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EEOC Issues Technical Assistance Regarding Waivers and Releases of Discrimination Claims in Severance Agreements

Can an employer validly require an employee to sign an agreement waiving his or her right to sue the employer under federal employment discrimination laws in exchange for severance benefits? Technical guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on July 15, 2009 timely answers this question — with a qualified “yes” — and […]

International Investments: Surprise Reporting Requirements for Plans and Fiduciaries

Recent comments by representatives of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) indicate that benefit plans and their fiduciaries may now be required to report to the IRS what has become a staple of many plans’ investment portfolios: the offshore investment fund. Investments which include foreign bank or securities accounts must be reported to the IRS on […]

UPDATE — Same-Sex Marriage Benefits

In our May 2008 issue, we discussed the potential implications that the May 15, 2008 California Supreme Court (the “Court”) decision regarding the ability of same-sex couples to get married under the laws of the State of California could have on qualified pension plans, health and welfare plans, and non-qualified deferred compensation plans (collectively, “plans”). […]

Department of Labor Issues Q&As on Form 5500 Schedule C Reporting for 2009

The Schedule C accompanying the Form 5500 for the 2009 plan year for large plans will be markedly different from the Schedule C previously required. On November 16, 2007, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) published a new Schedule C, effective for the 2009 plan year, which requires significantly more disclosure of service provider fees and […]

The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage on Employee Benefit Plans

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, In re Marriage Cases, which invalidates the requirement under California law that only a man and a woman can enter into a valid marriage. By a 4–3 vote, the Court ruled that this requirement violates various provisions of the California Constitution and ordered […]

DOL’s Proposed Form T–1 Would Require Detailed Financial Reporting for Most Union-Negotiated Benefit Plans

For the last 50 years or so, Taft-Hartley benefit plans — plans that are administered jointly by labor and management representatives pursuant to the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 — have been required to file annual financial reports with the federal government that are essentially the same as those required from other types of […]

Recent Appeals Court Decision Instructs Plan Administrators How (Not) to Handle Benefit Claims

Recent court decisions remind plan administrators of the importance of meticulously following the Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations regarding determination of benefit claims and appeals under a plan’s internal administrative procedures. Where plan administrators have failed to follow the DOL’s claims regulations or the plan’s internal claims and appeals procedures, their benefit claims decisions may […]

The Effects of the Final USERRA Regulations on Multiemployer Plans

On December 19, 2005, the Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (“DOL”) issued final regulations that interpret the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, as amended (“USERRA”). These final USERRA regulations (“final regulations”) are effective January 18, 2006. An article in our January issue described the effects of the final […]

Final Regulations Interpreting the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 Issued

On December 19, 2005, the Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (“DOL”) issued final regulations that interpret the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, as amended (“USERRA”). These final USERRA regulations are effective January 18, 2006. The final USERRA regulations (“final regulations”) follow the proposed USERRA regulations that were issued […]

Benefits Relief Following Hurricane Disasters

As recovery efforts continue following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, affected employers face the daunting tasks of responding to the needs of displaced employees and reestablishing destroyed business operations. This article discusses some of the employee benefits issues that these employers may face in meeting those objectives as well as the relief provided or […]

Recent Proposed Treasury Regulations on Electronic Benefit Communications Reflect Influence of E-SIGN

On July 14, 2005, proposed Treasury regulations were issued relating to the use of electronic media for providing notices to benefit plan participants and beneficiaries, and transmitting benefit elections and consents. The proposed regulations are specifically intended to coordinate existing Treasury requirements on the use of technology in communicating benefit notices or elections with the […]

The Limits of Jebian — Not Every Technical Breach Means De Novo Review

Not too long ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave ERISA plan administrators a sharp jolt when it ruled that a plan’s failure to decide a benefits claim within the time limits set forth in the plan or under Department of Labor regulations would deprive the plan’s ultimate determination of the claim of the […]

Recent Developments in Washington

Bankruptcy Reform The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (S.256) was signed by the President on April 20, 2005. In addition to its general overhaul of the bankruptcy law, the Act contains some provisions specifically relevant to employee benefit plans: Expanded Exclusion.The Act extends the exclusion from a debtor’s estate to encompass […]

USERRA Update

This fall has seen two important developments in the area of veterans’ rights under employee benefit plans. On September 20, 2004, the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (“VETS”) of the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued proposed regulations under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployments Rights Act of 1994, as amended (“USERRA”). (For more information about […]

Benefit Plan Issues Raised by Same-Sex Marriages

The Issue Same-sex marriages produce uncertainty as to who is a “legal spouse” and create confusion for benefit plan administrators who must make many determinations based on an individual?s status as a “spouse.” For example, a plan administrator might need to determine whether a same-sex spouse is eligible to enroll in health benefits as a […]

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