January 01, 2016


Ms. Handorf, who previously spent 25 years enforcing ERISA at the U.S. Department of Labor and currently serves as head of Cohen Milstein's Employee Benefits practice group, was interviewed by NPR regarding the growing number of states considering giving employers the right to opt out of state workers' compensation systems. Many employers prefer the opt-out alternative, as it allows them to avoid state regulation and write their own workplace injury plans. Although injured employees are still protected by ERISA, opting out of the state systems makes it easier for employers to deny and cut benefits, control medical care and limit appeals of their decisions.

According to NPR, "workers theoretically have an easier time taking their cases to federal court. But federal judges, under ERISA, must first determine whether employer decisions are 'arbitrary and capricious' and can only reject benefits decisions if employers were unreasonable or did not adhere to their plans."

When asked about workers ability to take their cases to federal court, Ms. Handorf replied, "You really have to show that [benefits decisions are] irrational or contrary to the terms of the plan." Further, she added, “These hurdles to going to court may explain why many employers include in their plans provisions that directly violate ERISA.”

The full article and interview can be found here.