ERISA Preemption and State Apprenticeship Laws

Erisa The Sixth Circuit decided an important ERISA preemption case yesterday, Associated Builders & Contractors, Saginaw Valley Area Chapter v. Michigan Dep’t of Labor & Economic Growth, No. 07-1639 (6th Cir. Sept. 16, 08) ,concerning the continuing validity of state apprenticeship laws in light of ERISA.

From the Daily Labor Report today (subscription required for full article):

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act does not preempt a Michigan law that sets ratio and equivalency requirements for apprentice electricians, the Sixth Circuit rules in lifting an injunction issued in 1992 that barred the state from enforcing the apprenticeship laws.

In ruling that the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth can now enforce the ratio and equivalency requirements set out in the state’s electrician apprenticeship law, the three-judge appellate panel finds that the state law imposed mandates on apprenticeship training programs, but those mandates did not affect ERISA-regulated concerns.

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Public Employee Enjoys Rare First Amendment Retaliation Success

First_amendment_3 From, comes this First Amendment retaliation case that reminds me of the old days of public employee free speech rights before the Garcetti decision of the U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated free speech protection for these employees in 2006.

Hughes v. Region VII Area Agency on Aging, 07-1570 (6th Cir. Sept. 8, 2008) considered the claims of a former public employee who alleged that she was fired for her conversations with a local newspaper reporter. Because defendants did not claim that she spoke in accordance with her official duties, Garcetti v. Ceballos, was found inapplicable.

Instead, the court concluded that the trial court was in error and the plaintiff spoke on a matter of public concern protected by the First Amendment when she discussed with a newspaper reporter issues concerning a number of incidents relating to the former executive director of the agency, including alleged sexual harassment, a lawsuit settlement, and other turmoil surrounding the agency.

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A Whistleblower Wins! A Whistleblower Wins!

Whistle In an unsual case (as far as the success rates of these cases (and here) go), and one that might still be overturned by an appellate court, the DOL’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) finds in favor of a mine cleanup whistleblower.

In Dixon v. Dept. of the Interior, No. 06-147 (8/28/08), the ARB found that a federal employee of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) engaged in protected activity under the whistleblower provisions of several environmental statutes. Consequently, he properly received back pay and compensatory damages.

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