Union Fringe Benefit Litigation

Miller Johnson’s employer-side Union Fringe Benefit Litigation service area believes the best way to defend a lawsuit by a union fringe benefit fund is to proactively work to prevent the lawsuit.  Our experienced team partners with clients – before a trust fund even conducts an audit – to minimize legal risk by strategically organizing businesses and reviewing fringe benefit contributions.  The group counsels clients to carefully respond to union trust fund audits.  And when a persistent fund files a lawsuit, the group’s experienced team of litigators fight for our clients to achieve successful and cost-effective results.

Union employers are familiar with being audited by union fringe benefit funds.  Every couple of years, the fund’s auditors send the employer a letter and request a list of documents and data.  Sometimes the funds will have follow-up requests, or sometimes they will demand that the employer pay a small amount of unpaid benefits – usually because of an inadvertent miscalculation.  Most of the time, these audits are more of a minor inconvenience than anything else.

Until recently.

Union trust funds face increasing pressure to provide more with less: more retiree benefits even though the number of employees contributing to the funds are at record lows; more health benefits to complete with private plans; more training to maintain a qualified workforce.  And when the funds need to squeeze just a little more juice out of the lemon, they turn to litigation.  Seemingly more than ever, fringe benefit funds are suing employers for unpaid contributions, along with costly penalties, interest, and attorney’s fees.

Miller Johnson’s team knows that defending such a lawsuit starts well before the complaint is even filed.  We are prepared to:

  • Strategize with owners on the best ways to organize their entities, including with owners of multiple businesses to protect against a fund’s claim that a unionized business it the “alter ego” of a non-union entity;
  • Advise and represent employers who are under audit by union trust funds;
  • Defend employers against claims that they have failed to pay fringe benefit payments to union trust funds;
  • Defend employers against claims that they are an “alter ego” or “single employer” with another business;
  • Advise owners on personal asset protection and pension withdrawal liability; and
  • Represent and defend owners of union and non-union companies in litigation where union trust funds have alleged that the individual owners have personal liability for unpaid contributions because they are “fiduciaries” of fund assets.

We are here to help, whether you would like advice on organizing your business affairs or defense in a recently filed lawsuit.  Please contact one of our team members below to discuss your specific situation and concerns.