The federal Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., has intervened in a case that could have a significant effect on how workers affected by ERISA protect their rights against plan fiduciaries that make unfair changes. A class-action lawsuit representing terminated employees of Wawa, a large convenience store chain, accuses Wawa, its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) trustees and plan administrators of violating ERISA, the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act of 1974. The law aims to protect employees from losing their pensions, health insurance, disability insurance and other employee benefits due to plan administrators' misconduct.
Under the law, Washington, D.C., employers do not need to provide their workers with employee benefits like disability insurance or retirement plans. However, many workers specifically choose their jobs because of the attractive benefits on offer, and employee benefits can help companies secure the best and most experienced workers. However, once those benefit plans are in place, companies have an obligation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 to handle those benefits responsibly and act according to the workers' best interests. If you are facing serious problems with your benefits, you first need to understand your rights under ERISA.
Employees in Washington, D.C., and across the country are protected by the provisions of the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act of 1974, or ERISA. The law contains regulations that require companies with employee benefits plans, including retirement funds, disability plans and health insurance programs, to provide explicit documentation and manage those plans in the best interests of the workers. When companies fail to do so, they can be held accountable in court, and significant damages can be assessed. One case involving the Massachusetts Institute of Technology retirement plan is moving toward a settlement.
Several industry groups in Washington, D.C., are urging the Supreme Court to rule in a case addressing required disclosures for retirement plans covered by ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Several organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Benefits Council and the American Retirement Association, submitted a joint friend-of-the-court brief calling on the nation's highest court to overturn a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In that decision, the court allowed a lawsuit over an alleged breach of fiduciary duties by a plan manager to move forward.
The purpose of ERISA is to protect employee benefit plan participants and designated beneficiaries in Washington, D.C., and other parts of the country. Even so, there are times when violations occur, some of which can have a serious impact on an employee's company-related benefits. Here's a closer look at common violations and related ERISA provisions.
Pension plans in the District of Columbia and around the country have to be funded in order to fulfill their purpose. However, the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, failed to do so, according to a lawsuit filed by more than 100 former employees of Saint James Hospital. As a result of the Archdiocese's action, the plan ran out of funds in 2017, and no benefits have been paid out since.
The basic purpose of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, is to set minimum standards for voluntary pension and health plans. It's a piece of legislation meant to protect the interests of plan participants in Washington, D.C., and other states and their designated beneficiaries. However, there are times when certain benefit plans are not set up in a way that keeps the best interests of participants in mind.
Some people in Washington, D.C., may be aware of a number of recent lawsuits brought by college and university employees against their employers regarding retirement plan mismanagement. In a case involving the University of California, a federal appeals court ruled on July 24 that investors could not be forced to settle their claims in arbitration.
Washington, D.C., members of the Employers Midwest Pension Fund and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union might be interested in learning that the trustees have filed a lawsuit against Ocwen. Ocwen, which is a mortgage lender, allegedly forced people into foreclosure in an effort to drive up profits.
Some employees in the District of Columbia may have had their retirement funds mismanaged. A lawsuit filed against Georgetown University and several officials alleges that the university's defined contribution retirement plans were not adequately overseen and that this resulted in fees that were excessive and unreasonable. According to the lawsuit, the university in fact had a significant amount of bargaining power and could have used that for the benefit of plan participants and their beneficiaries.