The "church plan" exemption applies to churches

Stapleton v. Advocate Health Care Network, No. 15-1368 (7th Cir. Mar. 17, 2016).

ERISA, the federal pension law, exempts “church plans” from its regulatory scope. This means that church plans don’t have to comply with the federal vesting and funding requirements that are designed to protect the interests of employees and the solvency of pensions. 

This appeal asks whether a plan established by a church-affiliated organization, here a hospital, is a church plan under ERISA. The Seventh Circuit gives the plain language of the statute a close reading and concludes that such a plan does not count as a church plan under ERISA. This is the same conclusion that the Third Circuit came to last December.

Full disclosure: my firm, Keller Rohrback, is counsel for the plaintiffs in this case. Congratulations to my colleagues Ron Kilgard, Erin Riley, and Matthew Gerend, and to our co-counsel at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, for a successful appeal.