While class action lawsuits are nothing new, those involving the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 seem to be becoming more prevalent. Pundits and analysts are reviewing the data from the past year and finding that mass torts surrounding the elements of ERISA enforcement reached record-breaking numbers. Employees in Tennessee may be interested in knowing how those lawsuits attempted to protect their rights.
ERISA places strict rules on the way private companies manage benefits for employees. Usually this pertains to pension plans, ensuring that the fiduciaries of those plans protect the interests of the plan participants. However, those businesses with church affiliations are exempt from certain ERISA rules. Several of the many lawsuits last year came from employees of church-based nonprofit hospitals that felt their employers were unfairly claiming the ERISA exemption. While these class action decisions favored the employer, analysts expect a second wave of lawsuits in the coming year.
Another common class action last year pertained to university 403(b) retirement plans. The plaintiffs argued that the fiduciaries charged unreasonably high administrative and record-keeping fees, which eat into the profits of the plans. Corporation employees are beginning to grumble about similar issues, and analysts are watching these cases to see the outcomes.
Mass torts allow many people to come together to file a complaint against one large entity. When such a lawsuit would not be practical or feasible for an individual, a class action can be a powerful way to demonstrate solidarity to a company that may be treating employees unfairly. With the assistance of a Tennessee attorney who is familiar with ERISA rules, employees have an ally when they feel their plan fiduciaries are not acting in good faith.
Source: benefitnews.com, "ERISA class action settlements reach almost $1 billion", Cort Olsen, Jan. 23, 2018