Foundation Publication Search Results

These summaries were compiled from Foundation Publications Search, a database of articles, research reports and books published by the International Foundation and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists.


Breach-of-Contract Claims Dismissed Due to Improper Venue.
Benefits Magazine; v54 no10 p 58 Oct 2017; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismisses a former employee's claims of breach of contract with respect to a release agreement for improper venue due to the existence of a forum selection clause.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v54 no9 pp 66-68 Sep 2017; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Summarizes cases on contributions, benefit denial, retaliation, severance and retiree health care.
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Union Members' Unfair Representation Claim Fails.
Benefits Magazine; v54 no9 pp 58, 60 Sep 2017; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismisses the plaintiff retirees' claims that their union breached its duty of fair representation by unevenly distributing the proceeds of a bankruptcy settlement.
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Taking a New Look At Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Plans.
Schembari, John E.; Foster, Sevawn S.; Benefits Magazine; v54 no4 pp 30-35 Apr 2017; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Supplemental unemployment benefit plans may be a viable option for unions and employers that want to provide laid-off employees with severance benefits.
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Factual Disputes Over Executive Benefit Claims to Be Resolved at Trial.
Benefits Magazine; v54 no3 p 59 Mar 2017; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California finds that neither the plaintiff former bank executive nor the defendant bank and compensation committee resolved all issues of fact with regard to a dispute over pension benefits and denies summary judgment to both parties.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no12 pp 67-69 Dec 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Summarizes cases on disability benefits, AD&D benefits, health and welfare plans, preemption and interference with pension benefits.
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Severance Claims Against Employer May Continue.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no12 p 61 Dec 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denies the defendant defense contractor's motion to dismiss the plaintiff former employees' claims for severance benefits.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no11 pp 73-75 Nov 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Summarizes cases on severance, withdrawal liability, benefit denials and retirement benefits.
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Top-Hat Plan May Grant Discretion.
Benefits Quarterly; v32 no4 p 69 4th Qtr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Plan participant did not show that severance benefit plan administrator abused its discretion in denying him benefits under the plan. The court held that the distinction between "top-hat" plans and other plans was irrelevant because, even under basic contract law, a plan can provide discretion regarding benefits eligibility determinations.
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Court Upholds Denial of Severance Benefits.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no10 p 62 Oct 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri holds that the defendant food company did not abuse its discretion when it denied severance benefits to a former employee who had not experienced a period of unemployment after an ownership transfer.
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Severance Benefits Properly Denied to Executives Involved in Bid-Rigging Scheme.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no10 p 56 Oct 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirms a district court decision that the defendant insurance broker company properly fired the plaintiff executives for cause and properly denied unvested deferred compensation and severance benefits.
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Severance Agreement Is an ERISA Plan.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no7 p 60 Jul 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania finds that provided severance benefits met the definition of a "plan" under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and preempts state law claims brought by the plaintiff former executive against his defendant employer.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no1 pp 54-56 Jan 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Summarizes cases on benefit litigation, subrogation, reimbursement and contract interpretation.
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Second Circuit Rules Severance Policy an ERISA Plan.
Benefits Quarterly; v32 no1 p 39 1st Qtr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Employer's severance policy was "employee welfare benefit plan" governed by ERISA.
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Court Splits Decision in Dispute Over Denial of Executive Severance Benefits.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no8 p 56 Aug 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In the case of Niebauer v. Crane & Co., Inc. et al. the plaintiff was a company executive with a top-hat severance plan, claiming the defendant company and plan deprived him of severance benefits. When told of a temporary reassignment, the plaintiff offered to retire but retracted the statement when told he would be ineligible for severance. A month later he resigned voluntarily. The compensation committee determined the departure was not for good reason under the plan. The plaintiff sued, claiming his employment was terminated against his will, but the defendants were granted summary judgment. The First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the compensation committee's denial, found no conflict of interest or desire to retaliate and saw evidence in the administrative record of the plaintiff's intent to retire. But the Appeals Court found the lower court erred by not considering whether the company intended to deprive the plaintiff of benefits, vacating the court's dismissal of that claim.
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Plaintiffs May Conduct Discovery Into Conflicts of Interest.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no8 p 65 Aug 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The plaintiffs in Felker et al. v. USW Local 10-901 et al. were participants in the defendant severance plan. The company was plan administrator, but plan decisions were delegated to the chief executive officer and then to another officer. The company sold a facility and ended the plaintiffs' employment, but the purchasing company hired the workers. Since original employer terminated their employment, the plaintiffs filed for severance benefits but were denied. The plaintiffs sued, stating the plan did not support delegating decisions and seeking a de novo review. The court accepted the defendant's evidence that administrative authority was properly delegated, so the case would be reviewed under the arbitrary and capricious standard. The court agreed to limited discovery into the plaintiff's allegation of procedural conflict of interest.
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Reduction-in-Force Is Not an ERISA Severance Plan.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no6 p 53 Jun 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The plaintiff in Rivera v. Los Alamos National Security, LLC was terminated after self reporting that he violated state hunting laws, a misdemeanor, prompting the employee to sue for breach of the employer defendant's reduction in force (RIF) policy. The defendant had the case moved to federal court, asserting the RIF policy was an ERISA-governed severance plan, preempting the plaintiff's claim. Reviewing the criteria for an ERISA employee welfare benefit plan, the U.S. District Court for New Mexico determined the RIF policy was not designed to provide severance benefits for participants and did not constitute an ERISA plan. Since the RIF policy was not governed by ERISA and no specific ERISA claims were made, the court remanded the case to state court.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no5 pp 68-70 May 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In the case of Aetna Life Insurance Company v. Ritter et al. the District Court for Western Arkansas ruled that the mother of a deceased life insurance plan participant was the proper and sole surviving beneficiary entitled to insurance benefits. The decedent's wife was the primary beneficiary but, in a murder suicide, was killed by the son along with the participant. With the deaths being considered simultaneous, the mother was left as sole beneficiary, since the participant's other relatives defaulted on any claim. In Gale v. EIX Severance Plan for Nonrepresented Employees et al. the District Court for Central California ruled for the defendant in a case over eligibility for severance benefits. The defendant announced a reduction in force with no severance but reversed and offered severance for surplus employees. The plaintiff moved up his previously elected retirement date to become eligible. The court agreed with the defendant's denial of benefits, finding no evidence to support the plaintiff's claims of eligibility or unfair treatment. In Boyd v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. the plaintiff was an executive with a company acquired by the defendant company. His alleged the reduction of his duties amounted to a change in control and entitled him to severance benefits under the former employer's plan. The District Court for Eastern Missouri dismissed certain claims but permitted the claim for breach of fiduciary duty to proceed, accepting alternate theories of liability under ERISA Section 502(a). In Teamsters Local 639 Employers Health Trust et al. v. Anderson et al. the defendants sought dismissal of the plaintiff's action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The defendant welfare benefit paid medical expenses when the plan participant was injured in surgery. The participant later received a large settlement from medical providers. The plaintiffs sought reimbursement as allowed under plan terms in addition to an equitable lien on all injury-related funds. The Maryland District Court ruled the case was not an improper legal claim for damages and rejected the motion to dismiss. In Humes v. Electrical Workers' Pension Trust Fund of Local No. 58, I.B.E.W., Detroit, Michigan, the plaintiff was a multiemployer plan participant alleging the defendant plan abused discretion by denying benefits after withholding evidence of the plaintiff's accrued service hours. The District Court for Eastern Michigan rejected the defendant's reliance on an unpublished circuit court decision, discounted that court's finding, denied the defendant's motion for relief and granted attorney fees for the plaintiff.
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Employee May Seek Severance Benefits Despite Plan Deadline for Filing Suit.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no4 p 62 Apr 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The defendant employer in Ruiz v. Campbell Soup Company et al. sought to dismiss the plaintiff employee's claim to severance benefits as time-barred, but communications after the benefits request weighed against that finding. Two weeks after discharge the employee requested severance but was told he did not qualify, though a settlement was offered. Six months later the plaintiff's new lawyer asked that the claim be reviewed and received a denial and full explanation and documentation. Two months later when counsel asked about the status of the appeal, the defendant responded there was no appeal pending. Counsel responded that his review request constituted an appeal. The defendants treated this most recent letter as an appeal but again denied it, adding that it was untimely. The District Court for New Jersey noted the court has authority to flexibly adjudicate time limits and recognized the totality of communications to support the plaintiff's claim. The court denied summary judgment for the defendant but found the plaintiff still not eligible for severance benefits.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no4 pp 68-70 Apr 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Cole et al. v. Trinity Health Corporation the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the defendant in a suit for damages for failure to notify an employee about COBRA eligibility. The employer paid the plaintiff employee's health claims but reserved rights to pursue reimbursement if a long-term disability claim were denied. The lower and appeals courts rejected the actual damages request since the COBRA premium would exceed costs related to unpaid claims when they had no coverage. The courts also rejected statutory damages for the employer's failure to provide COBRA notification since they received an extra 11 months of coverage without a request for repayment. In Russell v. Harman International Industries et al. the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled a former employee could not sue over an employer stock price drop since he had accepted a severance agreement waving ERISA claims up to the agreement date. Though the lower court may have erred under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure regarding discovery, the appeals court found no further discovery would have changed the result. In Twin City Pipe Trades Service Association, Inc. et al. v. MSES, LLC the plaintiffs sued the defendant for delinquent benefit contributions to be distributed to benefit plans, attorney fees and a bond to cover future failures. The District Court for Minnesota granted summary judgment for the plaintiff for the delinquent contributions, damages and interest, fees and costs, but not the bond. While the collective bargaining agreement required a bond covering three months, the defendant had not worked for two years. In Rainey v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada et al. the Middle District Court for Tennessee found the defendant should pay an equitable surcharge for misleading a plan participant about being covered under a more generous plan. The plaintiff, the deceased participant's spouse who relied on the defendant's misrepresentation, was granted the difference between the life insurance benefit she expected and what the defendant paid. In CECO Concrete Construction, LLC v. Centennial State Carpenters Pension Trust the District Court for Colorado upheld an arbitrator's ruling on withdrawal liability from a multiemployer benefit plan. The plaintiff construction company met conditions to avoid liability under ERISA's terms. The court agreed liability could not be forced on another company, allegedly under common control, because it acquired the plaintiff five months after the plaintiff's withdrawal from the plan.
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Employees Transferred in Company Acquisition Have No Right to Severance Benefits.
Benefits Magazine; v52 no3 p 55 Mar 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The plaintiff employees in Feeko et al. v. Pfizer, Inc. et al. worked for the defendant company providing services to an internal credit union and were covered by a severance plan. Another company acquired the original employer and transferred the employees to work directly for the credit union. The employees sought benefits under the severance plan that had been carried over. That plan barred payments in the case of a transfer to a successor company or affiliate, though the terminology was not defined. The plaintiffs contended they were involuntarily terminated and were no longer employed by the new company. The defendants argued there was a transfer to a successor company without job loss or pay change. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania noted the ambiguous terminology but that essentially all aspects of the plaintiffs' jobs continued unchanged. The court upheld denial of severance benefits in a summary judgment.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits Magazine; v51 no8 pp 65-67 Aug 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Smith v. Delta Air Lines Inc. the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit, supporting the plan fiduciaries' presumption of prudence in retaining company stock in an employee stock ownership (ESOP) plan despite a 92 percent drop in value. The ESOP required offering the company stock as an option and matching contributions in company stock, and there was no indication of plan mismanagement. In Gates v. UnitedHealth Group Inc. et al. the Second Circuit reversed and vacated the lower court's finding that the plaintiff lacked standing to claim an improper benefit calculation. The appeals court found problems with the defendant's method of calculating benefits in coordination with Medicare and took issue with the court's casting the plan's entire summary plan description as ambiguous. In Medicomp, Inc. v. United Healthcare Insurance Company the Eleventh Circuit upheld the lower court's ruling that the plaintiff did not have standing to sue the defendant. The plaintiff, a health care service provider delivering services to plan members, sued a group of insurers for failing to pay for the services delivered. The courts noted the plaintiff had neither independent standing to sue nor derivative standing through written assignment of benefits from plan beneficiaries. In Severstal Wheeling, Inc. v. WPN Corp. et al. the district court for the Southern District of New York confirmed that by providing investment advice for a fee, the defendant investment management company and officer were fiduciaries of the plaintiff's retirement and pension plans. The defendant transferred some plan assets to a trust that performed poorly, a potential violation of fiduciary duty, but arranged for unrestricted management authority retroactive to days before the move, circumventing the breach. The court ruled the defendants were fiduciaries but did not find the investment management resulted in expanded fiduciary duty under ERISA Section 3(38). In Smith v. The NECA-IBEW Pension Benefit Trust Fund the district court for the Western District of Kentucky found the plaintiff was not due severance benefits that would have accrued from the time he took a job within the electrical construction industry, prohibited employment according to the pension plan provisions.
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Supreme Court Holds SUB Payments Subject to FICA Taxes.
Benefits Magazine; v51 no7 pp 58, 60 Jul 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : When a group of employees lost jobs through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the employer paid, withheld and then sought a refund of FICA taxes. The tax payments were not tied to unemployment compensation or any service performed. In United States v. Quality Stores, Inc. the bankruptcy court ruled for the defendant employer, and the district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB) not wages for purposes of FICA. But the Supreme Court ruled SUB payments are considered wages under Internal Revenue Code Section 3121 for FICA tax purposes, rejecting modification by a special provision in Section 3402. SUB payments are treated as if they were wages, requiring federal tax withholding. Since all severance pay is remuneration for employment, then SUB payments are wages payments for FICA purposes.
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United States Supreme Court Review.
Benefits Quarterly; v30 no3 pp 41-50 3rd Qtr 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, the Supreme Court's first stock drop case, the Court rejected any presumption of prudence by retirement plan fiduciaries and remanded the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals with an order to examine the circumstances at the time the fiduciaries made their decision to continue offering an employee stock ownership plan after the employer's stock dropped dramatically. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. the Supreme Court held that closely-held, for-profit corporations could claim religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage requirement. In Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. the Supreme Court ruled that, without a controlling statute stating otherwise, a participant of an ERISA plan could agree to a reasonable limitation period that began before the cause of action. In Ray Haluch Gravel Company et al. v. Central Pension Fund of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Participating Employers et al. the Supreme Court ruled that the appeals period for an award of compensation began when the initial judgment was rendered even if an award of attorney fees was made at a later date. In Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp. the Supreme Court held that putting on and taking off protective gear was changing clothes under the Fair Labor Standards Act and was therefore subject to collective bargaining as to whether it was compensable time. In U.S. v. Quality Stores, the Supreme Court held that severance payments to involuntarily terminated employees were taxable wages under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. In National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, the Supreme Court ruled that the Senate was not in recess when President Barack Obama appointed three people to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and therefore the appointments were not valid since they had been made without Senate approval; the ruling effectively invalidates decisions made by the NLRB between January 2012 and August 2013 when the appointees were on the board. In Lane v. Franks the Supreme Court ruled that while a fired government employee could make a retaliation claim that he was fired for testimony against his employer, the claim could be made against the employer only in his public capacity because the employer in his private capacity could reasonably have believed that he was within his rights to fire the employee, giving him qualified immunity from claims against him in his individual capacity. In Lawson v. FMR LLC, the Supreme Court included employees of private contractors and subcontractors contracting with a public company to the list of protected whistleblowers under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
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Court Applies Mandatory Arbitration Provision to Plaintiffs' Claims.
Benefits Magazine; v51 no3 pp 58, 60 Mar 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Hendricks v. UBS Financial Services, Inc. the plaintiffs were employed by the defendant company having a compensation Plan A and a severance Plan B summarized in Plan A documents. Plan B stated employer contributions vest after six years after contribution, but unvested contributions are forfeited without a qualifying separation and a separation agreement, which the plaintiffs declined to sign. The defendant asserted the unvested amounts were forfeited, while the plaintiffs sought appropriate relief, asserting forfeiture would violate ERISA. While Plan A had arbitration and class waiver provisions, arbitration in Plan B did not extend to class claims. The district court certified a plaintiff class. The Fifth Circuit ruled that differences between the plans regarding arbitration should be determined by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and reversed the district court's judgment, compelling arbitration.
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