Compensation beyond wages
Employee benefits are an integral part of a worker’s compensation. Myriad laws and regulations exist to protect the security of retiree, health, and other employee benefits as well as ensure that their tax-favored status is not abused. Employee benefit plans, unions, not-for-profit entities, and others have for decades relied on Bredhoff & Kaiser to help them navigate through this complex area of the law. Our employee benefits lawyers provide expert, practical advice in all areas of employee benefits, including:
Plan Administration and Design Counseling
As regular plan counsel to many private- and public-sector single-employer and multiemployer pension and welfare plans, we assist plans and plan sponsors in complying with the complex requirements of the Internal Revenue Code, ERISA, and other federal and state laws. We work closely with plan administrative staff and other plan professionals to ensure that compliance issues are addressed promptly, efficiently, and consistently, including advising on necessary administrative changes required by changes in law. We negotiate with employers over participation, withdrawal liability, and collection matters; review agreements with third party service providers including investment managers and insurance carriers; and provide advice with respect to internal HR matters.
Our firm’s benefits and labor law practices are deeply intertwined, and our union clients frequently come to us for employee benefits advice with respect to organizing, collective bargaining, litigation, and internal staff plans. We also help our union clients and their members resolve issues concerning employee benefit plans maintained by employers. We design cutting-edge benefit programs for unions and other clients; for example, we pioneered the creation of retiree voluntary employees’ beneficiary associations (VEBAs) as a way to salvage health benefits that would otherwise be lost as a result of employer bankruptcies.
Representation Before Federal Agencies
We have extensive experience representing plans and fiduciaries before various federal and state agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in connection with dozens of investigations, audits, requests for prohibited transaction exemptions and other government proceedings. We frequently prepare comment letters to and consult with the agencies concerning regulatory guidance. We are able to draw on our reputation with these agencies and our strong working relationships with individuals working at the agencies to help our clients achieve successful results.
Plan fiduciaries trust us to provide sound, practical legal advice on matters such as advising on prudent procedures to help them to satisfy their duty of care, avoiding prohibited transactions, assessing litigation risk, training new fiduciaries, and resolving deadlock arbitrations.
Member Benefits and Labor-Management Committees
We have broad experience in helping clients establish and maintain voluntary member benefit programs for their members, including credit card and loan programs, insurance offerings, and discount programs of all types.
As part of our work in this area, we regularly handle all aspects of setting up and maintaining voluntary member benefit programs for members of AFL-CIO affiliated unions, including drafting RFPs, performing comparative due diligence on vendor offers, negotiating term sheets and definitive final agreements, and monitoring programs on an ongoing basis. We also manage complex intellectual property issues, negotiate royalty arrangements, ensure proper ERISA and tax compliance, and work through special issues related to the Internet.
We also routinely establish and advise joint labor-management committees formed by unions and employers to enhance economic development or involve workers in decisions affecting their jobs.
Litigation on Behalf of Plans, Plan Participants, and Unions
Our renowned employee benefits litigation practice includes representing unions, employee benefit plans, and participants and beneficiaries of employee benefit plans at all levels of the federal court system and in arbitrations.
Among the dozens of important appellate cases that the firm has handled are numerous ERISA and other employee-benefits cases. For example, we represented retirees seeking to maintain their collectively bargained health insurance benefits in the Supreme Court case of M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 574 U.S. 427 (2015), described here.
More recently, in the Eleventh and Ninth Circuits, we successfully represented a multiemployer pension plan against efforts by an employer (and an individual acting at the behest of an employer) to preclude the plan from adopting rehabilitation measures that, to prolong the plans’ solvency, charged withdrawing employers a share of the plans’ “accumulated funding deficiency.” More information about the issue presented in this cases is provided here. Other recent notable Bredhoff appellate victories in the benefits area are described here and here,
The firm has also handled scores of complex employee benefit cases before federal trial courts, bankruptcy courts, and arbitrators on issues involving retiree health benefits, withdrawal liability, collections, provider disputes, and alleged fiduciary breaches. Two recent trial-court victories involving employee benefits are described here and here. Other examples of our litigation work in the employee benefits area appear in the News section.