- Posts by John Houston PopeMember of the Firm
Attorney John Houston Pope’s practice predominately involves the litigation of controversies, but he also counsels clients on lowering litigation risks and exposures.
John started his legal career in Florida, as a law clerk to a ...
On November 10, 2023, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 7, which prohibits private employers in Texas from imposing vaccine mandates that require employees and/or contractors to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. The law, which takes effect on February 7, 2024, is similar, though not identical to Florida laws passed in 2021, and amended in 2023, also limiting employers from requiring vaccination against COVID-19, as a condition of employment.
Texas’ Ban on Employer-Mandated Vaccines
Texas’ new law will prohibit employers from adopting or enforcing a ...
The Supreme Court’s January 24, 2022 decision in Hughes v. Northwestern University, has caused alarm in some corners, with panicked predictions of a proliferation of ERISA suits alleging that defined contribution plans provided imprudent investment options. However, Hughes should be more properly understood as rejecting an attempt by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to impose a novel limit on excessive fee suits. The Supreme Court instead emphasized the application of its existing precedent in Tibble v. Edison International, 575 U.S. 523 (2015).
The Seventh Circuit had dismissed a class action complaint alleging the trustees of Northwestern Universities’ retirement plans breached their fiduciary duties by including imprudent investments among the investment options offered under the plans. The trustees offered more than 400 various investment options, several of which the plaintiffs asserted were imprudent and many of which were not. The Seventh Circuit held that the plaintiffs’ allegations failed as a matter of law (that is, could be dismissed without discovery or trial) because plaintiff’s preferred investment options were available under the plan (albeit alongside the allegedly imprudent options). Therefore, the Seventh Circuit considered the trustees to be blameless for any fiduciary breaches because the plaintiffs simply could have avoided the allegedly imprudent investments and chosen the prudent ones.
Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed HB 1-B, Ch. 2021-272, Laws of Fla. (the “Vaccination Exemption Law”), which prohibits every private employer from issuing COVID-19 vaccination mandates for its Florida employees without allowing employees to opt out for five specific exemptions: (i) medical reasons, including pregnancy or expectation of pregnancy, as determined by a physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant; (ii) religious reasons, based on a sincerely held belief; (iii) COVID-19 immunity, based on prior COVID-19 infection, as documented by a lab test; (iv) periodic testing, agreed to by the employee and at no cost to the employee; or (v) based on compliant use of employer-provided personal protective equipment (“PPE”), agreed to by the employee. Employers that receive a “completed exemption statement” must allow the requesting employee to “opt out” of the employer’s vaccination requirements. Employers will be found to have violated the Vaccination Exemption Law by failing to provide for exemptions in their COVID-19 vaccination mandate and terminating the employee—which includes “the functional equivalent of termination,” as defined below.
On December 2, 2021, the Florida Department of Legal Affairs issued a Notice of Emergency Rule (the “Rule”), further defining key provisions of the Vaccination Exemption Law. Moreover, this Department (headed by the Attorney General) has issued guidance in the form of FAQs (the “Guidance”), outlining the employee complaint procedure for potential employer violations of the Vaccination Exemption Law.
In a recent 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court, in Thole v. U.S. Bank N.A., 590 U.S. __ (2020), held that participants in defined benefit pension plans lack standing to sue plan fiduciaries for allegedly imprudent plan investments where the participants continue to receive their full benefits and no imminent risk that they will cease receiving their full benefits appears.
Defined benefit plans—once the staple of employer-sponsored retirement plans but now a diminishing share of that group—guarantee a monthly payment in retirement using a formula based on years of service and ...
Plan participants and their beneficiaries may now have extra time to exercise some of their rights under the employee benefit plans in which they participate. On April 28, 2020, the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of the Treasury issued a joint notice extending certain timeframes applicable to employee benefit plans. The joint notice was published as a final rule in the Federal Register on May 4, 2020 (“Final Rule”), issued pursuant to Section 518 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), as recently ...
As the COVID-19 state of emergency continues, businesses are implementing and considering a variety of employee-related measures to manage the impact of the crisis. While some businesses may avail themselves of payroll protection programs and loans to maintain the status quo, others may be faced with having to implement reductions-in-force (RIFs), furloughs and layoffs. Added to this, employers may be faced with larger numbers of leaves of absence both because of COVID-19-related health and family care reasons, but also when certain workers have been called to duty. The ...
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