You Can Run, But You Can't Hide From ERISA

Two interesting but different stories that both relate to the broad impact that ERISA has across the workplace. Here, in this first one, you find the story of the Third Circuit concluding that certain death benefits were not pension, but instead welfare, benefits, which did not vest and could be revoked, despite long time practice and the reliance of employees on the benefit as part of retirement planning. This story illustrates a theme that often arises on this blog, concerning the crucial importance of understanding what is really promised as retirement benefits under ERISA governed plans, and the trouble participants get into when they don’t grasp it prior to litigation and during the time they are active participants in the plan, which is something that seems to have clearly occurred, for instance, in this case here. In the second story, you see the potential reach of ERISA in an attempt, ultimately rejected by the court, to have it reach and protect what was otherwise allegedly illegal conduct in providing fringe benefits; even there, it was only the specifics of the intersection between the requirements of the allegedly violated compensation law and the obligations of ERISA that allowed the issue to fall outside of ERISA’s reach, rather than any sort of general assumption that this criminal proceeding was simply a separate area of the world than ERISA.