA - The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 8 affirmed a decision granting a ship owner's motion to compel arbitration of a crew member's claims under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, agreeing that the dispute should be arbitrated in Panama (Javier Fredy Paucar v. MSC Crociere S.A., et al., No. 13-11881, 11th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 333).
NEW ORLEANS - A federal district court properly ruled that a disability insurer did not abuse its discretion under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by terminating benefits based on medical evidence that post-dated a Social Security Administration (SSA) determination that the claimant was disabled, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Jan. 3 in an unpublished opinion (Susan Nugent v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 13-30795, 5th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 130).
SAN FRANCISCO - A California federal judge on Jan. 2 denied a motion to remand a class complaint accusing a salon chain of various wage violations, opining that even though the chain was overzealous with its initial amount in controversy estimates, the figure was still clearly above $5 million (Melissa Fong, et al. v. Regis Corporation, et al., No. 13-4497, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 275).
NEW YORK - A divided Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Jan. 6 upheld a finding that a New York State agency was liable on a former employee's intimate association claim as well as an award of punitive damages on that claim, but the majority vacated punitive damages against the individual defendants, finding that they were protected by qualified immunity (Scott M. Matusick v. Erie County Water Authority, et al., Nos. 11-1234, 11-1618, 2nd Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 192).
SAN FRANCISCO - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Dec. 31, in an order addressing two cases, certified three questions concerning the proper interpretation of two California wage orders regarding an employer's obligation to provide an employee with a seat (Nykeya Kilby, et al. v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., No. 12-56130, Kemah Henderson, et al. v. JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, No. 13-56095, 9th Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 25862).
DENVER - The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 31 partially reinstated a former Utah county employee's suit alleging that she lost her job after complaining that the judge she worked for was sexually harassing her (Marcia Eisenhour v. Weber County, et al., No. 12-4190, 10th Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 25856).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The federal government on Jan. 3 filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing an emergency injunction pending appellate review or, in the alternative, a petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment and injunction pending resolution following a Dec. 31 order by Justice Sonia Sotomayor that temporarily blocked the federal government from enforcing the birth control mandate contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) against an order of Catholic nuns at the request of the group after a lower court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction in a case challenging the mandate (Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al., No. 13A691, U.S. Sup.).
RICHMOND, Va. - A Salvation Army employee who was fired for missing too much work failed to show that being given more time for discovery would in any way help her case, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 31, upholding a trial court's denial of her discovery motion (Roberta Ahmed v. The Salvation Army, No. 13-1122, 4th Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 25866).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A California federal judge in an opinion filed Dec. 30 denied a motion to dismiss the two surviving claims in a case accusing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) of doing nothing to stop a hostile work environment and retaliating against one of the correctional officers who complained (Yvette Daniels, et al. v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, No. 10-3, E.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181441).
NEW YORK - A federal district court erred in deferring to a pension plan administrator's interpretation of an offset provision under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the interpretation violated the plan's provisions and was not disclosed in summary plan descriptions (SPDs) given to the plan participants, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 23 (Paul J. Frommert, et al. v. Sally L. Conkright, et al., No. 12-67-cv, 2nd Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 25500).