Former employee appeals court decision on lawsuit alleging unfair retirement plans

A former employee is appealing a U.S. District Court decision to dismiss her 2018 class-action lawsuit that alleged the University offers a “dizzying array” of employment plans.

Melissa Stanley filed a two-page appeal notice in the D.C. Court of Appeals on Wednesday after a judge dismissed her claim that the University’s excessive retirement plan options violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The judge’s dismissal, filed last month, argued that D.C.’s U.S. District Court does not have jurisdiction over the ERISA.

“Ms. Stanley believes she and other current and former GW employees have lost significant retirement savings due to mismanagement of the GW retirement plans,” Steven Schwartz, a lawyer representing Stanley, said in an email.

The court’s dismissal filed on July 15 states that Stanley had entered into an unrelated confidential settlement agreement in 2016, which prevented her from making any kind of claims against GW.

“The court finds that Stanley has released her claims under the agreement and thus lacks the standing to sue,” the court opinion states.

Schwartz said Stanley contests the court’s decision that she could not prosecute the class-action lawsuit on behalf of other ERISA participants.

The class-action suit filed in 2018 accused the University of four ERISA violations.

Stanley claimed that the University’s plans required participants to pay “unreasonable” record keeping and administrative fees and that GW offered too many expensive investment options. She also claimed that GW improperly assessed record-keeping services and that the University offered expensive and excessive options of record-keeping services.

ERISA participants can sue plan administrators for any violation of fiduciary duties, which obligate administrators to act in their client’s best interest, according to the opinion.

Participants can bring several types of civil action to “protect their interests,” like recovering benefits under their plan or clarifying future benefits, the court’s dismissal states.

ERISA participants must attempt to resolve their issues through administrators before filing suit, according to the court’s dismissal.

GW argued that the court should dismiss the case because Stanley used a claim against the ERISA that should have been applied to another area of the law.

Stanley must submit preliminary information forms for her appeal by Sept. 3, according to court documents.

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