The Employee Retirement Income Security Act “ERISA” was enacted by Congress in 1976 to promote employer sponsored welfare and pension benefit plans for workers by providing incentives to companies to establish qualified plans. These benefits may include:
- Retirement and Pension Payments
- Retiree Health Care
- Long-term Disability
Some of the incentives which Congress has extended to corporations for providing such benefits are preferential tax treatment for the funds which are setup to provide promised pension or other benefits and complete preemption of any state law claims. To receive a favorable tax advantage employers who voluntarily adopt qualified benefit plans must ensure that a wide variety of employees are covered, both non-highly compensated (blue collar workers) and highly compensated (white collar workers, executives). In other words, in exchange for providing benefits for ordinary “working class” people companies receive tax breaks on pension and welfare funds held in trust for qualified ERISA plans.Although Congress envisioned easy assess to Federal courts to recover wrongfully denied benefits when corporate defendants violate the law, this vision has proved less than promising due to the complexity of the statutory provisions and the development of the common law under ERISA.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious advantages that corporations have been given in exchange for providing benefits, many companies either intentionally or unintentionally interfere with employees or retirees receiving their rightful benefits, and because of the complexity of the law in this legal area proceedings to correct problems have proven to be difficult and arduous.
For more information, updates, and a list of cases I have been involved with in this area of the law, please see the litigation page or click here.