Lavery v. Restoration, 2018 WL 1524398 (D.Mass.)

Lavery v. Restoration, 2018 WL 1524398 (D.Mass.) plaintiff/employee sought damages from his defendant/employer which he alleged wrongly classified him as an independent contractor.  Among other damages he sought the value of benefits from an ERISA governed benefits plan due him had he been classified as an employee.  Defendant/employer moved to dismiss that count as preempted by ERISA.  ERISA preempts state laws that ‘relate to’ ERISA plans.  Under Supreme Court and 1st Circuit law, state laws relate to ERISA if (1) they mandate benefit structures, (2) bind an administrator to a particular choice or (3) provide an alternate enforcement mechanism.  This case concerned whether the Massachusetts independent contractor law and wage law provide an alternate enforcement mechanism in this instance.  The court analyzed the case as coming under the 1st circuit’s decision in Hampers, in which the court found that an employee’s claim that he should have been included in a benefit plan was preempted because it would have to evaluate or interpret the terms of the ERISA-governed plan.  Plaintiff here argued that his case was different because the wrongful act here was the decision to classify him as an independent contractor, not a decision not to enroll him in a benefits plan.  The Court found for defendant/employer, following dicta in Hampers that ERISA preempts state law causes of action for damages where the damages must be calculated using the terms of the ERISA plan.  The court stated it was bound by precedent without a particularly compelling reason not to follow it, and therefore rejected Plaintiff’s argument that that cannot be right because as other circuits have pointed out it would leave participants without a remedy.