Employers Use Law to Withhold Benefits

Think you're covered? Not if your company decides you're not
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2008 6:41 PM CDT
Melissa Amschwand-Bellinger's husband did everything he was told to make sure his wife would collect on the life insurance policy he had through his employer.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Thomas Amschwand was dying, but made sure his wife would collect on his $426,000 life insurance policy. Yet when he died, his boss withheld the money, and his wife was powerless—because a federal law stops workers from suing employers for large sums of health, life, or retirement benefits. Amschwand’s wife recovered her husband's premiums, which didn't even cover the funeral.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act was designed to protect worker benefits, but employers are using it to guard against suits. Lawmakers, judges, and the Bush administration have recently asked the Supreme Court to fix the problem, but it has refused. “The facts scream out for a remedy," one judge said. "Regrettably, under existing law it is not available."