While ERISA does not provide a limitations period for most claims, it does impose a three-year limitations period after discovery of a breach of fiduciary duty, plus a six-year period of repose. Yet the statute also provides that "in the case of fraud or concealment, such action may be commenced not later than six years after the date of discovery of such breach or violation." The Tenth Circuit examined this quoted language today, and remanded parts of a class action to be reconsidered under this provision.
Even imperfect employees, we are reminded, are protected by anti-discrimination laws. The First Circuit holds that the district court too quickly credited the employer's reliance on the plaintiff's disciplinary history when it fired him, without looking behind the record to see if the hotel genuinely believed that the offenses were serious enough to warrant termination.
The Eighth Circuit reverses summary judgment in this ADEA and Minnesota Human Rights Act case, holding that a jury could find that the city's failure to promote the city's lieutenant to Chief of Police was motivated by age. Importantly, it notes that an employer that assumes that people who are retirement-eligible are "uncommitted" to a promotion are skating on thin-ice.
A rare "color" discrimination case under Title VII makes its way up on appeal. The district court, erroneously treating the case as one of race discrimination, granted summary judgment - but the Fifth Circuit reverses in a terse six-page opinion. The evidence included an affidavit from a former employee stating that casino management would not let "a dark skinned black person handle any money," and "that they thought Esma Etienne was too black to do various tasks at the casino."
Employers have often argued that the Equal Pay Act does not apply if the male and female comparable employees spend significant amounts of time on different tasks. Yet the Tenth Circuit today affirmed that if a female employee performs additional duties beyond a male comparator, that fact does not defeat the employee's prima facie case under the EPA.
Effective January 1, 2015 the pregnancy discrimination and accommodation amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) became law, requiring many employers in the state to update or change their policies with respect to expecting and new mothers in the workplace.
Coverage Highlights: All private, non-religious employers in Illinois, regardless of the number of employees, are covered by the pregnancy amendments to the IHRA. The amendments to the IHRA establish, for the first time, pregnancy as a legally-protected class and define the term "pregnancy" broadly to include: "pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth." Accordingly, the amendments apply to employees and applicants who are expecting and who recently gave birth.
Over the long holiday weekend, the Fifth Circuit issued the first EEO case of the year, one that points up an important federal pleading lesson in the era of Iqbal and Twombly. To wit, if you anticipate seeking a default judgment, make sure that your discrimination complaint is as complete as possible. The Fifth Circuit holds (2-1), in a matter of first impression, that deficiencies in a complaint cannot be cured by live testimony in a default judgment hearing. The court concludes, in the present case, that while the plaintiff presented a plausible case of age discrimination at the hearing, the complaint itself was insufficient to support the judgment.
Closing out the year, here's a valuable reminder from the Fourth Circuit that the decision of whether an employee has objectively suffered severe or pervasive harassment belongs to the jury, not the district court judge. The panel reverses summary judgment, on facts that the opinion recognizes are "close to the line," recognizing that important judgment calls on fact-finding and credibility cannot be resolved without a trial.
This class action, now over 13 years old - with a liability finding against CIGNA and its pension plan under ERISA for cutting back and misrepresenting benefits under an amended plan - returns from the U.S. Supreme Court to determine what kind of relief should be ordered. The Second Circuit affirms, holding that the district court properly reformed the pension plan to preserve all of the benefits earned under the pre-amended plan, up to the date of the amendment. The court also upholds the class certification order.
For anyone under a misimpression that our nation has totally vanquished racial discrimination in employment, the Second Circuit today affirms a $1.32 million compensatory award by a jury to an African-American employee subjected to scarifying harassment at a steel plant. It also upholds a punitive-damage verdict, though it orders a remittitur of the award of no more than a 2:1 ratio with compensatory damages (about $2.65 million).