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Employee Benefits, ERISA Practice


The employee benefits group consists of the ERISA attorneys from Thorson McDonald Whitman & Curnutt, PC, which merged with Harlowe & Falk in 2022.

Harlowe & Falk has one of the most extensive employee benefits practices in the Pacific Northwest, serving as counsel to employers sponsoring more than 1,000 pension and welfare plans. These include both private and public sector plans, varying in size from a single participant to many thousands of participants. Our ERISA attorneys routinely provide the following services:

  • Drafting plan documents and amendments;
  • Counselling clients as to law changes that affect plan design and operation;
  • Obtaining IRS determination letters, rulings, and other technical advisory opinions;
  • Advising as to the correction of plan operational errors;
  • Fiduciary guidance;
  • Preparing employee communications;
  • Negotiating and drafting vendor agreements;
  • Coordinating with labour counsel as to collective bargaining agreement implications;
  • Advising as to reporting and disclosure requirements and other compliance; and
  • Counselling employers as to withdrawal liability and other issues relating to union pension and welfare plans.


Our ERISA attorneys have experience with the following types of plans:

  • Tax-qualified 401(a) plans (defined contribution and defined benefit plans)
  • 403(b) annuity plans
  • 457 deferred compensation plans (eligible 457(b) and ineligible 457(f) plans)
  • All forms of nonqualified deferred compensation plans, including those plans which are subject to Code Section 409A.


We also have substantial experience with health and welfare plans. This includes unfunded, insured, self-insured plans, benefits provided through Voluntary Employee Benefit Associations, issues relating to military service, HIPAA, and COBRA. We draft and work with cafeteria plans, group insurance benefits (LI, LTD/STD, AD&D, etc.), Healthcare and DCAP FSAs, HSAs, and employee fringe benefits.

While we are not litigators, we have relationships with and often assist litigation counsel in connection with benefits related matters and have acted as an expert witness in benefits litigation. We are quite familiar with the recordkeepers, plan administrators, investment advisers, consultants, and other vendors that work in the employee benefits area.



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