September 04, 2015

In this article, Jenner & Block Partners Amanda S. Amert and Craig C. Martin examine challenges to ERISA’s “church plan” exemption.  Plans subject to an exemption do not have to comply with ERISA’s funding and other requirements.  The authors explain that, for more than 30 years, the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor have allowed not-for-profit entities (including civil law corporations) to fall within the exclusion as long as they were affiliated with or controlled by churches.  Since a 2013 case in which plaintiffs claimed that Catholic Health Initiatives improperly used the exemption, more than 10 similar challenges have been filed.  “These cases could have far-reaching consequences for the way an untold number of non-ERISA compliant plans are operated, and could cost millions in funding obligations, notice violations, and other compliance mechanisms under ERISA,” the authors observe.