ERISA and Employment Litigation
Practice Leaders: Jonathan Kane
Labor and Employment Practice
Employee Benefits Practice
Commercial Litigation Practice
Employees and beneficiaries increasingly are suing their employers and employee benefits plans for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties, benefits, discrimination and wrongful termination. Pepper Hamilton LLP has a long history of representing employers and benefits plans in such complex employment-related matters in class and individual actions.
To meet these changing and often overlapping claims, lawyers in Pepper’s ERISA and Employment Litigation Group combine the experience, knowledge and abilities of the firm’s Commercial Litigation, Labor and Employment, and Employee Benefits Practice Groups to represent employers, fiduciary liability and plan insurers, service providers, multiemployer plan trustees and plan sponsors in all types of litigation arising from the employment relationship.
Pepper lawyers handle all aspects of ERISA litigation, including benefits claims, breach of fiduciary duty claims, discrimination claims and issues relating to preemption, qualified and non-qualified benefit plans, prohibited transactions, executive compensation, IRAs, ESOPs, profit-sharing, 401(k) plans and multiemployer plans, and withdrawal liability. We are experienced with cafeteria, dependent care assistance, fringe benefit and voluntary employees’ benefits association plans.
Our lawyers also handle compliance assistance, counseling, DOL and PBGC investigations, dispute resolution before various government agencies, audits of health, welfare and pension benefit plans, cost containment and representation of clients before the legislative and executive branches.
In addition to ERISA matters, lawyers in our ERISA and Employment Litigation Group handle other labor and employment matters, including employment discrimination, breach of contract claims and wrongful discharge litigation. Our lawyers have significant experience litigating claims and trying cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, OSHA, WARN and comparable state laws, as well as other claims often resulting from the termination of the employment relationship, including defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and interference with contractual relations.
Lawyers in the group also have substantial experience representing employers and employees on both sides of non-compete, unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets claims.
Our ERISA and employment litigators regularly appear in federal district courts, courts of appeals and state courts in all jurisdictions, handling the defense of class and representative actions and multi-district litigation matters, as well as individual and multiple-plaintiff actions. Recognizing that a litigation “victory” may not always be consistent with a “winning” business solution, lawyers in our ERISA and Employment Litigation Group use the litigation environment to help each client achieve its desired business objectives.
Engagements representative of Pepper’s ERISA and employment litigation practice include the following.
Current matters include representing:
- an international pharmaceutical company against class action claims of “leased” employees for benefits and alleged breaches of fiduciary duties
- a national automobile finance company against class action race discrimination claims
- a national automobile finance company against a representative race discrimination claim
- a large East Coast retailer against class action race discrimination claims
- numerous clients against claims for benefits, including a major automobile manufacturer’s health benefits program in a subrogation matter
- a large consulting company in benefits and breach of fiduciary duty claims
- an employer’s group disability plan in an action challenging an insurer’s denial of benefits
- an insurance company against claims brought by medical providers to recover unpaid medical bills to group health plan participants
- numerous clients against withdrawal liability claims
- numerous clients in issues relating to top-hat plans
- a major communications company regarding post-merger interpretation and administration of a severance plan
- an international glass manufacturer against claims for age discrimination, wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress
- numerous clients in injunction actions relating to enforcement of restrictive covenants and disclosure of confidential information.
Recently concluded matters include:
- successful settlement involving a dispute over payments made under an employee health plan, Select Specialty Hospital – Macomb, Inc. vs. Flex-N-Gate Health and Wealth Plan, and Flex-N-Gate Inc., Case No. 2:07-cv-13880 (E.D. Michigan)
- successful settlement of a major manufacturing company in an ERISA case filed by seven former employees who claimed they were terminated to deprive them of ERISA-protected benefits, (E.D. Pa.); case in now on appeal
- successful representation of a major orthopedic care provider in an ERISA claim by a former employee who was denied long-term disability benefits based on the provider’s alleged negligence in failing to reenroll her when it changed insurance programs, (E.D. Pa.); summary judgment was granted and the case was settled on appeal
- successful representation of ERISA plan in a case involving a subordination of benefits stemming from conflicting coordination of benefits/subordination provisions contained in an ERISA covered employee health plan and a no-fault automobile insurance policy; case was dismissed at summary judgment, Hansen v. Auto Club Insurance Asso. v. Northrop Grumman Corp., Case No. 04-437300-NP (Wayne County Circuit Court 2007)
- successful representation of an entertainment industry plan’s trustees accused of breach of fiduciary duty; as a result of Pepper’s motions for summary judgment and Rule 11, plaintiff’s counsel withdrew and the matter was dismissed with prejudice
- obtained summary judgment for a leading office services company in an action asserting claims relating to the termination of a top-hat plan providing deferred compensation benefits and life insurance benefits under split-dollar policies, Holcomb v. IKON Office Solutions, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:03-CV-106 (D. Vt.)
- successful settlement through early mediation (before extensive discovery was undertaken) for a manufacturing company involving reimbursement for delayed claims
- successful settlement following focused discovery of class action WARN Act claims
- obtained dismissal of action against investment management company for wrongful termination and defamation
- defense verdict for a large retailer in a race discrimination claim
- obtained dismissal of a race discrimination claim for a large building materials supplier, Walden v. Saint Gobain Corp., 323 F. Supp. 2d 637 (2004)
- obtained dismissal of numerous discrimination claims for a major railroad, Eckhaus v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25045 (D.N.J. Dec. 24, 2003)
- successfully represented client in a high-profile AIDS discrimination action
- obtained dismissal of action against a large human resources company involving interpretation of a severance agreement that provided for severance only if the termination was for “cause,” Joy v. Hay Group, Inc., U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5448 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2004) (appeal pending)
- obtained dismissal of action against a large human resources company involving enforcement of a restrictive covenant, Joy v. Jay Group, Inc., U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5448 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2004)
- obtained dismissal of action alleging breach of restrictive covenant and intentional interference with contractual relations, Nova CTI Caribbean v. Edwards, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 8, 2004)
- obtained a preliminary injunction enforcing a non-compete agreement against a high-ranking former employee.
Reported and unreported decisions in cases Pepper has handled include:
- Cella v. Villanova University and ARAMARK Facility Services, Inc., Civ. A. No. 01-cv-7181, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2191 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 12, 2003), affirmed, ___F.3d___(3d Cir. 2004), successfully represented client, obtaining summary judgment on claim of disability discrimination
- Ercole v. Coventry Health Plan & Conectiv, C.A. No. 03-186 (D. Del. Feb. 2003), successfully represented client, defeating motion for temporary restraining order seeking to force plan to pre-authorize coverage for experimental medical treatment
- Anderson, et al. v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, No. 98-6043, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4847 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 7, 1999), aff’d, 297 F.3d 242 (3d Cir. 2002), successfully defended client against multiple plaintiff “mass” action claims regarding various alleged ERISA violations, including interference with benefits, breach of fiduciary duty and benefits claims, relating to discharges as part of company-wide reduction in force
- Post v. Hartford Life & Accident, Ins. Co., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23384 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 6, 2002), successfully obtained dismissal of four out of five claims
- Bower v. Hartford Ins. Co. and Buck Consultants, Inc., No. 3:01CV303 (D. Conn. 2002), obtained dismissal of class action complaint brought on behalf of state employees who challenged the allegedly unreasonable amount of time that pension plan investment funds were frozen while the state changed investment options for its employees
- Siemens Medical Solutions Health Services Corp. v. Carmelengo, 167 F. Supp. 2d 752 (2001), obtained preliminary injunction enforcing non-compete agreement against former employee
- Bowman v. Rubel, No. 01-2605 (D. N.J. 2001), successfully defeated attempt by union trustees of multiemployer welfare fund to enjoin employer trustees from pursuing deadlock arbitration
- Bunnion v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 108 F. Supp. 2d 403 (E.D. Pa. 1998), aff'd, 230 F.3d 1348, (3d Cir. 2000), summary judgment in favor of employer in class action alleging ERISA fiduciary misrepresentation and age discrimination claims arising out of voluntary separation incentive program
- In re Unisys Savings Plan Lit., 173 F.3d 145 (3d Cir. 1999), successfully defended client against class action claims regarding acquisition of $217 million in pension guaranteed investment contracts
- Bennett v. Conrail Matched Savings Plan Admin. Comm., 168 F.3d 671 (3d Cir. 1999), successfully defended client against ESOP claims and related ERISA class action claims relating to allocation of assets following sale of company
- Gruber v. Hubbard Bert Karle Weber, Inc., 159 F.3d 780 (3d Cir. 1998), successfully represented insurer in multiple appeals to obtain ERISA preemption of state claims settled by plaintiffs and defendants
- Skoogfors v. Bryn Mawr College, Civ. A. No. 97-7218, 1998 WL 386233 (E.D. Pa. June 24, 1998), successfully defended college against claim for benefits
- Walling v. Brady, 125 F.3d 114 (3d Cir. 1997), represented a group of multiemployer pension plans as amicus curiae in successfully arguing that plan trustees should not be subjected to ERISA’s fiduciary standards when designing plan benefits
- Radell v. Towers Perrin, 172 F.R.D. 317 (N.D. Ill. 1997), successfully opposed certification of class action in claim arising out of pension plan’s purchase of GICs issued by Confederation Life Insurance Company; complaint later withdrawn
- Texas Life, Accident, Health & Hosp. Service Ins. Guar. Ass’n v. Gaylord Entertainment Co., 105 F.3d 215 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 521 U.S. 1113 (1997), successfully defended client against fiduciary breach claims
- Gillis v. Hoechst Celanese Corp., 889 F. Supp. 202 (E.D. Pa. 1995), aff’d, 103 F.3d 112 (3d Cir. 1996), successfully defended client against class action claims regarding alleged underfunding of pension asset transfer and severance benefits
- Engelhart v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 1996 WL5526726 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 18, 1996), aff’d, 127 F.3d 1095 (3d Cir. Aug. 5, 1997), successfully defended client against numerous class action claims regarding fiduciaries’ alleged misuse of pension surplus, wrongful elimination of early retirement subsidies and improper offset of Railroad Retirement Board benefits
- Wassil v. Advanced Technology Laboratories, Inc., No. 95-6777, 1996 WL 238688 (E.D. Pa. May 7, 1996), successfully defended client against state law fraud, contract and unjust enrichment claims, on preemption grounds, arising from denial of benefits under a top-hat pension plan
- Haberern v. Kaupp Vascular Surgeons Ltd. Defined Benefit Pension Plan, 24 F.3d 1491 (3d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1149 (1995), successfully represented employer and plan on appeal to reverse substantial verdict in favor of former employee
- Research & Trading Corp. v. Pfuhl, 1992 Del. Ch. LEXIS 234 (1992), in a leading Delaware case, obtained injunction against former president, vice president of sales and chief financial officer who started competing company.
Pepper’s ERISA and employment litigators lecture and speak on employee benefits and employment issues before numerous organizations, including the Glasser ERISA Litigation Conference, the American Bar Association, state and local bar associations, and human resources groups. We give programs to our clients and their executives and administrators to help them understand and comply with the rapidly changing court decisions, laws and regulations in this complex and evolving field.