Hawaii Employment Law Cases September 3, 2017 to September 9, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

District Court improperly granted summary judgment against claim plan administrator misrepresented lifetime benefit maximum.  Although ERISA (as amended by Affordable Care Act) did not ban lifetime benefit maximums retiree-only plans, the Summary Plan Description, as amended by the 2010 Summary of Modifications, violated ERISA disclosure requirements.  Whether the Summary of Modifications violated ERISA disclosure requirements was a distinct inquiry from whether the plan administrator abused its discretion and whether the reasonable expectations doctrine applied.  Since the administrator had the authority to grant, deny, and review denied claims, he had fiduciary status.  A reasonable juror could conclude that the administrator made misrepresentations to the beneficiary about the lifetime benefit maximum.  King v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ill., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17387 (9th Cir. Sept. 8, 2017).

An employee who received tips as a server could not state minimum wage claim under 29 U.S.C. § 206(a).  Dispersed and generally assigned duties such as cleaning, performed intermittently during the work shift and intermingled with tip-generating duties, comprised a dual job under 29 U.S.C. § 203(t) and 29 C.F.R. § 531.56(e).  The duties were consistent with employment in a single tipped occupation, for which Section 203(m) allowed the employer to take a tip credit.  The Court of Appeals rejected the contrary interpretation by the U.S. Department of Labor, which had the effect of requiring employers to engage in time tracking and accounting for minutes spent in diverse tasks before claiming a tip credit.  Marsh v. J. Alexander’s LLC, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17199 (9th Cir. Sept. 6, 2017).

Former employee was not entitled to new trial on hostile work environment claim.  District Court gave clear instructions on how statute of limitations affected former employee’s claims.  Opposing counsel’s statements about how some actions were outside the limitations period did not mislead jury.  Not providing jurors with copies of two exhibits they repeatedly viewed at trail did not prejudice employee.  Yousefi v. Delta Elec. Motors Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17216 (Sept. 6, 2017).

U.S. District Court for District of Hawaii

District Court awarded class-action representative $10,000 incentive payment for time she spent on case.  Adams v. City and Cty. of Honolulu, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143418 (D. Haw. Sept. 5, 2017).

Note: We analyze cases to learn rules courts will follow or disappoint us if they do not. Rules courts follow allow us to behave and provide explanations they accept. Competent advocates may limit the rules to the facts of the case that discuss them, or expand the rules by showing differences in other cases are irrelevant.