Battoni v. IBEW Local Union 102 Employee Pension Plan, 594 F.3d 230 (3d Cir. 2010)
Two union locals merged. Both had defined benefit pension plans. The details of the plans differed, including whether lump-sum distributions of benefits were allowed. Following the merger of the unions and their pension plans, the merged plan allowed for plan participants who were formerly members of the local whose pension plan permitted lump-sum distributions (Local 675) to continue to receive those distributions based on benefits accrued prior to the merger. Shortly after the merger, the welfare plan of Local 102 (which had also been merged with that of the other local) adopted a rule stating that employees who opted for lump-sum payments of their pension benefits would lose their entitlement to retiree health insurance. This new policy was challenged by a group of plan participants from the former Local 675.
1. What were the legal issues in this case? What did the court decide?
2. Which two things must be shown by plaintiffs to prove that there has been a violation of ERISA’s anti-cutback rule?
3. As the anti-cutback provisions of ERISA apply only to pensions and not to welfare plans, why did changing the conditions under which retiree health care benefits were available run afoul of the anti-cutback rule?
4. In what sense were the accrued pension benefits of these employees reduced?
5. What should the benefit plan have done instead?
Bonus: Should employers offer incentives to their employees to promote workplace safety? If so, how should an incentive program be designed so as to not dissuade employees from reporting workplace injuries?
City of Brighton v. Rodriguez
318 P.3d 496 (Col. 2014)
Employee Rodriguez injured herself at work after falling down a flight of stairs. The stairs were not slippery or obstructed in any way. Rodriguez did not trip, slip or lose her balance, and Rodriguez was not experiencing a headache, neck pain, dizziness, or vision problems. However, after the fall, when she was taken to the hospital, four unruptured aneurysms were discovered on the right side of her brain. The employer maintained that he injury was not compensable because it did not arise out of the employment, and that Rodriguez’ fall was caused either by her aneurysms, or the fall was unexplained. The ALJ found that the aneurysms were not the cause of the fall. The court must decide whether injuries from an unexplained fall in the workplace arose out of employment, and in making that decision, the choice of risk test was key. .
1. What is the legal issue in this case? What did the court decide?
2. What is the distinction between “employment,” “personal,” and “neutral” risks? Why does the court say that this case involves the latter category?
3. What is the “but-for” or “positional risk” test? How does the court apply it to the facts of this case? Would the outcome have been the same if the court had used a “peculiar risk” test? An “increased risk” text? An “actual risk” test? (See the text for explanations of these.) Why or why not?
4. Evaluate the judge’s argument in the dissenting opinion. Is it persuasive? Why or why not?
5. In your view, should employees be eligible for workers’ compensation in cases of “idiopathic” or unexplained falls? Why or why not?
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Employment Law for Human Resource Practice