Studer v. Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital, No. 16-3728 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Studer worked at Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital, a not‐for‐profit Dixon, Illinois healthcare provider, as an occupational therapist. After she resigned, she filed a small‐claims state court complaint, alleging that the hospital violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA) by failing to pay her money that she had accrued under the hospital’s Paid Days Leave policy. The hospital removed the suit to federal court, claiming that Studer’s claim was preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The district court denied Studer’s motion to remand, holding that it had federal‐question jurisdiction because ERISA completely preempted the state‐law claim, and granted the hospital summary judgment, holding that Studer had failed to name the welfare benefit plan as a defendant, which ERISA requires in most instances. Instead of filing an amended complaint, Studer filed a Rule 59(e) motion to amend the judgment, again arguing that ERISA did not preempt her claim. The district court denied that motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting ERISA’s “expansive” preemptive power, 29 U.S.C. 1144(a). The hospital’s benefit plan was an employee welfare benefit plan under ERISA, in which Studer participated; ERISA section 502(a)(1)(B) empowered Studer to bring a federal court action “to recover benefits due.” Studer’s IWPCA claim was not “entirely independent of” ERISA.