Although ERISA generally comes into play any time a dispute surfaces in the context of a benefit made available to the claimant through his or her employment, certain exceptions exist. One such exception covers governmental employees. Another concerns individuals covered under a “church plan,” which is a benefit plan covering employees of a church or comparable religious institution.
But what happens when an aggrieved claimant whose benefit plan unmistakably qualifies as a church plan nevertheless brings and prosecutes an ERISA case, only to claim, at the tail-end of the litigation (and after losing on the merits), that in fact ERISA is inapplicable? According to the Sixth Circuit, which deemed the issue non-jurisdictional and therefore subject to forfeiture, the claimant is out of luck.
Russell v. Catholic Healthcare Partners Employee Long Term Disability Plan, 2014 WL 3953722 (6th Cir. Aug. 14, 2014)