Employee Benefits

Our employee benefits team focuses on all aspects of non-qualified benefits plans, with a particular emphasis on executive compensation issues and health, life and disability plans and litigation arising under those plans. As health insurance has become more expensive the challenges of procuring and maintaining the correct plan have increased and compliance has become ever more complex. Our benefits practice focuses on the areas of health and welfare plan compliance issues, executive compensation, workforce reductions, ERISA litigation. For advice on tax-qualified plans, we affiliate with boutique ERISA firms. We focus on what we do best.

76 Attorneys Named to Best Lawyers in America® 2013 

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First Circuit Win for Pierce Atwood and Unum

A unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that Unum Life Insurance Company’s practice of using Retained Asset Accounts (RAAs) to pay death benefits claims on group life insurance policies, which specifically provided for the use of RAAs, does not violate the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

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Pierce Atwood is the ONLY New England-based law firm named to The National Law Journal's "Midsize Hot List” FOUR years in a row.

Areas of Expertise

Executive Compensation

If your company is a new or emerging growth company we can offer extensive experience with the structure of executive compensation plans and the interface between those plans and raising capital in public and private capital markets. We advise public companies on compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and SEC reporting requirements. We assist management with the analysis, design, and implementation of executive compensation arrangements in:

    • senior management groups
    • emerging growth companies
    • public companies
    • owner-manager companies
    • traditional middle-market companies

Our capabilities include the design and implementation of individual equity-based compensation arrangements, such as statutory and non-statutory stock option plans, stock appreciation rights, restricted stock, and phantom stock arrangements. We also develop short-term and long-term incentive plans, non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements, supplemental executive retirement plans, and "split-dollar" life insurance as competitive compensation arrangements. We actively monitor IRS guidance under Code Section 409A on deferred compensation plans.

Health and Welfare Benefit Plans

We advise sponsors and fiduciaries on all aspects of employee welfare benefit plans, including design, implementation, modification, termination and administration of medical, dental and vision plans for employees and retirees, Section 125 cafeteria plans, flexible spending account plans for health care and dependent care reimbursement, tuition reimbursement plans, and voluntary employees' beneficiary associations (VEBAs). We also prepare "wrap" plans and summary plan descriptions that comply with ERISA's disclosure requirements. Because of our employment law experience, we provide a unique and balanced perspective on providing affordable benefit packages that maintain employee morale while complying with a myriad of federal and state laws, including COBRA, ERISA, HIPAA, GINA, Health Care reform, and anti-discrimination laws.

Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Litigation

Members of our employee benefits litigation team practice throughout the nation, trying complex cases on behalf of clients that include the world's largest disability insurer. Our benefits litigation team includes national leaders in this area. The breadth of our expertise runs the gamut of benefits issues including disputes over entitlement to benefits and associated removal/ERISA preemption issues, breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction claims, subrogation actions, bad faith and rescission suits, and complex class actions in both ERISA and non-ERISA contexts.

We have assumed a lead counsel role in both routine and complex benefits cases in courts throughout the nation and have represented clients in connection with several important United States Supreme Court ERISA cases. We have argued benefits cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the First, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals. We have litigated benefits cases in every federal judicial circuit and Canada.

We have authored numerous articles and book chapters addressing benefits issues. Our team includes the editor and co-authors of The ABA's ERISA Survey Of Federal Circuits. We are also active in the DRI Life Health & Disability Committee and our team includes the immediate past committee and program chairs of that committee. Our team members are also frequent speakers on benefits litigation topics at national seminars including the annual DRI Life, Health, Disability & ERISA Litigation Seminar.

Workforce Reductions
Difficult economic times require difficult benefits decisions. We counsel and assist businesses with respect to employee benefit and other human resource issues associated with plant shutdowns, voluntary and involuntary work force reductions and "outsourcing." We have helped businesses to design "early out" programs providing extended health coverage and enhanced severance pay benefits.