Labor Law

  • June 5, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Likely the most powerful court decision so far this year involving the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found that employers of a technologies company breached a fiduciary duty to take action to protect employees’ 401(k) plans from hidden fees that, as The New York Times has reported, can significantly harm workers’ retirements.

    In the case, Tussey v. ABB, Inc., a three-judge panel of Eighth Circuit largely agreed with a lower court opinion that the technologies company mishandled their employees’ 401(k), breaching fiduciary duties as detailed in ERISA.

    Writing for the majority opinion, Chief Judge William Jay Riley, citing 8th Circuit precedent, wrote that ERISA “imposes upon fiduciaries twin duties of loyalty and prudence, requiring them to act ‘solely in the interest of [plan] participants and beneficiaries’ and to carry out their duties ‘with care, skill, prudence, and diligence under the circumstances then prevailing that a prudent man acting in a like capacity and familiar with such matters would use in the conduct of an enterprise of like character and with like aims.’”

    Reporting for The New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson, wrote that the “significance of this ruling extends far beyond ABB. It sends a powerful message to plan sponsors everywhere: if you think you’ve done your fiduciary duty simply by offering low-cost funds as investment options, think again.”

    In late May, the entire 8th Circuit refused to rehear the three-judge panel’s ruling in Tussey. The Tussey opinion is available here.  

  • May 15, 2014
     
    At The Daily BeastGeoffrey R. Stone, former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter as well as Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapter, discusses how we can “trace unequal education funding back to a horrendous, little-remembered 1973 [Supreme Court] decision.”

    Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Lesli A. Maxwell at Education Week explains why “school diversity remains more complex than ever.”

    Amanda Holpuch at The Guardian comments on a report by Human Rights Watch which shows how young children who are “planting, weeding, and harvesting nicotine plants” are being “endangered by nicotine exposure in tobacco fields.”

    At the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Judith E. Schaeffer notes that “when it comes to marriage discrimination, the Commonwealth of Virginia has a great deal to learn from its own history.”

    Writing for CNN, Eric Segall urges the Supreme Court to televise its oral arguments and argues why life tenures for the justices must be removed. 

  • February 27, 2014
     
    In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. said that the Department of Justice notified defendants whose information had been “obtained or derived from” the Section 702 surveillance program. However, the DOJ’s claims were found to be untrue. Writing for The Intercept, Dan Novack reports on the implications of this “false assurance” to the high court.
     
    Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers after politicians, business owners and even the 2015 Super Bowl host committee protested the controversial bill. Aaron Blake of The Washington Post comments on the governor’s decision.
     
    A federal district court judge in Texas declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ban, enacted in 2005 by popular referendum, was held to violate the Fourteenth Amendment by U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia. Manny Fernandez of The New York Times has the story.
     
    The Supreme Court could soon rule on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. David Early and Avram Billig at the Brennan Center for Justice break down the five decisions that have shaped campaign finance law.
     
    Liz Watson at Womenstake explains how the Maryland Fair Employment Preservation Act would ensure that “all workers in Maryland have an effective remedy from supervisor harassment.”
  • February 25, 2014
     
    The Supreme Court held yesterday that an Alabama death row inmate had “constitutionally deficient” counsel at trial. The Court agreed that Anthony Hinton, who was convicted of two 1985 murders, “is entitled to a new trial if he was prejudiced by his lawyer's deficient performance.” The Equal Justice Initiative reports on the case and includes the per curiam opinion.
     
    The New York Times editorial board calls on the Obama administration to address the lack of due process for federal immigrant detainees who are being held without bond hearings. The paper cites a plethora of cases involving the detention of immigrants without hearings or formal charges—evidence of a broken immigration system.
     
    The United Automobile Workers filed a formal objection with the National Labor Relations Board after Volkswagen workers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant decided not to join the UAW. Lydia DePillis at The Washington Post considers the possibility that the UAW “get a do-over in Chattanooga.”
     
    In an article for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin argues why Clarence Thomas’ behavior on the bench is “demeaning the Court.”
     
    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund notes a significant victory for voting rights in Fayette County, Georgia.  
  • February 21, 2014
     
    Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that allows businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers and to deny equal pay to women. GOP lawmakers are fervently defending the legislation, claiming that it protects the religious freedoms outlined in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. MSNBC’s Adam Serwer reports on the controversial law.
     
    Oregon officials announced that they will no longer uphold the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Although the fate of the ban has yet to be decided in the courts, the state’s decision remains a significant victory for gay couples in Oregon. Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog has the story.
     
    Environmentalists are engaged in a legal dispute with the Environmental Protection Agency after a North Carolina energy company polluted a nearby river with hazardous coal ash. Rena Steinzor and Michael Patoka of the CPRBlog discuss the need to regulate toxic coal ash and the alleged mishandling by the state’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
     
    Human Rights Watch explains why a deadly U.S. drone strike on a wedding procession in Yemen may have “violated the laws of war.”
     
    Writing for Balkinization, David Gans responds to Prof. Douglas Laycock’s claim that corporations can exercise religion.
     
    At Womenstake, Stephanie Glover provides an update on women’s enrollment in health insurance plans through the new Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act.