As the economy continues to shift from a culture of full-time employment to an on-demand "gig" marketplace, the landscape of workers' rights is also changing. Working as an independent contractor rather than an employee allows a worker more flexibility and autonomy in their work schedule, among other things, but that may come at the cost of losing certain benefits. It's crucial to understand how the legal rights of workers who are considered "employees" are different from those who are considered independent contractors such as consultants, short-term contract workers, and freelancers.
Here's a nice case for the New Year: a win for a class of Panera Bread store managers who claimed that the operation cheated them out of part of their bonus, by imposing a cap on the amount that could be earned only after the program commenced. The panel majority holds that once the managers performed any service under the terms of the bonus plan, it formed a unilateral contract that the employer could not modify without consent.
On June 9, the long-awaited revised "fiduciary rule" from the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") went into partial effect and will be in full force as of January 1, 2018. After nearly a decade, and much political wrangling, the updated rule ushers in sweeping changes regarding the duties and responsibilities financial advisors and others owe their clients.
Illinois recently enacted legislation purportedly giving workers across the state greater flexibility when using their sick leave benefits. The Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act, which takes effect on January 1, 2017, is a noble attempt to balance people's family caregiving duties with their job responsibilities, but to many, its protections don't go far enough.
When a retirement plan manages employees' money, it also has a responsibility to keep an eye on the expenses that can quietly erode away earnings. The Eighth Circuit affirms an ERISA breach of fiduciary duty judgment against two retirement plans for allowing its recordkeeper to overcharge the fund for services, and orders the return of $13.4 million. The court nonetheless vacates for further proceedings a claim for inappropriate investment options, and reverses (over a dissent) a judgment that the plan recordkeeper converted short-term funds (a "float") to non-plan purposes.
A senior executive wins a jury trial for retaliation under the ADEA and Massachusetts state law, with an award of back and front pay, emotional distress damages and liquidated (double) damages. The First Circuit substantially preserves the judgment against the employer and affirms injunctive relief to restore plaintiff to the company's benefit plans, though it tamps down the compensatory damage award on grounds of excessiveness.