Case Briefing #2 Vizcaino v. US Dist. Court for WD of Wash., 173 F. 3d 713 (9th Cir.1999)
Donna Vizcaino, Jon R. Waite, Mark Stout, Geoffrey Culbert, Lesley Stuart, Thomas Morgan, Elizabeth Spokoiny, and Larry Spokoiny sued on behalf of themselves and a court certified class against Microsoft Corporation and its various pension and welfare plans, including its Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP), and sought a determination that they were entitled even as independent contractors to participate in the plan benefits because those benefits were available to Microsoft's common law employees.
The Plaintiffs filed action against Microsoft Corp. for inclusion in Microsoft’s employee benefit plans. The district court denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment while granting Microsoft's. The plaintiff’s appealed the district court’s decision and the appeal’s court reversed the district court’s judgment for Microsoft and remanded for determination of any remaining issues regarding the rights of a particular worker. On remand the district court issued its “Order Regarding Scope of Remand.” It denied Microsoft’s motion for clarification of the composition of the class, rejecting its contention that the class definition excluded those who were temps and whose claims arose post conversion. The court concluded that the class would remain as defined. Microsoft renewed its motion to amend the class certification asking the court to “certify subclasses for the question of who is a common law employee.” The district court denied the motion but “clarified” the employee class definition, limiting the class to specific workers (independent contractor). The district court also granted partial summary judgment for the plaintiff’s. Plaintiff’s filed a motion for reconsideration. The court issued a further “Order Regarding Motion to Revise” granting the motion in part and denying in part. The court denied summary judgment for the plaintiff. Plaintiff’s moved for a permanent injunction requiring Microsoft to immediately allow all common law employees to participate in the ESPP. The district court denied the motion. The Plaintiff’s felt that the district court failed to carry out the appeals court mandate and filed a Writ of Mandamus under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. S 1651 (1994), to enforce this court's mandate in Vizcaino I and II. The Appeals court held that it had jurisdiction and granted the petition. Issue Statement:
Is the definition of common law employee as defined in Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Darden, 503 U.S. 318, 323-24 (1992) and the IRS 26 U.S.C. S 423 (1994) appropriate for independent contractor purposes? Are independent contractors which are considered employee’s under employee common law eligible for a company’s ESPP if they signed an independent contractor agreement expressing they are responsible for their own benefits? Is the reduced definition of employment class from the district court valid or should that definition be vacated and the original class definition be reinstated? Does the Appeals court have jurisdiction on this matter? Points of View:
The Plaintiffs feel that they are eligible for Microsoft’s ESPP plan because they qualify under the IRS reclassified positions. They also believe workers voluntarily converted and temps hired subsequent to conversion are eligible to participate in Microsoft’s ESPP plan. The defendants agree that based on the IRS rules some employees had the rights to ESPP but they do not feel workers that voluntarily converted to contractors or temps hired subsequent to conversion are eligible to participate in their ESPP plan. Microsoft denies any liability because these independent contractors signed an agreement in which they expressly agreed to provide their own benefits. Microsoft’s basic contention is that the district court properly exercised its discretion to modify the scope of the employee class. From an...
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