John J. (J.J.) Conway, a nationally recognized employee benefits and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) attorney and founder of Royal Oak-based J.J. Conway Law, offered insights on “Employing Lawyers in the Pandemic” as part of a business symposium presented by the State Bar of Michigan (SBM).  The event took place at The Detroit Club, with an option to attend virtually, on Thursday, January 20.

The round table, which was made up of seven attorneys with expertise in various facets of employment law, zeroed in on the topic that many organizations find themselves tackling in light of the Great Resignation: hiring in a pandemic. The engaging exchange addressed the unique employment climate, the challenges of hiring (and retaining) specialized attorney talent, and what the future holds for lawyers and law firms in a post-pandemic workplace.

Conway, who has fought for his clients to secure the employee benefits rightfully owed to them, has successfully navigated the complexities of disability and retirement benefits law for more than 22 years.  He is the author of “Hitting You When You Least Expect It: A Basic Guide to ERISA for Non-ERISA Lawyers,” which is a top-searched piece about employee benefits claims. He is also a co-author of the Michigan Basic Practice Handbook published by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education.

More information about the SBM Business Symposium can be viewed here.

About J.J. Conway Law

J.J. Conway Law was founded by John Joseph (J.J.) Conway in 1999 to work with individuals seeking full access to the employee benefits they have earned. The firm has been involved with nationally significant employee benefit, disability and pension cases, including class action lawsuits for such landmark decisions as requiring Michigan private insurers to cover autism health treatments for children through age 18 and protecting the pension rights of City of Detroit employees, police and firefighters as well as Wayne County employees by holding their trustees accountable for investment decisions. The firm’s motto is “Conquer Tomorrow®” and is dedicated to making tomorrow easier for their clients across the United States.  Learn more on the firm’s website.

On February 26, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee v. Sulyma, Case No. 18-1116. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/18-1116_h3cj.pdf.  The decision resolves a split in the Circuits concerning the appropriate date by which to measure the shortened statute of limitations for breach of fiduciary duty claims.  The triggering event for the three-year statute is based on the ERISA participant’s “actual knowledge.” The Court held that there is a proof requirement when a plan or fiduciary seeks to invoke a claim of “actual knowledge” under 29 U.S.C. §1113(2).  Previously, courts around the United States (including the Sixth Circuit) had applied a quasi-constructive notice standard.  Under that low threshold, if there was proof of sufficient disclosure, the ERISA participant could be held to the shortened period of limitations.  No longer.

In Sulyma, the Court held:

This is the reason for ERISA’s requirements that disclosures be written for a lay audience. See, e.g., 29 U. S. C. §1022(a). Once plan administrators satisfy their obligations to impart knowledge, petitioners say, §1113(2)’s knowledge requirement is satisfied too. But that is simply not what §1113(2) says. Unlike other ERISA limitations periods—which also form §1113(2)’s context—§1113(2) begins only when a plaintiff actually is aware of the relevant facts, not when he should be. And a given plaintiff will not necessarily be aware of all facts disclosed to him; even a reasonably diligent plaintiff would not know those facts immediately upon receiving the disclosure.

This is a significant development in ERISA litigation. The decision also signals that the Supreme Court is taking a strict construction approach to the statute.