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Duke Energy defeats class action challenging elimination of accumulated sick time

Duke Energy and its subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas were involved in a complex federal court class action case alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), and age discrimination under the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Adopting arguments made by Waller, a federal judge dismissed all claims asserted in the proposed class action, finding that: (1) Duke Energy was not a proper party to the action; (2) the union members’ labor-related claims were required to be addressed through the grievance/arbitration process in the labor contract; and (3) their age discrimination claims were preempted by the LMRA.

Waller strategically filed two motions to dismiss. The first convinced the Court that plaintiffs did not allege sufficient evidence to pierce the corporate veil between Duke Energy and its subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas. When the union and a representative cohort of its members filed an amended complaint adding Piedmont Natural Gas as a defendant, Waller then filed a second motion to dismiss challenging the merits of plaintiffs’ claims. The end result was a complete and precedent-setting victory for Duke Energy, its subsidiaries, and for Piedmont Natural Gas.

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