Stephan Zouras, LLP currently represents participants and beneficiaries of the Advocate Health Care Network pension plan in a class action lawsuit.
Plaintiffs allege that Advocate is violating numerous provisions of ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), including underfunding the Advocate Plan by claiming the Plan is exempt from ERISA’s protections based on its claim that it is a “church based plan.”
As a result of its misclassification, we believe Advocate underfunded its Plan by tens of millions of dollars or more.
Typically, employee benefit plans that qualify as “church plans” are exempt from many federal retirement laws and pension requirements, including minimum vesting rules. However, many hospitals and healthcare facilities, who claim an affiliation with a particular church or religious organization in order to benefit from ”church plan” retirement laws and pension plan vesting rules, are not actually controlled by a church or aligned with a specific religious practice or belief.
While these institutions can receive a tremendous financial benefit from “church plan” exemptions, including the ability to fund pensions based on the minimum vesting rules, in many cases they do not qualify for these exemptions and are wrongly taking advantage of a law which does not apply to them.
We believe this is a direct violation of ERISA. This federal law was crafted to protect employee retirement funds by providing minimum vesting and funding standards to ensure after years of service, employees receive the benefits promised by their retirement plan under applicable laws.
If you work or worked for Advocate, or any other religious-affiliated hospital, and want more information on your employee rights, please contact us.