PBGC Expands Pension Benefit Protection For Military Service Members As Justice Department Files 22nd USERRA Military Leave Lawsuit Against An Employer Since January

by Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

The Pension Benefit Guarantee (PBGC) recently published a Final Rule that broadens the pension benefit guarantee protection provided for private pension benefits of military service members protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) beginning December 17, 2009 .

USERRA provides that an individual who leaves a job to serve in the uniformed services is generally entitled to reemployment by the previous employer and, upon reemployment, to receive credit for benefits, including employee pension plan benefits, that would have accrued but for the employee’s absence due to the military service.

Before the publication of the Final Regulation on November 17, 2009, PBGC’s benefit payments regulation provided for a benefit only if the participant satisfies the conditions for entitlement to the benefit on or before the plan’s termination date.

Effective December 17, 2009, the Final Regulation final rule provides that so long as a service member is reemployed within the time limits set by USERRA, even if the reemployment occurs after the plan’s termination date, PBGC will treat the service member as having satisfied the reemployment condition as of the termination date. This will ensure that the pension benefits of reemployed service members, like those of other employees, will generally be guaranteed for periods up to the plan’s termination date. The change will apply to reemployments under USERRA initiated on or after December 12, 1994. Once the final rule is effective, PBGC will begin adjusting final benefit determinations of affected participants and make back payments with interest.

In addition to broadening PBGC benefit guarantee protection for service members, the Federal government also stepping up enforcement of the provisions of USERRA against private employers.  A lawsuit filed by the Justice Department on November 30, 2009 against an employer for allegedly violating the reemployment rights of a military service member is the 22nd filed during 2009 by the Civil Rights Division on behalf of service members.  It highlights the growing liability risks that employers face for failing to properly comply with the evolving military leave mandates of USERRA and other applicable laws.

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Can Help

If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending these or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and a nationally recognized author and speaker, Ms. Stamer is experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, risk management  and internal controls matters. Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment laws, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. She has counseled and represented employers on these and other workforce matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

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©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.

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