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Supreme Court Strikes Down Contraceptive Mandate for Certain Closely-Held Corporations

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. was announced on June 30.  The Court held that the regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) under the Affordable Care Act (the “Act”), which require the group health plans of applicable large employers (generally 50 or more full-time employees) to provide their female employees with no-cost access to contraceptives, violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) as applied to the plans of closely-held for-profit corporations with sincerely held religious beliefs relating to contraceptives. Background As part of the Act’s requirement that group health plans of applicable large employers must provide “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements,” HHS issued regulations requiring full coverage of the 20 contraceptive methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  The plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby objected to four of the required… Continue Reading

IRS Says Same-Sex Marriages Are Marriages for Tax Purposes No Matter the State of Residence

Recently, the IRS and Treasury Department announced that same-sex couples would be treated as married for all federal income tax purposes if the couple was legally married in a state or jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage (regardless of their state of residence).  This is consistent with the IRS’s treatment of common law marriages as set out in IRS Revenue Ruling 58-66.  Rev. Rul. 2013-17 can be found here.

The Demise of DOMA’s Core: Employer Response Avenues in the Wake of Windsor

Since the ruling in United States v. Windsor on June 26, 2013, employers have been trying to determine what this means for their employees and their employee benefits.  While many unanswered questions remain, there are some actions employers can take now.  You can find our recent alert discussing the Windsor decision, the issues facing employers and plan sponsors, and steps employers can take now here.

Supreme Court Overrules Section 3 of DOMA

As you have probably already heard, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in U.S. v. Windsor today declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.  Section 3 of DOMA was the provision that defined “marriage” as between a man and woman for federal law purposes.  We are currently analyzing how this decision will impact employee benefit plans, including tax and payroll issues associated with provision of health benefits, beneficiary designation issues under retirement plans, distribution rights, treatment of domestic partners versus spouses, QDROs, and the definition of spouse under the plans.  Employers have time to comply with the decision.  We will continue to post updates on issues employers should be considering.

Supreme Court Holds that a Plan’s Clear Terms Prevail in Reimbursement Action

On April 16, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in US Airways, Inc. v. McCutchen. In its opinion, the Court addressed whether equitable doctrines derived from the principle of unjust enrichment can override the clear terms of an ERISA benefit plan regarding rights to reimbursement from a third-party recovery. Mr. McCutchen was a participant in the US Airways group health plan (the “Plan”), which was governed by ERISA. After incurring claims under the Plan based on injuries he sustained in an automobile accident, McCutchen hired an attorney on a contingency fee basis to sue the driver of the other vehicle. McCutchen sought damages for medical costs, lost earnings, and other injuries. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement recovery, and McCutchen also obtained a payment from his own automobile insurer. After offsetting his total recovery by his attorney’s contingency fee, McCutchen was left with a recovery that was less than… Continue Reading

Not Cool, School: Middle Schooler Sues over Facebook Search

A Minnesota middle school student has sued her school district, claiming that school staff unlawfully searched her Facebook and e-mail accounts and punished her for a Facebook posting that criticized a school employee, CNN reports. The complaint, which the student filed with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, claims that employees at Minnewaska Area Middle School violated the student’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. According to the suit, the 12-year-old student felt that one of the school’s hall monitors was picking on her, so she wrote on her own Facebook wall that she hated that person because she was mean.  The message was not posted from school property or using any school equipment or network, according to the complaint. The complaint also alleges that school employees pressured the student to divulge her e-mail and Facebook login information, which they then used to search her accounts.  The student was given… Continue Reading

Students and Social Media: The Supreme Court Could Decide Whether Schools May Punish Off-Campus Online Speech

A teenager who posts a racy photo on Facebook might be grounded for a week, but should the teen also be suspended from school or kicked off the swim team? A flurry of recent court decisions is bringing just this issue to the fore:  can a public school punish its students for their off-campus online activities?

>Update on California "Violent" Games Law

>As we reported here back in February, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed a district judge’s 2007 ruling that a California law that restricts sales of “violent” video games to minors is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit found the law unconstitutional because it was not narrowly tailored, because treating violence as obscenity is not permissible by the Constitution and because the state had not demonstrated that violent video games cause psychological or neurological damage. After the law was defeated at the Ninth Circuit, Governor Schwarzenegger announced the filing of a petition for certiorari, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to save the law, arguing that the same justifications for precluding sales of pornography to minors should be applied to violent video games. “By prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and requiring these games to be clearly labeled, this law… Continue Reading

>Bilski is going to the Supreme Court

>The blogosphere is all abuzz about Bilski going to the Supreme Court. When Bilski was first issued, I didn’t expect it to go to the Supreme Court — but after seeing how broadly it has been applied and interpreted, I expected no less. As the video game industry continues to evolve, patents are becoming more of an issue, both from an enforcement and defense position. A Supreme Court ruling could go a long way toward determining whether the software and business method patents obtained by software companies are a hollow or substantive asset.

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