A recent case, Kaplan v. St. Peters Healthcare in the 3 rd Circuit highlighted how difficult
it can be to determine when a plan is exempt from ERISA. A religiously affiliated hospital had
established a retirement plan for its employees. Generally, if a church establishes a plan then
that plan can be exempt under ERISA. The church can opt into ERISA if it follows proper
procedures. In this instance, the church’s qualifying agency, St. Peters Hospital, had actually
established the retirement plan. Because the qualifying agency rather than the church itself
established the plan, the court held that it could not be a church exempt plan. The church itself
had to establish the plan. ERISA, even though no procedures were followed to “opt in”,
governed. This opinion could have an impact on many plans that were previously considered to
be exempt under ERISA. Churches often have “sister” or related organizations.
Need legal assistance? Call a ERISA lawyer of Tuscaloosa today for a consultation!