Interested in training for your team? Click here to learn more

ERISA Church Plan Exemption Under Attack: Implications for Church-Affiliated Employers Administering Pension Plans

Structuring, Operating, and Funding Church-Affiliated Employer Pension Plans Amid Conflicting Court and IRS Guidance

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will discuss the current state of the law regarding the ERISA church plan exemption and provide guidance for church-affiliated employers—primarily healthcare providers and schools—for evaluating the structure, operation, and funding levels of their pension plans in light of increasing litigation, unsettled case law and conflicting IRS guidance.


Litigation over church-affiliated employer pension plans has increased exponentially. The plaintiffs in these cases, primarily plan participants, challenge whether their employers’ pension plans should qualify for an exemption from ERISA’s reporting, accrual, vesting, and funding requirements for pension plans, as well as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s requirement to pay pension insurance premiums.

The law remains unsettled in this area. The federal district courts are split on whether the ERISA church plan exemption applies to church-affiliated employers. At the appellate level, the Ninth Circuit denied a church-affiliated hospital the use of the church plan exemption in Rollins v. Dignity Health in July 2016.

The Seventh and Third Circuits have also recently ruled against church-affiliated employers. Two faith-based health systems have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether their pension plans meet ERISA’s exemption requirements. IRS guidance in this area conflicts with the court rulings denying the use of the church plan exemption, further complicating matters.

Counsel for church-affiliated employers must stay abreast of the developments in this area in order to advise their clients on structuring, operating and funding their pension plans and mitigating the risk of litigation.

Listen as our authoritative panel reviews recent developments in church plan litigation and lessons for church-affiliated employers for administering their pension plans and protecting them against the risk of litigation.



  1. The ERISA church plan exemption explained
  2. Latest developments in church plan litigation and implications for employers
  3. Best practices for structuring, operating and funding plans in light of unsettled case law


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • The current status of church plan litigation
  • The implications of the court rulings issued so far
  • How to determine if a church-affiliated employer qualifies for an exemption from ERISA
  • Considerations for structuring, operating and funding pension plans amid the unsettled law


G. Daniel Miller
G. Daniel Miller

Conner & Winters

Mr. Miller has been practicing in the employee benefits area since 1974, coinciding with the advent of ERISA. For most...  |  Read More

Jeffrey D. Smith
Jeffrey D. Smith

Fisher & Phillips

Mr. Smith is a member of the firm's Employee Benefits Practice Group. He works with clients to create,...  |  Read More

Access Anytime, Anywhere

Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

To find out which recorded format will provide the best CLE option, select your state:

CLE On-Demand Video