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Court Rules that Company Discretionary Offer of Voluntary Separation Agreements Does Not Create an ERISA-Covered Severance Plan

It always has been difficult to give a consistent answer as to whether informal severance arrangements have created an ERISA-covered severance plan. In Mance v. Quest Diagnostics Inc., 2017 WL 684711 (DC NJ 2017), the U.S. District Court held that Quest’s decision to provide some departing employees with severance benefits under a voluntary separation agreement (“VSA”) process was provided on such a discretionary basis that it did not establish a plan under ERISA.

THE FULL FIFTH CIRCUIT WILL RE-VISIT THE STANDARD OF REVIEW IN DENIAL OF BENEFITS CASES

On July 10, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals announced that the full Court would re-hear a recent case concerning the applicable standard of review in an ERISA denial of benefits case – which is often outcome-determinative in favor of insurers and benefit plans.

WPI Insider Briefing: Workplace Policy under the Trump Administration Begins to Take Shape as "Repeal and Replace" of the ACA Faces Crucial Senate Vote

Five months into President Trump's term, his administration's workplace policy is beginning to take shape. From notable developments at the Department of Labor (DOL), to long-awaited nominations to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the administration's departure from the labor and employment policies of its predecessor – or at least the steps to do so – accelerated in June.

Proving Loss Causation in Breach of Fiduciary Claims — The Split Widens

As a follow up to Heather Panick’s article below, please see my recent article in Bloomberg BNA Pension and Benefits Daily – Thorne Article

Here Comes the Rain: Employers Offering Mental Health Benefits Should Prepare for More Scrutiny

Employers can expect some challenging information requests about the mental health and substance abuse benefits offered to employees and their dependents through group health plans, if a draft form released by federal regulators is any indication.

Supreme Court Confirms Retirement Plans of Church-Affiliated Organizations Can be Exempt from ERISA

In a much-anticipated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 5 that retirement plans maintained by church-affiliated organizations can be exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), regardless of which organization establishing the plan. While the ruling may provide some temporary relief to church-affiliated organizations, it also reveals what is likely to be the next wave of challenges in this area of the law.

Tenth Circuit Follows Majority of the Circuit Courts and Holds Plaintiff Bears the Burden of Proving Causation in ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Cases

On June 5, 2017, in Pioneer Centres Holding Co. Employee Stock Ownership Plan & Trust v. Alerus Fin., N.A., Case No. 15-1227, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the plaintiff bears the burden on each element of its breach of fiduciary duty claim under ERISA.

Calendar Year Plans Need to File Form 5500 by Monday, July 31, 2017

Executive Summary: The Form 5500 is an annual report that must be filed for every employee benefit plan that covers 100 or more participants. For calendar year plans, these forms must be filed by July 31, 2017.

NPR Report Discusses Growing Interest In Portable Benefits

Late last week, NPR aired a story discussing the governmental efforts to bring portable benefits to gig workers. You can read a transcript of the story or listen to it by clicking here. I was fortunate enough to have been interviewed by Yuki Noguchi for the story, discussing one of the biggest reasons most companies do not offer benefits to their workers benefits: “They don't want to have them categorized as ‘employees.’

Senate Republicans Release Bill to "Repeal and Replace" the Affordable Care Act

On June 22, 2017, Senate Republicans released a draft of their legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). After the House narrowly passed its version of ACA overhaul legislation, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), on May 4, 2017, attention shifted to the Senate to craft its own proposal.