Employment Discrimination Claims Under ERISA Section 510: Should Courts Require Exhaustion of Arbitral and Plan Remedies?

This Note examines whether courts should require section 510 claimants to exhaust either plan-based or arbitral remedies before seeking judicial relief. It begins by comparing the basis for an exhaustion requirement with respect to benefits claims with the basis for such a requirement with respect to statutory claims – like those under section 510. Part I examines the rationale courts have offered for requiring exhaustion of plan remedies for benefits claims. Part I concludes that federal courts have correctly determined that Congress intended individuals bringing benefits claims to exhaust the remedies provided by the plan before seeking judicial relief. Part II argues, however, that courts should not impose an exhaustion of plan remedies requirement for statutory claims such as section 510 claims because neither the text nor the legislative history of BRISA indicates that Congress intended to require exhaustion for statutory claims. Part II further argues that even if courts generally apply an exhaustion requirement to statutory BRISA claims, they should waive this requirement for most claims brought under section 510 by applying the judicially recognized exceptions to exhaustion for futility and inadequate remedies.