All three Renaker Hasselman Scott partners have been selected to the 2021 Northern California Super Lawyers list in the Employee Benefits category. Margo Hasselman Greenough and Teresa Renaker also appear on the list of Top 50 Women Northern California Super Lawyers, and Teresa Renaker also appears on the list of Top 100 Northern California Super Lawyers.
The United States District Court for the District of Alaska reconsidered its prior dismissal of state-law claims for professional negligence and negligent misrepresentation in Mabry v. ConocoPhillips Co., in which Renaker Hasselman Scott represents the plaintiff. In Mabry, the plaintiff alleges that the Plan Administrator of the ConocoPhillips Retirement Plan and its outside third-party administrator, Alight Solutions LLC, overstated his pension benefit for many years before his retirement. On July 6, 2021, the Court ordered that Mr. Mabry’s state-law claims can go forward based on the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Bafford v. Northrop Grumman Corp., which holds that such claims are not preempted by ERISA when brought against a non-fiduciary service provider to an ERISA plan.
Read the order here.
In Farah v. Emirates, Renaker Hasselman Scott LLP, Risman & Risman, P.C., and Brustein Law PLLC represent a proposed class of former employees of Emirates airlines who were laid off without severance pay in 2020. In their complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 6, 2021, the plaintiffs allege that Emirates has an ERISA-governed severance plan that requires it to pay benefits of up to 26 weeks’ pay plus subsidized COBRA coverage to employees terminated without cause, but that Emirates has refused to honor this obligation to U.S. employees laid off in 2020. The plaintiffs also allege that Emirates failed to comply with other requirements of ERISA in administering the severance plan, including the requirement to provide a summary plan description. In addition to violations of ERISA, the complaint alleges violations of the New York State Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (NY WARN Act), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law.
For more information on this case, please contact Kirsten Scott, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Teresa Renaker, email@example.com.
Read the complaint here.
On June 28, 2021, the United States Secretary of Labor filed an amicus curiae brief in support of reconsideration of a portion of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Bafford v. Northrop Grumman Corp., in which Renaker Hasselman Scott represents the Plaintiffs/Appellants along with co-counsel Kantor & Kantor LLP. The Bafford plaintiffs’ claims arise from overstatements of their pension benefits that were communicated to them for many years before their retirements, and that continued even after they began receiving their pensions.
In Bafford, the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims against the Administrative Committee of the Northrop Grumman Pension Plan for violations of ERISA Section 105, which requires that an ERISA plan administrator provide pension benefit statements, and against Alight Solutions LLC for professional negligence and negligent misrepresentation under California state law. However, the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims against the Administrative Committee for breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. The Ninth Circuit based its decision on an Interpretive Bulletin issued by the Department of Labor in 1975.
The Bafford plaintiffs seek rehearing as to the dismissal of their breach of fiduciary duty claim. The Secretary of Labor’s brief supports this request, arguing that the Ninth Circuit panel’s decision on this point “rests on a fundamental misconception of fiduciary status under ERISA and the Department of Labor’s interpretive bulletin.”
Read the Secretary’s brief here.
Read the Bafford opinion here.
Kirsten Scott will speak on a panel at the virtual midwinter meeting of the American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law’s Employee Benefits Committee on February 5, 2021. Ms. Scott’s topic will be “ERISA Civil Procedure Update.” On March 18, 2021, Teresa Renaker will address the Orange County chapter of the Western Pension and Benefits Council, providing recommendations from a plaintiffs’ lawyer’s perspective for employee benefits plan sponsors.
Renaker Hasselman Scott successfully represented an employee of a United Food and Commercial Workers local union who participated in the UFCW International Union’s Pension Plan for Employees. The employee was terminated from his union employment after 16 years of service, during which he had contributed to the Pension Plan and vested under its rules. A year later, the local rehired the employee, but it failed to recommence withholding his pension contributions. After three years, the employee realized that his pension contributions were not being withheld. He re-enrolled in the Pension Plan and requested to make up the missing contributions, but the Pension Plan refused to allow him to do so and, when he appealed the decision, refused again. Renaker Hasselman Scott submitted a further appeal, and the Pension Plan agreed to accept the contributions and credit the employee’s service, bringing him to 20 years’ pension service and making him eligible to continue medical benefits when he retires.
Renaker Hasselman Scott and Kantor & Kantor LLP represent a former employee of Helena du Pont Wright in litigation concerning a pension trust established in 1947 by Mary Chichester du Pont Clark. The trust provides pensions to employees of Mary Chichester du Pont Clark’s children and grandchildren, including A. Felix du Pont, Allaire Crozier du Pont, Alice du Pont Mills, Mary Mills Abel Smith, Katharine Gahagan, James Mills, Phyllis Wyeth, Christopher T. du Pont, and Michael du Pont. Positions that may be covered include household employees, secretaries, personal assistants, chauffeurs, stable hands, and grooms, among others.
The litigation seeks to ensure that the pension trust is operated in accordance with the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the federal law that establishes standards for pension plans sponsored by private employers. In June 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware ruled that the pension trust is governed by ERISA.
Generally, ERISA requires that a pension plan provide pensions to employees who work in employment covered by the pension plan for at least five years. ERISA also generally requires that a pension plan provide benefits to the surviving spouses of such employees.
If you believe you may meet the criteria for benefits under the M.C. du Pont Employees Pension Trust, or would like more information about the litigation, please contact Geovanni Cuevas of Kantor & Kantor LLP at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 350-6043, or fill out our contact form.
Renaker Hasselman Scott, together with co-counsel Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and DeBofsky Sherman Casciari Reynolds, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of three former NFL players — Lance Brown, Amon Gordon, and Charles Grant — to protect former players’ disability benefits against drastic reductions provided for by the 2020 NFL collective bargaining agreement. As of January 1, 2015, certain disability benefits were transferred from the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, which does not allow benefit reductions, to the NFL Player Disability and Neurocognitive Benefit Plan, which does allow benefit reductions. The plaintiffs allege that at the time of the transfer, they had already vested in the right to receive disability benefits from the Retirement Plan, and the transfer violated these contractually vested rights. The plaintiffs seek to represent a class of similarly situated players who vested under the Retirement Plan before January 1, 2015, but whose disability benefits are being paid or may be paid in the future from the Disability Plan.
The 2020 collective bargaining agreement calls for amending the Disability Plan to institute a reduction of players’ total and permanent disability benefit amounts by the amount of Social Security disability insurance benefits they receive, beginning January 1, 2021, and eliminate eligibility determinations based on Social Security disability eligibility, effective April 1, 2024, among other changes.
Read the complaint here.
Renaker Hasselman Scott, together with Professor Norman Stein, filed a friend-of-the-court brief (amicus curiae brief) on behalf of seven law professors in The ERISA Industry Committee v. City of Seattle, pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case concerns the ERISA Industry Committee’s challenge to a Seattle ordinance that requires large hotel employers and ancillary businesses to make “healthcare expenditures” on behalf of employees. The expenditures can consist of payments to a third party, such as an insurer, for the purpose of providing healthcare services; or to the employer’s own healthcare plan; or directly to the employees. Rejecting ERIC’s argument that the ordinance is preempted by ERISA, the district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The law professors’ brief urges the Ninth Circuit to affirm the district court’s ruling.
Read the brief here.
Together with the Stanford Religious Liberty Clinic, Renaker Hasselman Scott represents a Los Angeles County employee on claims that the County and the Administrative Committees of its two defined contribution retirement plans unlawfully discriminated against him and violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by refusing his requests to allow him to participate in the plans in a manner consistent with his Muslim religious beliefs. The plaintiff seeks to adhere to tenets of Islamic finance that prohibit certain types of investments, such as investments in alcohol, tobacco, and no-risk bonds. Islamic-compliant mutual funds available on the market conform to these restrictions, but each of the two retirement plans requires that a participant maintain a $25,000 balance in the plan’s “core funds” before he can access mutual fund investments through the plan’s brokerage window, and the core funds do not comply with Islamic finance principles. The plans refused the plaintiff’s requests that they waive or reduce the core funds investment requirement to enable him to participate. The court ruled on November 2, 2020, that claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution may go forward.
The case is Syed v. County of Los Angeles, No 2:19-cv-10410-GW-KES (C.D. Cal.).