They're willing to dig into their pockets and do whatever is necessary for their clients.

- Kenneth Feinberg, special master, Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Committee


Karen L. Handorf


1100 New York Ave NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005

t: 202 408 4600

f: 202 408 4699

Karen Handorf, a Partner at the Firm, joined Cohen Milstein in 2007.  Ms. Handorf is head of the Employee Benefits (ERISA) practice group.

Ms. Handorf is currently involved in litigation and appeals involving a broad range of employee benefits issues including church plans, ESOPs, employer stock, COBRA, mismanagement of plan investments and benefit terminations.  She represented a class of 30,000 Goodyear union retirees in litigation in which Cohen Milstein obtained approval of a class action settlement between the retirees, Goodyear and the United Steel Workers, resulting in the establishment of a $1 billion trust through which retiree healthcare benefits will be provided in the future. Redington v. Goodyear (N.D. Ohio).  She has co-authored amicus briefs filed by the firm on behalf of the Pension Rights Center in the U.S. Supreme Court (LaRue v. DeWolff, Boberg & Associates) and in the Third Circuit (In re Schering-Plough Corporation ERISA Litigation).  She also played a primary role in drafting the appellate brief in In re Citigroup ERISA Litigation (2d Cir.) (challenging the dismissal of a complaint alleging the imprudent purchase of employer stock) and in Boos v. AT&T (5th Cir.) (involving the issue of whether a program providing cash payments to certain “pension eligible” retirees to reimburse them for their personal telephone expenses during retirement is a pension plan). 

Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Handorf was an attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) where she litigated ERISA cases in federal appellate and district courts for twenty five years.  She began her ERISA career in 1982 as a trial attorney in the Plan Benefits Security Division (PBSD) where she litigated actions brought by the Secretary of Labor for violations of the fiduciary standards of ERISA and handled a number of appellate matters.

In 1989, she was appointed Counsel for Decentralized and Special Litigation responsible for supervising the DOL’s ERISA appellate litigation, district court litigation brought by regional offices of the Solicitor of Labor and administrative litigation involving the civil penalty provisions of ERISA.  In that position at the DOL, Ms. Handorf was responsible for establishing and supervising PBSD’s amicus brief writing program which addressed a wide range of novel and difficult ERISA issues in both state and federal court.  While at the DOL, she also played a major role in formulating the Government’s position on ERISA issues expressed in amicus briefs filed by the Solicitor General in the United States Supreme Court.

In 2001, she was appointed Deputy Associate Solicitor of PBSD.  As the Deputy Associate Solicitor, she was responsible for overseeing litigation brought by the Secretary of Labor and legal advice provided to the Employee Benefit Security Administration, which administers Title I of ERISA.  In 2005, she returned to her position as supervisor of the ERISA appellate and amicus brief writing program, serving as Counsel for Appellate and Special Litigation.

Ms. Handorf is a recipient of the Department of Labor Distinguished Career Service Award, and received Exceptional Achievement Awards for her work on ERISA 401(k) plan remedies, the amicus brief in the Enron litigation, retiree health care, the amicus program in general, the appellate brief in the Department’s Tower litigation, termination annuities litigation and multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWAs) litigation.

Ms. Handorf has been recognized for her expertise by her colleagues in the ERISA bar, who made her a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel.  She is a frequent speaker on ERISA issues for the ABA, various bar associations and private seminars, and serves as plaintiffs' co-chair of preemption subcommittee of the Employees Benefits Committee of the ABA's Labor Section. 

Ms. Handorf has been recognized as a Washington, D.C. “Super Lawyer” from 2013-2015 , and was named to the Best Lawyers in America for 2016.

Ms. Handorf received her law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1975. Prior to law school, she attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she received a B.S. in Speech and History.

Ms. Handorf is a member of the bars of Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, and is admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Third Circuit, Fifth Circuit, Seventh Circuit, Ninth Circuit and Tenth Circuit.