ERISA Appeals are Fighting Across the Nation

We all want happy endings.

Earlier this week a case was brought before the fifth circuit court fighting for what appeared to be denied pension benefits. Earlier this month, a separate case was brought to the sixth circuit claiming a denial of enhanced pension benefits. We don't want to spoil the ending for you, but ERISA appeals win.

The fifth circuit court saw a fight over technicalities as the two sides battled over whether a deferred compensation arrangement held the same ground as pensions as far as ERISA law. On the plaintiffs side were former employees who were part of a deferred compensation plan, where they allow the company to hold back part of their paycheck in return for a yearly bonus. They were terminated before receiving this money, so they were fighting for it to be returned. The company countered saying ERISA doesn't protect these funds because it specifies only pensions.

The courts agreed that pensions and deferred compensation are not the same, because deferred compensation implies the employee is still employed, while a pension implies employment termination. However, they ruled that this benefit was, in fact, protected by ERISA because the funds withheld could be intended for retirement.

In the sixth circuit, a similar battle over words ensued as the courts tried to determine what was meant by "involuntarily terminated." In the employees' benefits contract, it specified enhanced benefits if the company changed hands and the employees were terminated within three years. The company did change hands, and within three years, they sold some factories to another company, forcing those workers to change contracts. They argued that this was involuntary termination, and the courts ruled in their favor.

ERISA appeals may be able to help you get the benefits you deserve as well. Contact us today to see how!

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