- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

4:01 p.m.

A federal judge today overturned a Maryland law that required Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll costs on health care for its workers.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled that the law violates the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a federal law that sets minimum standards for pensions and health plans. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down similar state laws that conflict with the federal law, ruling that ERISA pre-empts any state law related to an employee benefit plan.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the trade group that challenged the law, argued that the law violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it targeted only Wal-Mart, but Judge Motz ruled against RILA on this point.

The judge said many times in his opinion that Wal-Mart was the obvious target of the law, but he also said the court cannot rule on the motivations of Maryland’s General Assembly and noted that the Supreme Court has applied the equal-protection clause only to politically vulnerable groups.

Maryland was the first state in the nation to pass legislation requiring Wal-Mart to pay a minimum amount on employee health care.

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