Interpretation of the Plan
The Plan Administrator has the power and discretionary authority to construe the terms of the Plan and to determine all questions that arise under it. Such power and authority includes, for example, the administrative discretion necessary to resolve issues with respect to an Employee’s eligibility for benefits, credited services, disability, and retirement, or to interpret any other term contained in Plan documents. The Plan Administrator’s interpretations and determinations are binding on all Participants, Employees, former Employees, and their Beneficiaries.
Generally, a Participant’s rights and benefits under the Plan cannot be assigned, sold, transferred or pledged by the Participant or reached by the Participant’s creditors or other parties, except under a qualified domestic relations order or otherwise as required by law.
A qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”) is a decree or order issued by a court that requires a portion of the Participant’s interest under the Plan to be used to settle marital property rights or to pay child support or alimony payments to the Participant’s spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent. The Participant may obtain, without charge, a copy of the QDRO procedures from the Plan Administrator.
The Plan is intended to qualify as a participant-directed plan under Section 404(c) of ERISA. This means that the Participant is responsible for his or her investment decisions under the Plan. The Plan fiduciaries are not responsible for any losses incurred as a result of the Participant’s investment decisions.
If you or your Beneficiary does not receive all of the benefits under the Plan that you believe that you are entitled to, you or your authorized representative may file a written claim for benefits under the Plan with the Plan Administrator. The Plan Administrator will provide you with written or electronic notice of the disposition of your claim within 90 days after it has been filed (or within 180 days if special circumstances require an extension of time to process the claim and written or electronic notice of such extension and circumstances is given to you within the initial 90-day period). In the event of an adverse benefit determination, the reasons shall be disclosed and/or the provisions of the Plan shall be cited as appropriate. You will also be provided with a description of any additional material or information that is necessary for the claimant to perfect the claim, together with an explanation of why such material or information is necessary, and an explanation of the Plan’s review procedures and time limits applicable to the procedure, including your right to bring a civil action under Section 502(a) of ERISA.
You or your beneficiary may appeal the denial of your claim within 60 days after the date on which you receive an adverse benefit determination. To obtain this review, you must file a request in writing within 60 days after you receive the initial notice from the Plan Administrator that your claim has been denied. Your request must be dated and must specify the part or parts of the denial of the claim that you want reviewed. It must also include the reasons that you believe the denial was wrong and the claim should be accepted. In connection with the appeal, you may review pertinent documents and may submit comments in writing. The Plan Administrator will make a decision on the claim, and it will be communicated to you, in writing or electronically, within 60 days after receipt (or within 120 days, provided that the Plan Administrator notifies you in writing or electronically of such extension, the special circumstances requiring the extension, and the date by which the Plan Administrator expects to render its determination).
In the case of an adverse benefit determination, the notice will (1) include specific reasons for the adverse benefit determination; (2) be written in a manner that the Participant can understand; (3) contain a specific reference to the pertinent provisions of the Plan; (4) contain a statement that you are entitled to receive, upon request and free of charge, reasonable access to, and copies of, all documents, records, and other information relevant to the claim for benefits; and (5) contain a statement of your right to bring a civil action under Section 502(c) of ERISA.
As a participant in the Plan, you are entitled to certain rights and protections under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). ERISA provides that all plan participants shall be entitled to:
Receive Information About Your Plan and Benefits
- Examine, without charge, at the Plan Administrator’s office and at other specified locations, all documents governing the Plan, including insurance contracts, and a copy of the latest annual report (Form 5500 Series) filed by the Plan with the U.S. Department of Labor and available at the Public Disclosure Room of the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
- Obtain, upon written request to the Plan Administrator, copies of documents governing the plan, including insurance contracts and a copy of the latest annual report (Form 5500 Series) and updated Summary Plan Description. The administrator may make a reasonable charge for the copies.
- Receive a summary of the Plan’s annual financial report. The Plan Administrator is required by law to furnish each participant with a copy of his or her summary annual report.
- Obtain a statement from the Retirement Plan telling you whether you have a right to receive a pension at normal retirement age (age 65), and if so, what your benefits would be at normal retirement age if you stop working under the Plan now. If you do not have a right to a pension, the statement will tell you how many more years you have to work to get a right to a pension. This statement must be requested in writing and is not required to be given more than once every 12 months. The Plan must provide the statement free of charge.
Prudent Action by Plan Fiduciaries
In addition to creating rights for plan participants, ERISA imposes duties on the people responsible for the operation of the employee benefit plan. The people who operate your plan, called “fiduciaries” of the plan, have a duty to do so prudently and in the interest of you and the other plan participants and beneficiaries. No one, including your employer or any other person, may fire you or otherwise discriminate against you in any way to prevent you from obtaining a pension or exercising your rights under ERISA.
Enforce Your Rights
If your claim for a pension or welfare benefit is denied or ignored, in whole or in part, you have a right to know why this was done, to obtain copies of documents relating to the decision without charge, and to appeal any denial, all within certain time schedules.
Under ERISA, there are steps that you can take to enforce the above rights. For instance, if you request a copy of the plan documents or the latest annual report from the plan and do not receive them within 30 days, you may file suit in a federal court. In such a case, the court may require the Plan Administrator to send the materials and pay you up to $110 a day until you receive the materials, unless the materials were not sent because of reasons beyond the control of the Plan Administrator. If you have a claim for benefits which is denied or ignored, in whole or in part, you may file suit in a state or a federal court. In addition, if you disagree with the Plan’s decision or lack thereof concerning the qualified status of a domestic relations order, you may file suit in a federal court.
If it should happen that the Plan fiduciaries misuse the Plan’s money or if you are discriminated against for asserting your rights, you may seek assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor, or you may file suit in a federal court. The court will decide who should pay court costs and legal fees. If you are successful the court may order the person you have sued to pay these costs and fees. If you lose, the court may order you to pay these costs and fees; for example, if it finds that your claim is frivolous.
Assistance with Your Questions
If you have any questions about your plan, you should contact the Plan Administrator. If you have any questions about this statement or about your rights under ERISA, or if you need assistance in obtaining documents from the Plan Administrator, you should contact the nearest office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, listed in your telephone directory or the Division of Technical Assistance and Inquiries, Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20210. You may also obtain certain publications about your rights and responsibilities under ERISA by calling the publications hotline of the Employee Benefits Security Administration.