33 Lab. & Emp. L. 1 (2004-2005)

handle is hein.journals/laboemplo33 and id is 1 raw text is: 













'Dyr


Aerican Bar Association


Wa       ay  r ofERdSAcases
n orea in which not all that
  Ifh hapeed9 on the Supremte
Crt's1br and employment
docket? Outgoing Section Secre-
tary Stephen Befort, a law profes-
sor at the University of Minnesota,
posed this question to frame the
annual lecture reviewing the High
Court's year during the Section's
Plenary Session at the ABA Annual
Meeting August 9 in Atlanta.


   Befort noted that the seven
labor and employment decisions
issued by the Court was the sec-
ond lowest number in the last 20
years. He also noted that three of
the seven decisions were in Em-
ployee Retirement Income Security
Act (ERISA) cases.
   Befort focused on two decisions
that could have been major decisions
had the Court decided differently.
  In General Dynamics Land Sys-


ens v. Cline, the Court held that
the Age Discrimination in Employ-
ment Act (ADEA) does not prevent
employers from implementing poli-
cies that treat older workers more
favorably than it does younger
workers over 40, reversing a deci-
sion of the Sixth Circuit. In Cline, a
group of General Dynamics em-
ployees challenged a collective
bargaining agreement provision
negotiated with the United Auto
Workers that limited retiree health
benefits to future retirees age 50 or
older at the date of the agreement.
   Writing for a 6-3 majority, Justice
David Souter stated that the leg-
islative history of the ADEA evi-
denced no intent to protect workers
from discrimination that favored
older workers. Notably, the Court
declined to defer to the Equal Em-
ployment Opportunity Commis-
sion's interpretation of the ADEA
as expressed in its regulation, stat-
ing that the legislative history left
no doubt. A dissenting opinion by
Justice Clarence Thomas stated
that the plain language of the
statute prohibits discrimination on
the basis of age, whether an indi-
vidual is perceived as either too
old or too young.


   Had the Court affirmed the Sixth
Circuit, Cline would have been a
blockbuster, Befort said, as it
would have invalidated many early
retirement programs that do not
offer the same benefits to all work-
ers over age 40.
   In Aetna Health, Inc. v. Davila,
the Court held that state law
claims challenging HMO medical
coverage decisions were preempt-
ed by ERISA and therefore remov-
able to federal court. Two partici-
pants in health insurance plans
brought separate state court cases
under a Texas statute, alleging that
the HMOs failed to use ordinary
care by, in one case, refusing to
authorize payment for medica-
tions prescribed for arthritis and,
in the other, by refusing to authorize
an extended hospital stay-recom-
mended by the treating physician.
   The HMOs removed both cases
to federal court, and the district
court dismissed them when plain-
tiffs declined to amend their com-
plaints to assert claims under
ERISA. The Fifth Circuit reversed,
ruling that ERISA  502(a) only pre-
empts state causes of action when
they precisely duplicate causes of
              continued on page 14


P.r.ofessor Befort Reviews Su 3reme Court's
Labor and EmpWoyment Decisions

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