Complex Pension Claims and Age Discrimination in Benefits

ERISA imposes complex statutory obligations on pension benefits, and disputes also arise as to whether the pension accruals or benefits are violating age discrimination prohibitions imposed by ERISA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Attorneys at HJRF have extensive experience in defending these claims, including from member Robert Rachal’s prior work at the premier ERISA litigation practice at Proskauer.   Examples of class and complex cases in which our attorneys have been involved include:

  • Pension Benefits – Skelly v. Insurance Services Office, No. 1:12-cv-08889-AKH (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 16, 2014) & 599 Fed. Apx. 409, 60 EBC 2939 (2nd April 27, 2015) (class action claim cutback pension benefits in plan conversion – won case dismissal); Allen v. Honeywell, 698 F. Supp. 2d 1197 (D. Ariz. 2010) (defending company and plan against $1 billion class claims that plan change cutback benefits and that plan terms provided richer benefits) (after became involved summary judgments granting these claims were reversed, case eventually amicably settled).
  • Litigation on age discrimination and benefits: Osberg v. Foot Locker, 656 F. Supp. 2d 361 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (defending company and plan against class claim that pension change discriminated on the basis of age) (age claim successfully dismissed).
  • ERISA exemption litigationOverall v. Ascension Health, 23 F. Supp. 3d 816 (E.D. Mich. 2014) (successfully defended Catholic health organization against claim pension plan does not qualify for the church plan exemption to ERISA); Lann v. Trinity Health Corp., Civil No.: PJM 14-2237, 2015 WL 6468197 (D. Mary. Feb. 24, 2015) (same); Smith v. Regional Transit Authority, 827 F.3d 412 (5th 2016) (successfully defended retiree health claim based on governmental plan exemption to ERISA).  
  • Litigation on age discrimination and benefits: Aull v. Cavalcade Pension Plan, 988 F. Supp. 1360 (D. Colo. 1997) & 185 F.R.D. 618 (D. Colo. 1998) (defended company and plan against class action including claim that pension formula discriminated on the basis of age, and for breaches of fiduciary duties and for benefits) (after successful defenses and IRS audit, case amicably settled).
  • Prohibited Transaction – Sprague v. Central States & UPS et al. 269 F.3d 811 (7th Oct. 18, 2001) (defended company against claim it owed approximately $100 million in contributions) (won case dismissal).    


Publications and Presentations

Attorneys at HJRF also speak and write extensively regarding complex pension claims and ERISA and ADEA’s age discrimination prohibitions. Representative examples include:


Al Holifield, Tina Haley and Sarah Johnson, chapter co-authors, ERISA Litigation (BNA 5th ed. 2014) Chpt. 38 “Age Discrimination in Employee Benefits.”

Robert Rachal, author article, “View From Proskauer: Pension Plan Administration and Court Deference to the IRS—The ‘Church Plan’ Cases as a Case Study on the Significance of Agency Deference to Plan Administration” in Bloomberg BNA, Pension & Benefits Daily (April 13, 2015).

Robert Rachal, co-author article, “Cases and Issues in Cash Balance Litigation” in 22 The Labor Lawyer 29 (Summer 2006) (excerpt republished in “Best Articles” compendium in ABA’s GP Solo Sept. 2007).

Robert Rachal, co-author article, “Litigation Issues in Cash Balance Plans” in 17 Benefits Law Journal 66 (Spring 2004 & Summer 2004) & 30 Journal Pension Planning & Compliance 1 (Spring 2004).


Robert Rachal, speaker at American Conference Institute 9th National Forum on ERISA Litigation on “New Developments in Church Plan Litigation” (April 2015, Chicago, IL).

Robert Rachal, speaker at West LegalWorks teleconference on “EEOC and Consideration of Age in Providing Retirement Benefits.” (February 2008).

Robert Rachal, speaker at ABA JCEB teleconference on “The Beat Goes On:  New Cash Balance Cases That May Rock Things” (August 2003).

Robert Rachal, Glasser/Fordham University and ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits. Designed, organized, and co-chaired multi-disciplinary seminar of lawyers, benefit consultants, PBGC Executive Director and Congressman Earl Pomeroy on cash balance pension plans.  (May 1999 San Francisco & New York City; July 1999 Chicago; October 1999 Washington, D.C.).

Robert Rachal, speaker at Glasser/Fordham University 12th Annual ERISA Litigation Conference on “Cash Balance Litigation” (September 1999, New York, NY).