Employee Benefits & ERISA Litigation
Employee benefits – medical, dental, disability, pension, 401(k) and others – are generally governed by a federal law known as ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act). ERISA imposes numerous substantive and procedural requirements on employers providing benefits to their employees. Parsons' employment attorneys have a long and successful record of assisting, protecting and defending employers, benefit plans, and plan administrators in the entire area of employee benefits.
Employers, benefit plans, and plan administrators may be sued or be subject to governmental penalties when they do not comply with the requirements of ERISA. Conversely, compliance with ERISA can provide certain protections to employers, plans and administrators when disputes arise over benefits. A number of areas have been the focus of ERISA lawsuits brought by employees and others:
- Benefit denial claims – Was an employee properly denied benefits under the terms of a benefit plan?
- Claims and appeals – Does the benefit plan provide the legally required procedures for making a benefit claim and for appealing from a denial decision?
- Plan documentation – Is each benefit plan correctly written up in a formal plan document and summary plan description (SPD)? Are they updated?
- Plan filings – For each ERISA benefit plan, is the IRS 5500 form filed each year?
- Fiduciary duty – Have the persons administering the benefit plan done anything in violation of their fiduciary duties to participants and beneficiaries?
- 401(k) plans – Are the fees and costs charged by brokers, advisors and service providers fair and reasonable? Is oversight being exercised?
- Document distribution and requests – Are plan documents properly distributed to employees and beneficiaries? Are plan documents provided when requested?
Employers, plans and administrators all face costs and litigation risks arising out of the creation and operation of ERISA benefit plans. Even when third party administrators handle day-to-day tasks, employers, plans and administrators remain at risk for decisions made regarding employee benefits. A prevailing plaintiff may recover legal fees and costs as well as the benefits at issue. Class action claims are possible where the practices being challenged affect are large number of participants and beneficiaries.