Term Year 2016

Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) generally obligates private employers offering pension plans to adhere to an array of rules designed to ensure plan solvency and protect plan participants. “[C]hurch plan[s],” however, are exempt from those regulations. 29 U. S. C. §1003(b)(2). From the beginning, ERISA has defined a “church plan” as “a plan established and maintained . . . for its employees . . . by a church.” §1002(33)(A). Congress then amended the statute to expand that definition, adding the provision whose effect is at issue here: “A plan established and maintained for its employees . . . by a church . . . includes a plan maintained by an organization . . . the principal purpose . . . of which is the administration or funding of [such] plan . . . for the employees of a church . . . , if such organization is controlled by or associated with a church.” §1002(33)(C)(i). (This opinion refers to the organizations described in that provision as “principal-purpose organizations.”) Petitioners, who identify themselves as three church-affiliated nonprofits that run hospitals and other healthcare facilities (collectively, hospitals), offer their employees defined-benefit pension plans. Those plans were established by the hospitals themselves, and are managed by internal employee-benefits committees.