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Legal Memorandum: Causes of Action Available to Union Retirees

Issue: What causes of action may be available to union retirees based on the directors’ failure to create the retirement fund as approved by a vote of the union membership?

Area of Law: Employee Law
Keywords: Union retirees; Retirement fund; Relief available
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 977 F.2d 246; 473 U.S. 134; 962 F. Supp. 616; 858 F.2d 1154; 640 F. Supp. 912; 810 F.2d 618; 481 U.S. 41
Cited Statutes: 29 U.S.C. § 1131; 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B); 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3); 29 USC § 1140; 29 USC §§ 1001 et seq;
Date: 05/01/2007

Two major federal laws provide avenues of potential relief to the retirees in this case: the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).  Under the civil enforcement provisions of ERISA—29 U.S.C. § 1131—for example, a participant in or beneficiary of a retirement plan may sue to enforce his or her rights under the plan, or to clarify rights to future benefits.  See Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U.S. 41, 53 (1987); see also Susan A. Lentz, Cause of Action Under Employee Retirement Income Security Act [29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B)] for Recovery of Covered Plan Related Benefits, 18 COA 1 (2006) (stating same and citing, inter alia, Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Russell, 473 U.S. 134 (1985)). 

Specifically, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(3) allows a participant or beneficiary to bring an action to (1) enjoin an act or practice that violates any provision of ERISA or the terms of the plan, (2) obtain other appropriate equitable relief to redress such violations, or (3) enforce the provisions of ERISA or the plan.  Lentz, supra, 18 COA 1, Practice Guide.  A participant or beneficiary may also bring a cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty, which claim may include a request for removal of the fiduciary.  Id.  A breach of fiduciary duty claim may be brought in addition to or instead of an action to recover benefits.  Lentz, supra, 18 COA 1, Practice Guide. 

In Massachusetts Mutual […]

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