RICHMOND, Va. - Health benefits for United Steel Workers retirees of a West Virginia aluminum manufacturer did not vest and were properly altered unilaterally by the company because union contracts expressly provided that the benefits remained in effect only for the term of the contracts, which had expired, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held March 22 (Ronald Barton, et al v. Constellium Rolled Products-Ravenswood, LLC, et al., No. 16-1103, 4th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5087).
ST. LOUIS - An oil manufacturer failed to show that the National Labor Relations Board erred when it determined that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by refusing to bargain with the union representing its workers or when it refused to set aside the union election due to a pro-union demonstration outside of the polling room, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 24 (Cargill, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, Nos. 16-1565 and 16-1930, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5193).
SAN FRANCISCO - The variety of contracts at issue and evidence that at least some of the contracted pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) understood that a pharmacy's usual and customary rate did not include the rate offered for generic drugs in its membership program defeat a motion for class certification of insured purchasers of generic drugs, a federal judge in California held March 21 (Christopher Corcoran, et al. v. CVS Health, et al., No. 15-3504, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40783).
SAN FRANCISCO - An attorney representing the named plaintiffs in a wage-and-hour class complaint must pay $7,706.32 in sanctions after acting in an "unprofessional" and "disrespectful" manner during deposition, a California federal magistrate judge ruled March 21, adding that the attorney "might benefit from mental health treatment and sensitivity training" (Shaon Robinson, et al. v. The Chefs' Warehouse, No. 15-5421, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40824).
NEW YORK - Comedian Louis C.K.'s company is subject to the "controlling-employee" provisions in three employee benefit plan agreements and therefore must make plan contributions at the 40-hour workweek rate, even though C.K. worked fewer hours as editor of his TV show, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 21 (Pig Newton, Inc. v. Boards of Directors of Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, Motion Picture Industry Individual Account Plan, Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, No. 15-1029, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4974).
SAN FRANCISCO - Health care centers designated to receive direct payment from a health plan administrator for medical services cannot file suit in federal court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because they lack both direct statutory authority and derivative authority through assignment under ERISA's civil enforcement provisions, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held March 22 (DB Healthcare, LLC, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Inc., No. 14-16518, Advanced Women's Health Center, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company, No. 14-16612, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 5082).
DALLAS - A Texas federal judge on March 20 denied a coalition of insurance associations' emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal of a ruling that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has not exceeded its authority in formulating its new "fiduciary rule" and that the new rule does not violate the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, saying that the plaintiffs have not met their burden to satisfy four factors required to obtain an injunction pending appeal (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Edward Hugler, Acting Secretary of Labor, et al., No. 3:16-cv-1476, consolidated with 3:16-cv-1530, 3:16-cv-1537, N.D. Texas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39806).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In-N-Out Burger Inc. violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when it prohibited employees from wearing unauthorized buttons or insignia that referenced union activity and wages, the National Labor Relations Board ruled March 21 (In-N-Out Burger, Inc. and Mid-South Organizing Committee, Nos. 16-CA-156147 and 16-CA-163251, NLRB).
SAN FRANCISCO - A network of "vendors" who perform maintenance and repair services at properties owned by Field Asset Services Inc. (FAS) are employees, not independent contractors, and are owed overtime and business expenses, a California federal judge ruled March 17 in an order granting the vendors' motion for partial summary judgment and denying FAS's motion to decertify the class of vendors (Fred Bowerman, et al. v. Field Asset Services Inc., et al., No. 13-57, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39000).
NEWARK, N.J. - Three drug makers and the three largest pharmacy benefit managers have engaged in a pricing scheme to drive up the cost of diabetes insulin - by more than 150 percent in the last five years - in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, the Sherman Act and numerous state laws, four consumers and Type 1 Diabetes Defense Foundation allege in a March 17 class complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (Julia Boss, et al. v. CVS Health Corporation, et al., No. 17-1823, D. N.J.).
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Plaintiff employees in a decade-long case over a bank's illegal transfer of assets from a 401(k) plan to an Employee Retirement Income Security Act pension plan failed to show that any profit was retained by the bank as a result of the transfer, a North Carolina federal judge ruled March 17 in awarding judgment in favor of the bank on the plaintiffs' accounting-for-profit claim (William L. Pender, et al. v. Bank of America Corp., et al., No. 3:05-cv-00238, W.D. N.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38771).
CARSON CITY, Nev. - Nevada's Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA), which allows employers to pay a lower minimum wage if they provide health benefits, is not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and is not unconstitutionally vague, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled March 16 (Western Cab Company v. The Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, in and for the County of Clark, et al., No. 69408, Nev. Sup., 2017 Nev. LEXIS 16).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Section 3345(b)(1) of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (FVRA) prevents any acting office for an office under this section from serving as a nominee and acting official, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled March 21 (National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, Inc., doing business as Southwest Ambulance, No. 15-1251, U.S. Sup.).
CINCINNATI - A glass factory worker who suffered from bipolar disorder and was fired after losing his temper at work and screaming at co-workers failed to show that his firing constituted violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled March 14 (Michael Waggoner v. Carlex Glass America, LLC, No. 16-6241, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4621).
MIAMI - A Florida federal judge on March 13 compelled arbitration of a sous chef's injury-related claims against the owner of a ship, finding that they directly related to an underlying mandatory arbitration provision in her employment contract but remanded her claims against another vessel owner to a state court for lack of jurisdiction (Linnea Wexler v. Solemates Marine Ltd., et al., No. 16-cv-62704, S.D. Fla., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36376).
DALLAS - A Texas federal judge on March 14 instructed a coalition of insurance associations opposed to the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) new "fiduciary rule" to file a supplemental brief to their emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal of a ruling that the DOL has not exceeded its authority in formulating the new rule and that the new rule does not violate the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Edward Hugler, Acting Secretary of Labor, et al., No. 3:16-cv-1476, consolidated with 3:16-cv-1530, 3:16-cv-1537, N.D. Texas).
SAN FRANCISCO - A motion for a partial stay filed by an employer in a wage-and-hour dispute pursuant to the Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976), doctrine must be denied because it was an attempt to dismiss "the potentially meritorious" claims of a nationwide class, a California federal judge ruled March 13 (Lacey Hernandez, et al. v. Sephora USA, Inc., No. 16-5392, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35758).
BISMARCK, N.D. - A company provided sufficient evidence to support its misappropriation of trade secrets claims against a former employee, a federal judge in North Dakota ruled March 13 in denying the former employee's motion to dismiss (Aggreko LLC v. Guillermo Barreto, et al., No. 16-353, D. N.D., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35573).
LOS ANGELES - A California federal judge on March 10 remanded a class action lawsuit filed by product specialists who assert wage-related claims against a car maker and staffing companies, finding that the amount in controversy did not meet federal jurisdictional requirements (Henry Chen, et al. v. United Talent Agency LLC, et al., No. 17-1848, C.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34960).
CINCINNATI - The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 9 held that an insurer's decision to deny an insured's benefits is supported by substantial evidence notwithstanding the insurer's inherent conflict of interest as both the plan administrator and payer, affirming a lower federal court's decision to uphold the denial of benefits sought under Section 502(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Daniel Collins v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, No. 16-3918, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4322).
ATLANTA - Job discrimination based on an individual's gender nonconformity is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but discrimination based on sexual orientation is not, a divided 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled March 10 (Jameka K. Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, et al., No. 15-15234, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4301).
SEATTLE - A Washington federal judge on March 10 denied a motion to dismiss filed by Costco Wholesale Corp. in a class complaint accusing the retailer of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by failing to provide a full and correct disclosure when requesting authorization to conduct background checks of job applicants (Julius Terrell v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 16-1415, W.D. Wash., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34821).
SAN DIEGO - A California federal judge on March 8 found that former employees, who sold skincare products for various entities, failed to show that a company was the alter ego of other defendants named in the case, granting the owner of the product's motion to dismiss claims for violation of California labor code and California's unfair competition law (UCL) (Candle Horton, et al. v. NeoStrata Company Inc., et al., No. 3:16-CV-02189, S.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34059).
SAN FRANCISCO - A little more than seven months after a class of minor league baseball players was decertified in a lawsuit seeking unpaid wages from the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, its member franchises and former Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig, a California federal magistrate judge granted in part a motion class certification and recertification of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action (Aaron Senne, et al. v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp., et al., No. 14-608, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32949).
ST. LOUIS - An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 9 remanded to Missouri federal court a case in which ABB Inc. fiduciaries were found to have abused their discretion and breached their fiduciary duties in choosing investment options for their 401(k) retirement plans, saying that the lower court seems to have mistook a recommendation on how to measure plan losses (Ronald C. Tussey, et al. v. ABB Inc., et al., No. 15-2792, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4225).