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Biography

Karen L. Handorf is Senior Counsel at Berger Montague and a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits & ERISA practice group, where she represents the interests of employees, retirees, plan sponsors, plan participants and beneficiaries in employee benefit and ERISA cases in the district court and on appeal. Ms. Handorf brings four decades of ERISA knowledge to Berger Montague’s practice, where she will focus on emergent issues in health care, with a particular focus on the actions of insurance carrier TPAs that exercise fiduciary duties under ERISA-covered health plans. Ms. Handorf also advises employers and other plan sponsors on the provisions in their administrative service agreements that might cause them to unwittingly violate ERISA or other employee benefit laws. Ms. Handorf is also focused on other legal violations related to patient health care under other (non-ERISA) federal statutes and state consumer statutes in her efforts to address the exorbitant health care costs facing most Americans.

Prior to joining Berger Montague, Ms. Handorf was a partner at another prominent plaintiffs’ class action firm and the immediate-past chair and then co-chair of that firm’s Employee Benefits/ERISA practice group, where she led efforts in identifying, litigating, and when necessary, appealing often novel employee benefits issues. In that role, Ms. Handorf was one of the pioneers of the church plan litigation against organizations claiming to be exempt from ERISA due to their affiliation with or status as religious organizations.

Prior to that, Ms. Handorf had a distinguished career in government service. She spent 25 years at the Department of Labor, where, among other senior positions, she was the Deputy Associate Solicitor in the Plan Benefits Security Division. During her tenure at the Department of Labor, Ms. Handorf played a major role in formulating and litigating the Government’s position on a wide variety of ERISA issues, from conception through expression in amicus briefs filed by the United States Solicitor General in the United States Supreme Court

Professional Leadership

House of Representatives: Education & Labor Committee 
Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee

Business and Community Leadership

2019: American Conference Institute National Forum on ERISA Litigation, Supreme Court Practitioner’s Panel

2020: ABA Tax Session’s 2020 Fall Tax Meeting, “How the DOL Declared War on ESG Investments)

2019 and 2020: Practicing Law Institute, “Applying ERISA Fiduciary Rules to Health Plans, Services and Products” (Health Plans Litigation Update)

2015-2019: Practicing Law Institute, “Pension Plan Investments – Current Perspectives” (ERISA Pension Litigation Update)

2019: ABA’s ERISA Basics National Institute (Remedies and Preemptions Panels)

2019: ABA Employee Benefits Committee Midwinter Meeting, “Will the States Step Into the Benefit Void”

2018: American Conference Institute, National Forum on ERISA Litigation, ESOP Litigation

2017: ABA ERISA National Litigation Institute, “ERISA Healthcare Provider Litigation”

Credentials

Education:

Law School

University of Wisconsin Law School

Undergraduate

University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Honors & Awards:

2022 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers guide

2018-present Elected to Board of Governors, American College of Employee Benefits College

2022 Washington D.C.’s Best Lawyers 

2012-2021 SuperLawyers

2016-2021 Best Lawyers in America

2020 Law360 MVP – Employee Benefits

2020 National Law Journal “Elite Women of the Plaintiffs’ Bar”

2019 Best Lawyers in America – Lawyer of the Year in Washington, D.C.


Publications

2017: Law360, co-authored “Carefully Tailored ERISA Claims After Amgen v. Harris

2017: co-authored ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, Employee Benefits Committee Newsletter, “A Rule in Flux”

2019: Benefits Magazine, co-authored “Engaging and Monitoring Health Plan TPAs: Understanding Your Fiduciary Obligations”

2019: Law360, co-authored “Watch These ERISA Cases in 2019”

2022: Improving Retirement Security and Access to Mental Health Benefits


Admissions

District of Columbia

Wisconsin

United States District Court, Western District of Wisconsin

Second Circuit Court of Appeals

Third Circuit Court of Appeals

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals

The United States Supreme Court


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