15 March 2018 | Donna Sheedy, a former Adventist Health System employee is fighting the health network over its attempt to exit a law suit that claims the system underfunded its retirement plans. The original suit argued that AHS had underfunded the plans by millions and had breached its duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

In its attempt to exit the suit, AHS is arguing that it is not subject to ERISA due to its “church plan” exemption which does not require its retirement plans to be as heavily funded as ERISA-compliant ones.

Sheedy disagrees with this assessment claiming that the retirement plans in question are not for church employees but for hospital workers. She therefore argues that the narrow ERISA exemption for church employees does not apply.

According to a report on legal site Law 360, AHS supports its bid to dismiss the suit by saying that Sheedy does not have standing (sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support her participaton in the case) and that even if she did, “the legal theories underlying her amended complaint reflect a misunderstanding of the church plan exemption and the plans at issue.”

AHS also highlighted a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision from June 2017 which enlarged ERISA’s religious exemption provision so as to include plans maintained by church affiliates, even if the plan was not created by a church.

Adventist Health System is a non-profit health care organization that operates 45 hospital campuses within the Southern and Midwestern regions of the United States. Its headquarters is in Altamonte Springs, Florida. It is affiliated with the Adventist Church.

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