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Court Allows ERISA Claims to Proceed against Employer?ÇÖs ?Ç£Church?Ç¥ Plan

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that for a pension plan to be a ?Ç£church plan,?Ç¥ exempt from ERISA?ÇÖs requirements, it must have been established by a church or convention of churches.?á The court reasoned that even though ERISA had been amended to permit a church plan to be ?Ç£maintained?Ç¥ by a church-associated organization, the amendment did not obviate the requirement that the church plan be ?Ç£established?Ç¥ by a church or convention of churches.?á The court declined to defer to the IRS?ÇÖs interpretation, set forth in a series of private letter rulings, on the grounds that those rulings only apply to the persons who request them and are not entitled to judicial deference.?á As a result, the court did not dismiss an employee?ÇÖs claim that the employer?ÇÖs plan was subject to, and not in compliance with, ERISA. Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. C13-1450 TEH (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2013).

The lawyers of our Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice Group are readily able to assist companies on a nationwide basis with implementing sophisticated benefit plans and providing answers to their most challenging compensation issues. Additionally, our lawyers are well aware of the daily employee benefits challenges facing companies of all sizes and are capable of helping in-house lawyers and human resources personnel with the day-to-day advice and guidance necessary to properly administer employee benefits plans.

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January 2014