The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) protects employees from unexpected losses in their retirement plans by putting in place required safeguards on plans that qualify for ERISA protections. Church plans are exempted from the Act and its protections to prevent excessive entanglement of the government with religion through regulation.
Maria Stapleton and the other plaintiffs in this case are a group of employees who work for Advocate Health Care Network (Advocate), which operates hospitals, inpatient, and outpatient treatment centers through northern Illinois, and are members of Advocate’s retirement plan. Advocate formed in 1995 as the result of a merger between two religiously affiliated hospital systems (though neither system was owned or financially operated by the church with which it was affiliated). Advocate is also affiliated with a church, and though it is not owned or financially operated by the church, it maintains contracts with the church and “affirms [the church’s] ministry.” The plaintiffs in this case sued Advocate and argued that the Advocate retirement plan is subject to ERISA, and therefore Advocate has breached its fiduciary duty by failing to adhere to ERISA’s requirements. The defendants moved for summary judgment because the Advocate plan fell under the ERISA exemption for church plans. The district court denied the motion because it determined that a plan established and maintained by a church-affiliated organization was not a church plan within the meaning of the statutory language. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed, and this case was consolidated with two other ones presenting the same issue before the Supreme Court.
Does the exemption to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) for church plans apply when the plan is maintained by an otherwise qualifying church-affiliated organization even though a church did not establish the plan?
For more information about this case see: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2016/16-74
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Community pharmacists are the health professionals most accessible to the public. They supply medicines in accordance with a prescription or, when legally permitted, sell them without a prescription. In addition to ensuring an accurate supply of appropriate products, their professional activities also cover counselling of patients at the time of dispensing of prescription and non-prescription drugs, drug information to health professionals, patients and the general public, and participation in health-promotion programmes. They maintain links with other health professionals in primary health care.