Employer not Obligated to Make Discretionary 401(k) Match

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has thrown out a lawsuit by a 401(k) participant alleging, among other things, that his former employer failed to make a matching contribution.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Landis Construction Co. was under no legal obligation to make the match of 3% of Nathan Lindell’s earnings because the match payments were discretionary under the plan.  Friedman added that the employer had produced a declaration by its chief executive officer and co-owner that the plan did not have an ongoing employer match but instead had a discretionary profit-sharing 3% paid after the end of the year.

Lindell also did not present sufficient evidence for his lawsuit to survive on his allegation Landis did not submit contributions from his paycheck in a timely manner, Friedman asserted.  According to the court, Lindell did not produce evidence in response to Landis’s statement that a payroll company cut a check for each employee 401(k) deduction and that Landis then submitted those checks on every pay date.

The court also dismissed a claim by Landis that plan fiduciaries breached their duties by not properly disclosing the plan’s fees. 

Friedman rejected the former employee’s request for the court to delay ruling on the request to throw out the case until Lindell could take additional pre-trial discovery.

The case is Lindell v. Landis Construction Co., D.D.C., No. 08-1462.