ERISA Lawsuit for Pension Benefits
If you were not provided the pension benefits or important information about your pension that you were entitled to receive under ERISA, you may have a legal claim. Contact Bradley/Grombacher for a free case evaluation.
What Is ERISA?
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or ERISA, established legal guidelines for the administration of private pension plans and investment practices. The law helps ensure that funds placed in Americans’ retirement plans during their careers will be available when they retire.
ERISA sets minimum standards for disability, life insurance, retirement and health plans. It was meant to address issues with corporate pension plans after the Studebaker Motor Company’s bankruptcy left employees in the lurch and without legal remedy to claim the money they should have been entitled to receive.
Only private employers and non-governmental entities that offer subsidized health insurance coverage and other benefits to their employees are governed by ERISA.
ERISA sets forth several important requirements for pension plans, including:
- Requiring the plan to provide participants with information about the plan, such as plan features and funding, on a regular basis.
- Setting minimum standards for participation, vesting, funding and benefit accrual.
- Establishing principles of conduct for plan fiduciaries and methods to hold them accountable when they fail to follow the principles of conduct.
- Providing the right of participants to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty.
- Guaranteeing through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation the payment of certain benefits if a plan is terminated.
ERISA has been amended dozens of times since it was enacted, and this area of law is continuing to grow. The unique nature of ERISA laws makes it extremely complex. If you think you have an ERISA claim, it is important that you contact an ERISA lawyer who is experienced in this area of law. An ERISA lawyer can explain your legal rights and work to secure any compensation or other benefits to which you are entitled.
How Do I Make an ERISA Claim for Pension Benefits?
ERISA requires all pension plans to have a written procedure for processing benefits claims and a process to appeal the decision if the claim is denied. The plan is required to provide a written notice about why a claim is denied and how to file an appeal.
When an appeal is denied, the plan is required to provide written notice explaining the reason for the denial and any other opportunities that may be available to further appeal the decision. The plan is also required to provide a statement informing the claimant of the right to seek judicial review of the denial.
If you believe your pension plan failed to follow the requirements of ERISA, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who has experience with ERISA to discuss your options. Although most ERISA claims are settled through an administrative process, it may be necessary to file an ERISA lawsuit in cases in which valid benefits are denied or when plan administrators breach their fiduciary duties to plan participants.
ERISA Lawsuit Settlements
In 2016, Providence Health & Services, a religiously-affiliated hospital based in Renton, Wash., reportedly agreed to pay almost $352 million to resolve an ERISA class action settlement accusing it of underfunding its pension plan. The plaintiffs claimed Providence Health improperly classified the pension as a “church plan” that was exempt from ERISA.
According to the Providence Health ERISA class action lawsuit, Providence Health’s claim that its pension plan is a “church plan” is improper because it is not a church or a convention or an association of churches, and because the Providence Health pension plan was not established by a church or a convention or association of churches.
The plaintiffs allege that Providence Health failed to follow ERISA’s funding rules for the pension plan, failed to provide Class Members with pension statements, summary annual reports and required notifications, failing to file annual reports with the Secretary of Labor, and failing to meet certain requirements regarding the trust that holds the pension’s assets.
Other examples of ERISA lawsuit settlements include:
- St. Francis Hospital, another religiously-affiliated hospital in Hartford, Conn., also agreed to settle ERISA claims in May 2016. St. Francis Hospital reportedly agreed to pay $107 million in an ERISA settlement.
- Trinity Health, based in Livonia, Mich., reached a $75 million ERISA settlement.
- Ascension Health, based in St. Louis, Mo., agreed to pay $8 million to settle allegations it underfunded its pension plan.
Contact an ERISA Lawyer Today
If you are concerned that your pension plan failed to follow ERISA’s requirements, contact Bradley/Grombacher today for a free and confidential review of your claims. If you have a case, the ERISA attorneys will work on your behalf to ensure you get the full compensation to which you are entitled.