Since the Steelworkers Trilogy of 1960, the Supreme Court has furthered the private justice system by liberally interpreting the scope of arbitration agreements. The Third Circuit, in a case applying New Jersey law, however, may have recently narrowed the scope of those decisions within its jurisdiction. In Moon v. Breathless, Inc., the Circuit had to determine whether a statutory claim was covered by an arbitration agreement or could be brought in court. The individual bringing the claim had signed an independent contractor agreement which contained a standard arbitration clause covering all disputes arising under the agreement. Nevertheless, the individual wanted to bring in court a statutory (FLSA) claim based on their asserted employee status. The Circuit was called upon to determine whether, under the breadth of the arbitration clause, the statutory claim, which on its face was inconsistent with the independent contractor agreement, could be brought in court or must be resolved in arbitration.
A pension plan participant’s challenge to his benefit amount was recently struck down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The court acknowledged that retirement plans are complex documents comprised of hundreds of pages, appendices, and “peculiarities.” The issue on appeal before the court was examining whether the terms of the plan were merely complex or ambiguous.
On July 26, 2017, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting public comment on the Fair Labor Standard Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime requirements for certain executive, administrative, outside sales, and computer employees. The DOL will likely use the feedback it receives to assist with formulating a proposal to revise the overtime regulations.
During the 2016 Regular Session of the West Virginia Legislature, Senate Bill 1 – otherwise known as the “West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act” – became law after that Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto on February 12, 2016. Or so everyone thought. A number of labor organizations sought an injunction prohibiting the law’s enforcement just four days before the Workplace Freedom Act took effect on July 1, 2016, with a filing in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia.
On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court in Advocate Health Care Network, et al. v. Stapleton et al., 581 U.S. ___ (2017), answered whether a church must have originally established an employee benefit plan for it to qualify as an exempted “church plan” under ERISA, to which the Supreme Court answered, no. The Supreme Court held that “a plan maintained by a ‘principal purpose organization’ qualifies as a ‘church plan,’ regardless of who established it.”
As we previously discussed here, in November of 2016, a Texas federal judge granted a nationwide injunction to prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from increasing the minimum salary threshold for employees exempt from the overtime requirement. The Labor Department appealed the decision, but briefing was stayed to allow the new administration to form a stance on the policy. In its recent briefing, Trump’s Department of Labor indicated that it intends to consider raising this threshold, but that the spike formulated by the Obama administration was too high, and the DOL would not defend or enforce that new threshold.
From the time Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 until earlier this year, federal courts have consistently held that the Act’s protections against employment discrimination did not apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, in March, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana) became the first court to rule the other way, holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. What has occurred in federal courts in the wake of that decision, however, has only muddied the waters.
Like most states, Pennsylvania has a Wage Payment and Collection Law. This law requires employers, on regular pay days designated in advance, to pay wages owed either by lawful money of the United States or by check. The Act defines the term check as a “draft.” While the terms “draft” and “lawful money” are not defined, the common definition of these terms accepted by the courts respectively is an unconditional written order signed by one person directing another to be paid, and officially coined or stamped currency. Obviously, in 1961 when the Act was written, the legislature did not contemplate today’s e-economy or the use of payroll debit cards.