District of Columbia v. Greater Washington Bd. of Trade
506 U.S. 125

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1992

Syllabus

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL. v. GREATER WASHINGTON BOARD OF TRADE

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

No. 91-1326. Argued November 3, 1992-Decided December 14,1992

Section 2(c)(2) of the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Equity Amendment Act of 1990 requires employers who provide health insurance for their employees to provide equivalent health insurance coverage for injured employees eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Respondent, an employer affected by this requirement, filed an action in the District Court against petitioners, the District of Columbia and its Mayor, seeking to enjoin enforcement of § 2(c)(2) on the ground that it is pre-empted by § 514(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which provides that ERISA supersedes state laws that "relate to any employee benefit plan" covered by ERISA. Although petitioners conceded that § 2(c)(2) relates to an ERISA-covered plan, the court granted their motion to dismiss. Relying on this Court's decision in Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U. S. 85, it held that § 2(c)(2) is not pre-empted because it also relates to respondent's workers' compensation plan, which is exempt from ERISA coverage, and because respondent could comply with the provision by creating a separate unit to administer the required benefits. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that pre-emption of § 2(c)(2) is compelled by § 514(a)'s plain meaning and ERISA's structure.

Held: Section 2(c)(2) is pre-empted by ERISA. A state law "relate[s] to" a covered benefit plan for § 514(a) purposes if it refers to or has a connection with such a plan, even if the law is not designed to affect the plan or the effect is only indirect. See, e. g., Ingersoll-Rand Co. v. McClendon, 498 U. S. 133, 139. Section 2(c)(2) measures the required health care coverage by reference to "the existing health insurance coverage," which is a welfare benefit plan subject to ERISA regulation. It does not matter that § 2(c)(2)'s requirements also "relate to" ERISA-exempt workers' compensation plans, since ERISA's exemptions do not limit § 514's pre-emptive sweep once it is determined that a law relates to a covered plan. See Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 451 U. S. 504, 525. Petitioners' reliance on Shaw, supra, is misplaced, since the statute at issue there did not "relate to" an ERISA-covered plan. Nor is there any support in Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Massachusetts, 471 U. S. 724, for their position that § 514(a) requires a two-part analysis


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under which a state law relating to an ERISA-covered plan would survive pre-emption if employers could comply with the law through separately administered exempt plans. Pp. 129-133.

292 U. S. App. D. C. 209, 948 F.2d 1317, affirmed.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 133.

Donna M. Murasky, Assistant Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia, argued the cause for petitioners. With her on the briefs were John Payton, Corporation Counsel, and Charles Reischel, Deputy Corporation Counsel.

Lawrence P. Postol argued the cause for respondent.

With him on the brief was John N. Erlenborn. *

JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The District of Columbia requires employers who provide health insurance for their employees to provide equivalent health insurance coverage for injured employees eligible for

*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the State of Connecticut et al. by Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General of Connecticut, and Arnold B. Feigin, Assistant Attorney General, and Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General of Massachusetts; for the State of Oklahoma ex rel. Dave Renfro, Commissioner of Labor, et al. by Susan B. Loving, Attorney General, Rabindranath Ramana, Assistant Attorney General, Michael M. Sykes, and Kayla A. Bower; for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations by Marsha S. Berzon and Laurence Gold; and for the American Optometric Association by Bennett Boskey, Ellis Lyons, and Edward A. Groobert.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the United States by Solicitor General Starr, Deputy Solicitor General Mahoney, Christopher J. Wright, Allen H. Feldman, Nathaniel I. Spiller, and Deborah Greenfield; for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States by Mona C. Zeiberg and Hollis T. Hurd; for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association by Daniel L. FitzMaurice; and for the District of Columbia Insurance Federation by William A. Dobrovir and Lawrence H. Mirel.

Steven S. Zaleznick and Cathy Ventrell-Monsees filed a brief for the American Association of Retired Persons as amicus curiae.


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Full Text of Opinion

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