Unclear Writing Creates ERISA Liability

By Bill Wright An employer breached its fiduciary duty under ERISA by failing to inform benefit plan participants of the covered health insurance benefits in terms a reasonable person would understand.  The employer was the plan administrator, and had adopted a simplified plan document that merely incorporated its third-party claim administrator’s summary plan description.  The […]

News Flash: ESOP Fiduciaries May Obey the Law

By Bill Wright The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fifth Third Bancorp et al. v. Dudenhoeffer, No. 12-751 (U.S. June 25, 2014), that no special presumption of prudence applies to the decision by ESOP fiduciaries to buy and hold stock of the sponsoring employer.  But what the Supreme Court shot down with one hand, they reinstated […]

Whistling Arbitration

By Lori Phillips In Santoro v. Accenture Federal Services, LLC, No. 12-2561 (4th Cir. May 5, 2014), an employee brought ADEA, FMLA and ERISA claims against a former employer.  The employer moved to compel arbitration, and the employee opposed the motion, citing the Dodd-Frank Act – even though the employee had no claim under the […]

No Leave Benefit Goes Unpunished

By Bill Wright A worker is injured – seriously injured – and goes out on long term leave. He files a workers compensation claim. The comp. claim stalls and, for 11 years, the employer pays insurance benefits for the worker with no end in sight. Finally, the employer notifies the worker that, if he is […]

Equity “Informs” Lien By Agreement

By Bill Wright The Supreme court returned today to the “equitable” enforcement of an employee welfare benefit plan. A health plan participant had a car accident and the Plan spent $66,866 on his benefits. The participant recovered $110,000 from other parties, but 40% ($44,000) went to his attorney; the participant received only $66,000. Citing ERISA […]

Benefits Goofs: Employers Pay for Mistakes

By Brooke Colaizzi In a recent ERISA case, the employer mistakenly believed a former employee had three more years of service than he actually did at retirement. (The employer thought the former employee was still on long term disability). Consequently, the employer told the former employee he could retire with full medical benefits for life. […]

I’m Quitting, Where’s My Severance?

By Bill Wright An employer and its Severance Plan just defended the discretion and authority under the Plan to distinguish quitting from getting fired. Reddinger et al. v. SENA Severance Plan et al., Nos. 10-2361 & 2362 (7th Cir. February 19, 2013). A paper mill planned to close in May. Eligible employees were told they […]

ERISA Anti-Retaliation

By Bill Wright Following the broad reading that the Supreme Court recently adopted for protected complaints under the FLSA, the Seventh Circuit has ruled that ERISA non-retaliation provision should have a similar broad reading.  ERISA protects both employees who engage in formal proceedings about benefit plans and also employees who informally ask questions about the […]