The Supreme Court today - in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Thomas - lays a trap for the unwary ERISA plan participant. It holds that an ERISA plan sponsor can impose its own limitations period and accrual rule for claims under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), different from what is provided by state or federal law, provided that it is not "unreasonably short" (and remains subject to equitable exceptions). This post explains the significance of Monday's opinion and sets out three things that participants and beneficiaries must do to protect themselves from these legal landmines.
The Wal-Mart decision winds down the current class action against the retail giant, but also - by a bare majority - nudges all of Title VII law, class and individual, back in a familiar and unwelcome direction.
A huge win today for participants in pension and other employee benefit plans. The Supreme Court today issued its opinion on the perennial issue under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) about what weight a court should give to a summary plan description (SPD) that materially contradicts a plan instrument. It reaches the surprising conclusion - contrary to the standing law in most circuits - that an SPD is not part of an ERISA plan and hence not enforceable under ERISA § 502(b)(1)(B). But it also holds that inconsistencies between an SPD and a plan may support judicial reformation of the plan under ERISA § 502(a)(3) and even monetary remedies in the form of "surcharge." This huge blessing for participants whose cases, up to this point, were often stalled by lower courts for want of "appropriate equitable relief."