Texas Justices Wrestle with Definition of “Employee”

In a coverage dispute between contractors, the Texas Supreme Court questioned how broadly the court should interpret the word "employee" under the Texas Anti-Indemnity Act (“TAIA”). One defendant, a crane company called Maxim Crane Works LPl, urged the court to adopt a definition that would result in Zurich American Insurance Co. paying $3.8 million in legal bills. The court pondered the definition of “employee” Read More

Interest Rate Smoothing and Disaster Relief Provisions Expanded Under the IIJA

On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the “IIJA”) into law. The President stated that the public would start seeing the infrastructure package’s effects within the next two to three months. A group of bipartisan Senators reached an agreement with the Biden Administration on an infrastructure package that contains various elements of the President’s American Jobs Read More

Department of Labor Proposes New Formula For H-2A Guest Worker Wages

As December began, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) proposed a modified formula for calculating minimum wages for agricultural guest workers on H-2A visas. The proposal was necessitated by a federal judge in California striking down a prior proposal in December 2020 for the DOL failing to provide sufficient justification for two fundamental changes. The new proposal mirrors most of the previous methodology but Read More

Department of Labor Focuses on Misuse of Plan Participant Data

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has increased its focus on the cybersecurity practices of plan sponsors and their service providers. As a result, the DOL has started to ask comprehensive cybersecurity questions in plan audits. It seems apparent that the DOL is concerned with the misuse of confidential participant data, in addition to the theft of plan data or assets. The DOL has focused on the practice of some Read More

5th Circuit Panel Affirms OSHA Fine Imposed Against Business For Employee’s Willful Conduct

A Fifth Circuit panel affirmed a $35,000 fine imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fine against a Texas highway construction business. The split panel found that the business may be held liable for the willful acts of an employee. Under the facts of this case, the act in question is a project foreman’s intentional disregard for required job site safety measures. The 2-1 panel upheld the Read More

LinkedIn Employees Must Rework Proposed Class Action Lawsuit Under ERISA

In November 2021, a California federal court dismissed a suit claiming that LinkedIn Corp. kept underperforming funds in its $817 million retirement fund. The judge in the case, in re: LinkedIn ERISA Litigation, (5:20-cv-05704), U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal.), U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila, dismissed the proposed class action but with leave to amend and add additional facts. Plan participants Douglas G. Read More

SECURE Act Eliminates Need to Adopt Retirement Plans and ESOPs by the End of 2021 for Tax Deduction Purposes

Before 2020, the IRS historically mandated that an employer must adopt an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), and any other retirement plan, no later than the end of the first tax year in which the employer wanted to claim a deduction for plan contributions. Effective December 31, 2019, Section 201 of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (“SECURE Act”) extended this deadline from Read More

Kroger Fights Allegations of Broken Promises to Employees

Quentin and Marie Smith sued Kroger and a union health insurance plan that serves Kroger employees, including Quentin, in an Arkansas state court in July 2021. The suit makes allegations that include breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) violations, and it was removed to federal court in November. As December began, Kroger moved Read More

HHS Announces Final Rule on Civil Monetary Penalties for HIPAA, MSP, and SBC Violations

Effective November 15, 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a final rule finalizing the provisions of the September 6, 2016, interim final rule that adjusted the maximum civil monetary penalty (CMP) amounts, for inflation, for all agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. These include penalties that apply to violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Read More

Department of Justice’s 1st Wage-Fixing Case Survives Motion to Dismiss

In December 2020, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Neeraj Jindal, the former owner of a therapist staffing company, for participating in a price-fixing conspiracy to lower the rates paid to physical therapists and their assistants in north Texas. The case avoided its first challenge in late November 2021.  when a federal district court in Sherman, Texas declined to grant the defendants’ motion to Read More