News Release, U.S. Department of Labor
SPARKS, MD – The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement agreement with the board of trustees of the Food Employers Labor Relations Association (FELRA) and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA) Fund, a multi-employer welfare benefit fund. The agreement requires the trustees of the Sparks, Maryland-based fund to pay $431,818 in previously denied severance benefits to 32 former employees of SuperFresh grocery stores.
The FELRA and UFCW VEBA Fund is a multi-employer, collectively bargained employee welfare benefit trust, which provides a variety of benefits, including severance benefits, primarily to grocery store workers and their family members in the mid-Atlantic region.
An investigation by the Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) found that from May 2016 to May 2020, trustees of the fund violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by systematically applying an incorrect standard in deciding claims for severance benefits for former SuperFresh employee claimants. The standard applied was contrary to the facts, the terms of the plan and the trustees’ treatment of other similarly situated plan participants who received severance benefits in 2016.
In addition to the unpaid severance benefits, the trustees will also pay a $43,182 penalty for the ERISA violations.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to work to protect the benefits promised to hardworking Americans,” said Employee Benefits Security Administration Regional Director Michael Schloss in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
EBSA’s Washington District Office conducted the investigation, and the Plan Benefits Security Division of the department’s Office of the Solicitor resolved the matter.
Employers and workers can reach EBSA toll-free at 866-444-3272 for help with problems related to private sector retirement and health plans. Additional information can be found at http://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa.
EBSA’s mission is to assure the security of the retirement, health and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers and their families. EBSA accomplishes this mission by developing effective regulations; assisting and educating workers, plan sponsors, fiduciaries and service providers; and vigorously enforcing the law.