Plan label immaterial to determination whether a plan is governed by ERISA

A federal court ruled that “mere labeling by a plan sponsor or administrator is not determinative on whether a plan is governed by ERISA.” Even though DaimlerChrysler utilized ERISA-language in its Summary Plan Description and denial notices, leading one to believe that the plan might be governed by ERISA, what controlled was how the DaimlerChrysler treated the plan in government filings.

In this case, the DaimlerChrysler had not treated the plan as governed by ERISA, and paid the costs of the plan out its general assets, meaning the plan qualified as an ERISA-exempt payroll practice. A Production Supervisor sought disability benefits for anxiety through DaimlerChrysler’s self-insured plan, but was denied. Although the language in the plan led the Production Supervisor to believe the plan was governed by ERISA, the court held in favor of the employee.

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Shirley W.

My husband was looking for attorneys to help me with my disability claim. He was in Florida on business and happened to call Dell & Schaefer by accident. I have been out of work due to physical illness with an emotional component related to the pain from my physical problems.

My employer used a 3 party administrator for disability claims and they were less than helpful. I was afraid I was going to loose everything if they stopped paying my benefits. I received a phone call from attorney Rachel Alters. She was my angel! She had me fax all the communication I had received from the disability company. She read through all the of sideways language and was able to explain every bit of it to me. Best of all, once I hired Dell & Schaefer I did not have to talk to “the company again.” What a relief! As soon as “the company” found out I had a lawyer everything turned around. I was deemed totally disabled not only for my job but any JOB. Rachel guided me patiently and kindly through every step of this process.

As it stands now, “the company” is paying me a lump sum settlement, that Rachel worked very hard to obtain. They will continue to pay for the services of the company working on my social security disability. Rachel also negotiated my life insurance will be paid by the company until I am 65.

Also “the company” wanted to keep any retro-payments due to me from social security. Rachel stood up for my best interest and any funds that are due to me from Social Security are mine and “the company has no right to them.” Rachel has also educated me about managing a large lump sum of money and the responsibility associated with making it last. Rachel Alters is my lawyer but I also consider her my friend (I have never met her) but only a friend would work so hard to protect the interest of someone else.

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