U.S. Supreme Court Weighs In Regarding Suits for Individual Injuries Under ERISA

Posted on February 21, 2008 by Ann Caresani

As we mentioned in our recent post regarding the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Tullis v. UMB Bank, the U. S. Supreme Court agreed to resolve a circuit split regarding the viability of ERISA lawsuits that seek damages for individual – as opposed to plan – injuries. Just yesterday, the Court issued its ruling and, in so doing, endorsed the approach taken by the Sixth Circuit in Tullis.

In particular, the Court ruled in LaRue v. DeWollf, Boberg & Assoc., Inc. that, although ERISA Section 502(a)(2) does not provide a remedy for individual injuries distinct from plan injuries, that provision does authorize recovery for fiduciary breaches that impair the value of plan assets in a participant’s individual account.  In reaching this decision, the Court needed to reconcile its 1985 holding in Massachusetts Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Russell – i.e. that a disability plan participant entitled to a specified benefit could not bring suit under 502(a)(2) to recover consequential damages arising from delay in processing her claim. In doing so, the Court noted that the "landscape has changed." Specifically, the Court explained that individual participant account balance plans have become prevalent and, regardless of whether a fiduciary breach diminishes plan assets payable to all participants or only to a particular individual account, such a breach creates the kind of harm that concerned the draftsmen of ERISA’s fiduciary breach provisions. Continue Reading…

State-Fund Employer Left Holding the Bag for Unwanted Settlement

Posted on February 20, 2008 by Darin Van Vlerah

A recent appellate decision demonstrates the necessity for state-fund employers to retain legal counsel to protect their interests when a workers’ compensation claim is appealed to state court. In Smith v. Kaleal, 2007-Ohio-6560, (11th Dist. Lake County), the claimant, Christopher Smith, filed a workers’ compensation claim against his employer, Dan Kaleal, owner of All Occasion Limousine, Inc. Smith’s claim was denied administratively by the Industrial Commission of Ohio, and he filed a notice of appeal and complaint in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas naming both the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and Kaleal as defendants.  Continue Reading…

NLRB General Counsel Issues Two Memoranda Good For Employer "Salt" Free Diets

Posted on February 20, 2008 by Franck Wobst

“Salting” is an organizing tactic in which union supporters seek employment at a non-union employer with the goal of organizing the workforce once hired. For many years, unions used salts as an effective tool to organize non-union workforces, particularly in the construction industry. In 2007, the NLRB issued two decisions (both by 3-to-2 margins), which limited the effectiveness of salts. Last week, the office of the NLRB’s General Counsel issued two Memoranda to its Regional Offices that provide insight into how the NLRB will investigate and litigate salting cases under the  new standards.

Bad Timing? Sixth Circuit Holds That Timing May Be Enough To Establish Retaliation

Posted on February 19, 2008 by Jaime Powell

Many employers already walk on eggshells when it comes to dealing with employees who file discrimination charges against them, but they have always been able to rely on the common tenet in retaliation cases that temporal proximity, standing alone, will not establish retaliation. In Mickey v. Zeidler Tool & Die Co., however, the Sixth Circuit held that, “[w]here an adverse employment action occurs very close in time after an employer learns of a protected activity,” the timing of those events is “significant enough to constitute evidence of a causal connection for the purposes of satisfying a prima facie case of retaliation.” Though the majority opinion offers no guidance on what it means by “very close,” a concurring opinion from Judge Batcheldor suggests that, for the case to proceed to a jury solely on evidence of timing, that timing must be so close as to have been “virtually contemporaneous.” Continue Reading…

Porter Wright to Present at FMLA Master Class in Columbus on March 5 and in Cleveland on March 11

Recent FMLA court decisions have SIGNIFICANTLY changed the way you must manage employee leave in Ohio.

Are you sure you know which situations NOW qualify for FMLA leave… and which don’t? Are you afraid you’ll fail to manage FMLA properly…and leave your organization wide open for lawsuits?

Now you can master even the most confusing, most complicated FMLA situations. Register now for the one-day seminar ‘FMLA Master Class: An Advanced Interactive Workshop for Ohio Employers,’ coming to Columbus on Wednesday, March 5 and coming to Independence on Tuesday, March 11. Continue reading . . .