Washington, DC – The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) today requested that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allow us to respond to the City of Seattle’s opposition to our petition to convene en banc to rehear ERIC’s appeal in its case against the city. ERIC believes the three-judge panel wrongly dismissed our challenge to a Seattle health coverage mandate, Municipal Code (SMC) 14.28.
“ERIC firmly believes – as we have from the beginning – that the City of Seattle is violating federal law with its health care mandate. It is imperative to the ability of large employers to provide benefits to their nationwide workforce and the future of ERISA preemption that the Ninth Circuit not only rehear our case but also rule in our favor. Any other outcome jeopardizes employers’ ability to offer uniform benefits to their employees in multiple locations, which was the intent of Congress in enacting ERISA and its broad preemption provision,” said Annette Guarisco Fildes, President and CEO, ERIC. “This case is not happening in a bubble. Other cities are watching and have indicated that they plan to follow Seattle’s lead and pile on more mandates if the Court fails to strike down Seattle’s mandate.”
ERIC has previously argued that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempts the Seattle ordinance. Seattle’s rules require large hotel owners and ancillary businesses to provide what are essentially City-mandated levels of health benefits through federally-regulated employer health plans. The requirement that hotel employers make direct payments to employees or provide coverage under their group health plans has an impermissible reference to and connection with ERISA plans. It is therefore preempted by federal ERISA law.
In today’s filing, ERIC seeks to bolster appropriately its call for the Court to rehear the case, as there is a conflict between the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Golden Gate Restaurant Association v. San Francisco and the Merit Construction Alliance v. City of Quincy and Retail Industry Leaders Association v. Fielder decisions in the First and Fourth Circuits, respectively. Rehearing would allow the Court to clarify its stance on ERISA preemption.
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