The Employee Retirement Income Security Act was passed in 1974 to protect workers who are covered by benefit plans through their employers. The law requires private sector employers in Tennessee and across the country to inform their employees how to obtain their benefits and any limits that exist on those benefits. Fiduciaries are also held accountable for managing the benefits in an ethical way. Recently, a group of retirees in another state claimed their ERISA rights were violated when their former employer changed its benefits policy.
The five retirees worked for a credit union between 34 and 40 years each. They held various positions, including leasing manager, assistant vice president and executive vice president. When they left the company, each retiring between 2005 and 2009, they received benefits that included 100 percent health insurance premiums for life. However, in 2009, the credit union apparently voted to revise the retirement plan by eliminating the lifetime health insurance premiums.
At the end of 2015, the health insurance benefits ended, and the retirees filed a lawsuit this month asking the court to order the company to pay those lost benefits plus damages. The credit union denies it violated ERISA because, it says, the benefit plan did not fall under ERISA coverage. Further, the company handbook, which many of the retirees helped to adopt, apparently states that the credit union has the right to modify its retirement benefits.
ERISA laws are complex, but when they are violated, innocent workers pay the price. Tennessee workers who feel their benefits have been mishandled or unfairly withheld have the right to legal recourse. By contacting an attorney, they will have an advocate to represent them in pursuing justice.
Source: timesrecordnews.com, "Retirees file suit against Union Square over benefits", John Ingle, April 19, 2017