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.
Participants in the MIT plan sued the university in an ERISA benefits claim, accusing plan administrators of breaching their fiduciary responsibility to the plan participants. In the settlement, the university will pay $18.1 million to the class of plaintiffs, including covering their legal fees. The settlement funds will be divided among the class members based on how long they were involved in the plan and the amounts they invested. Beyond the financial settlement, however, the document also puts in place a number of specific rules that will govern the behavior of the fiduciaries running the MIT plan in the coming years. The plaintiffs in the case agreed that they would not come back to court on the issues in question in the case.
The university agreed to conduct ongoing annual training on ERISA best practices and decision-making to benefit participants in the plan rather than relationships with any given company. MIT's plan fiduciaries also agreed to issue a request for proposals to administer and keep records for the plan.
Employees rely on their employment benefits for their health, well-being and future. When they lose out due to plan administrators' actions, they may consult with an attorney about pursuing ERISA benefits claims litigation to seek compensation and accountability.