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HJTA v. Cal. Secure Choice (9th Cir. 20-15591 5/6/21) No ERISA Preemption of CalSavers 

Affirming the district court’s dismissal, the panel held that ERISA does not preempt a California law that creates CalSavers, a state-managed individual retirement account program for eligible employees of certain private employers that do not provide their employees with a tax-qualified retirement savings plan.

The panel held that Congress’s repeal of a 2016 Department of Labor rule that sought to exempt CalSavers from ERISA under a safe harbor did not resolve the preemption question. Further, even if ERISA’s safe harbor did not apply to , the panel would still need to determine whether CalSavers otherwise qualified as an ERISA program.

The panel concluded that CalSavers is not an ERISA plan because it is established and maintained by the State, not employers; it does not require employers to operate their own ERISA plans; and it does not have an impermissible reference to or connection with ERISA. Nor does CalSavers interfere with ERISA’s core purposes. Accordingly, ERISA does not preempt the California law.