The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) governs employee benefits. Benefits are some of the most valuable aspects of an employee’s compensation—retirement benefits in the form of traditional pension plans, 401k plans, cash balance plans and annuities; and “welfare” benefits in the form of health care, paid vacation, disability plans, life insurance plans and the like.
ERISA strictly limits the actions of the people and entities administering employee benefit plans. These administrators must provide prudent management, act only in the interest of the beneficiaries and provide adequate and accurate information to them about the plans and their accounts. They must provide the benefits promised under the plans, may not improperly cut back vested benefits, and may not terminate or otherwise discriminate against plan participants to prevent them from accruing additional benefits.
M&S attorney Michael Lieder has litigated numerous class actions raising ERISA claims, including breaches of fiduciary duty, illegal denials of benefits, illegal cutback of vested benefits, and violations of ERISA section 510’s prohibition on adverse employment actions to prevent employees from attaining benefits. He is currently litigating a class action case on behalf of approximately 100 medical professionals who have been unfairly classified as contractors and thus mistreated by their common law employer, MetLife, who in doing so has violated state wage and hour laws including withholding employee benefits in violation of ERISA.
The Washington DC employment lawyers at M&S, have handled individual cases as well as some of the largest class actions under that law, seeking benefits on behalf of employees and to enforce the duties of fiduciaries to the ERISA plans. For example, we have successfully litigated path-breaking class actions claiming that plans improperly confined their employees’ choices under their 401(k) plan to the employer’s own mutual funds rather than offering the superior funds managed by other investment companies. We currently represent about 400 plaintiffs claiming that their employer illegally cut back their pension benefits and later terminated their employment contracts in violation of ERISA § 510 in order to prevent them from accruing additional employee benefits. Lawyers are also investigating claims that employers infected with conflicts of interest agreed to excessive charges for supplemental life insurance plan participants and misrepresented those charges to employees to try to induce them to participate in the plan.
M&S’s litigation experience under ERISA includes: