The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s ruling on advisory opinions in Data Marketing Partnership, L.P., et al. v. U.S. Dept. of Labor may pave the way for California employers to more easily challenge unfavorable DLSE opinion letters in court in the future.
Last week, the Fifth Circuit ruled that opinions issued by the United States Department of Labor in response to employers’ questions about their legal opinions can be reviewed in court. The court struck down a DOL advisory opinion that improperly concluded that people who install tracking software on their phones in exchange for an ownership stake in the company were not “working owners” eligible to participate in an insurance plan regulated by federal law. The court agreed with a Texas federal court’s determination that federal benefits law covered this scheme, ruling that the DOL had arbitrarily found the plan to be exempt.