Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
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Updated PBGC Guidance for Defined Benefit Plans

Earlier this year, the US Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) issued a final rule, modifying PBGC regulations that apply to defined benefit pension plans. Among those changes were revisions to: (i) the reportable event notification requirements; (ii) annual financial and actuarial information (Form 4010) reporting; (iii) single-employer plan termination rules; and (iv) the premium rate calculation rules. The rule was generally effective on March 5, 2020, but some provisions have different applicability dates. Access the article.

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HHS Finalizes Anti-Discrimination Revisions to ACA Section 1557

On June 12, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the 2020 Final Rule) that rescinds certain protections afforded to LGBTQ individuals and persons with limited English proficiency. At the same time, the 2020 Final Rule removes burdensome disclosure requirements that may be a welcome relief for entities covered by Section 1557. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is forbidden under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although Title VII is not included in the precedential civil rights laws that gave rise to Section 1557, we nevertheless anticipate that the Supreme Court’s holding will lead to legal challenges in a number of areas, including healthcare and health insurance, religious exemptions and the 2020...

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LGBTQ Title VII Ruling May Impact Your Employee Benefit Plan

On Monday, June 15, 2020, the US Supreme Court held in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender, gay and lesbian employees (and prospective employees) from workplace discrimination based on sex. This means that the protective authority of Title VII for LGBTQ individuals generally extends to employer-sponsored healthcare benefits. Access the full article.

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Court Puts Association Health Plans in Limbo

On March 28, a District of Columbia federal court agreed with a New York-led challenge by a group of 11 states and the District of Columbia and found that the Department of Labor’s (DOL) 2018 association health plan (AHP) rule (the Final Rule): Is contrary to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)’s text and purpose; and Circumvents the protections and standards of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The decision, penned by Judge Bates, may act to deal a significant blow to the Trump administration’s attempt to expand coverage for small employers. Crafted in response to the October 12, 2017, executive order directing the DOL to promote the availability of AHPs, the Final Rule materially relaxed the standards for qualifying as an AHP under ERISA. As further described here, the Final Rule sets forth the criteria pursuant to which a “bona fide group or association of employers” may establish a single-employer AHP under ERISA. Under the Final...

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Georgetown University Defeats Retirement Plan Fee Litigation and “If a Cat Were a Dog, It Would Bark”

Recently, the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit brought by former Georgetown employees under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) over fees and investments in its two retirement plans. Plaintiffs alleged that Georgetown breached its fiduciary duty of prudence under ERISA by selecting and retaining investment options with excessive administrative fees and expenses charged to the plans, and unnecessarily retained three recordkeepers rather than one. The court dismissed most of the claims on the grounds that plaintiffs had not plead sufficient facts showing that they had individually suffered an injury. Because they challenged defined contribution plans (as opposed to defined benefit plans), the plaintiffs had to plead facts showing how their individual plan accounts were harmed. In this case, the named plaintiffs had not invested in the challenged funds, or the challenged fund had...

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Ninth Circuit Clarifies “Actual Knowledge” for ERISA’s Statute of Limitations

Late last year, the Ninth Circuit held that in order to trigger ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations a defendant must demonstrate that a plaintiff has actual knowledge of the nature of an alleged breach. Accordingly, the court held that merely having access to documents describing an alleged breach of fiduciary duty is not sufficient to cause ERISA’s statute of limitations to begin to run. Instead, the court rejected the standard embraced by other courts and ruled that participants should not be charged with knowledge of documents they were provided by did not actually read. The Ninth Circuit’s decision underscores circuit split over what is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of actual knowledge for purposes of triggering ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations. Access the full article.

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Clear as Mud: Defined Benefit Plan Liability with Facility Sales, Restructurings and Cessations

In certain cases of a facility sale, restructuring or cessation, recently released information by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) leaves many unanswered questions about plan sponsor liability for single-employer defined benefit plans. Given the lack of clarity, these plan sponsors should continue to consult their lawyer in any type of transaction, restructuring or cessation that approaches a 15 percent demographic change in a plan sponsor’s controlled group over a three-year period. Access the full article.

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ERISA Class-Action Litigation over Fees in Health and Welfare Plans

Sponsors and fiduciaries of health and welfare plans should be aware of a recently filed class-action lawsuit against alleged fiduciaries of a health plan. It challenges health-plan fiduciary oversight and reasonableness of fees similar to actions against fiduciaries of defined-contribution retirement plans. The action highlights the importance of establishing and documenting prudent fiduciary processes for making decisions on behalf of health and welfare plans. Access full article.

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The Top Hat-Exemption After Sikora

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) has long been a source of complex and often-expensive litigation for employers. However, as the number of actions brought by employees under ERISA have surged, employer-defendants have often relied on the so-called top-hat exemption to dismiss certain claims involving executives. Now, several federal courts of appeals have addressed the disputed contention that the presence of employee bargaining power is required for a plan to fall under the top-hat exemption. In this article, Elizabeth Rowe, J. Christian Nemeth and Joseph Urwitz look at recent appeals court decisions and their effects on this exemption. Access the full article. Originally published in Benefits Law Journal, Autumn 2018

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Employers with Massachusetts Employees Must File Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure Form by November 30

Any employer who has six or more employees in Massachusetts in any calendar month after November 2017 is required to complete a Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure (HIRD) form by November 30, 2018. The HIRD form is used by MassHealth to collect information about employer-sponsored insurance offerings. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue recently published a set of FAQs stating that the HIRD form: Is filed by an employer through the employer’s MassTaxConnect web portal (the employer clicks the “File health insurance responsibility disclosure” link to access the form); May be filed by an employer’s third-party payroll provider on the employer’s behalf, though it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure the form is timely filed; Will not be used to impose fines or penalties related to the employer’s insurance offerings; Must be filed annually by November 30 in future years; and Does not require employees to complete a separate form. Employers may...

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