A couple of weeks ago, as Obamacare was just stumbling out of the gate, we asked our readers to tell us about the state of their own health insurance plans through their firms. Since the Recession, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some firms have been using health care cost clawbacks as a stealth expense-cutting tactic and de facto pay cut. We wondered how widespread a phenomenon this practice had become. Well, perhaps that’s a bit disingenuous. We had a strong feeling that, in this time of layoffs and all the rest of the Biglaw belt-tightening measures, that no category of expenses would be immune. And our survey results resoundingly confirm those suspicions: 89% of you tell us that your health insurance premiums have gone up since you started work at your firm.
A relevant tip showed up in the ATL inbox this week. An attorney at a prominent (V25) law firm sent us a memo outlining new changes to the firm’s health plan. Here’s an excerpt: “The deductible for the CIGNA PPO plan will change from $250 single/$750 family to $500 single/$1,000 family. Also, the PPO prescription copays [will all increase]. These changes bring our PPO plan design in line with market
practice for large law firms (emphasis added)”…
With the continuing partial government shutdown and the shaky rollout of Obamacare, the issue of health insurance has never been such a central and divisive topic in the national conversation. Surely there are thousands of unemployed or temping JDs who are entering the brave new world of insurance exchanges and its attendant “hiccups.” In a development that perhaps should alarm the lowest-paid support staffers at law firms, some corporations appear poised to drop “bare bones” health-care benefits altogether for low-wage employees in favor of directing such employees to the new state exchanges.
Of course, for the lawyers at firms, such developments concerning the exchanges are essentially an abstract issue. That is not to say that attorney benefits packages are not subject to “new normal” economic pressures, or that the ultimate effect of the Affordable Care Act on private health insurance packages is unknowable. As noted here way back in 2009, some firms have added health care cost clawbacks to their expense-cutting repertoire of layoffs and pay cuts. Many associates have found themselves, post-Recession, with higher premiums and deductibles and thus, a de facto salary cut. Comparing salaries and bonuses across law firms overlooks the element of health insurance costs, about which there is no equivalent transparency. Undoubtedly there are significant variations across firms in this area, and some firms that appear to pay “market” aren’t quite doing so in light of their requiring a larger fraction of health care premiums. These variations inevitably distort direct comparisons.
We’d like to bring some transparency to this topic — but we need your help….
When it comes to the employee benefit known as “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits” (aka the “gay gross-up”), maybe the pertinent question should be which firms don’t offer it. Since our recent write-up, we’ve heard about more leading law firms that offer this perk, taking the total number of firms that have it to more than 40. (The new firms are mentioned below.)
So let’s move on to the next front, which we also alluded to in our prior post: adoption and surrogacy-related benefits. They’re not nearly as common as tax equalization for same-sex health benefits, but a handful of firms appear to offer them.
Let’s find out which ones, shall we?
UPDATE (2/8/2013, 1:00 AM): A noteworthy update about the legal status of surrogacy, after the jump.
It has been a long time since our last listing of the major law firms that offer the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits” or the “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits.” (If you’re not familiar with this benefit, also known as the “gay gross-up,” see this explanation.)
As we’ve explained before, this benefit is necessary because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Let’s hope that this benefit is no longer necessary in the near future. This Term, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of DOMA (assuming they don’t dodge the issue on jurisdictional grounds). If SCOTUS goes the way of the lower courts, DOMA will go down, and the gay gross-up won’t be needed.
In the meantime, though, the benefit is needed. Let’s take a look at which firms should be added to our list….
President Barack Obama now supports marriage equality. And so do many major law firms, it seems. More than 30 top firms provide the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits” or the “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits.” (If you’re not familiar with this benefit, also known as the “gay gross-up,” see this explanation.)
Since our last discussion of which Biglaw firms offer the tax offset, a few more names have jumped on the bandwagon. Let’s find out which ones, shall we?
* Dewey seriously have one chairman again? Good Lord, this law firm is literally falling apart! Martin Bienenstock had “no plans to file bankruptcy” because he knew he was taking the first life raft off this sinking ship. [WSJ Law Blog]
* When Dewey WARN people? When it’s already too late. In case you missed it last night, the firm was served with its first suit following its en-masse layoffs. The more the merrier, because it’s a class action. [Bloomberg; WSJ Law Blog]
* Elizabeth Warren can’t decide whether she’s white or Native American. Apparently it depends on her geographic location, because she was white at UT Law, but a minority while at Penn Law. [Boston Globe]
* Racial profiling still ain’t easy, but Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio “will fight this to the bitter end.” The Department of Justice has filed a civil rights suit against the no-nonsense Sheriff and his department. [Associated Press]
* New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must be gearing up for his inevitable 2016 presidential run, because yesterday he vetoed an online insurance marketplace required by the Affordable Care Act. [New York Times]
* Syracuse Law recently broke ground on a $90M building that will serve as its new home. May political plagiarizers continue to grace the law school’s halls for years and years to come. [National Law Journal]
This past Friday, we broke the news of the troubled Dewey & LeBoeuf law firm issuing WARN Act notice to its employees. This federal law generally requires an employer “to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.”
That was Friday, May 4. Earlier this week, Dewey informed many support staff members that their last day of work would be this Friday, May 11. It then informed many associates that their last day of work will be this coming Tuesday, May 15. Both staffers and associates will be paid through the 15th and will have health insurance through May 31st.
My math skills have atrophied from disuse, but I am still capable of counting to 60. And it seems to me that Dewey did not provide its employees with 60 days notice of its mass layoffs.
Dewey & LeBoeuf's sign at 1301 Avenue of the Americas. (Photo by David Lat. Feel free to use.)
“Our catering service requires a credit card; client matter numbers no longer accepted. Seamless food ordering requires a credit card or a corporate card.”
“It’s not clear that we still have health insurance.”
“Dewey has cut off subscriptions, and expenses are no longer being reimbursed.”
“Everyone is pretty much packing up. Bankers boxes are on backorder in supplies.”
“Dewey is quietly removing the art from the walls. Perhaps it belongs to the creditors?”
These are some of the sad stories we’re hearing out of Dewey & LeBoeuf today. Let’s discuss the latest news and rumor coming out of the deeply troubled law firm….
Multiple UPDATES and new links, after the jump (at the very end of this post). The Dewey story is moving so quickly that we will do multiple updates to our existing posts instead of writing a new post every time there’s a little additional news to report. Otherwise half of the stories on our front page would be about Dewey, and there is other Biglaw news to report — e.g., the new profit-per-partner rankings from Am Law, salacious lawsuits against prominent D.C. law firms, etc.
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