Legal Benefits (PELS)

PELS LEGAL SERVICES

Professional Employees Legal Services Plan (PELS) was established in 1982 through collective bargaining and has been assisting both active members and retirees of Local 375 with their legal needs since that time.

Legal services are provided to eligible Local 375 members and retirees, and their eligible family members in many areas of the law. (See the “Summary of Benefits” below.)

Services are provided by staff attorneys working exclusively for our legal plan participants and having offices at Local 375’s business address at 125 Barclay Street, Suite 600, New York, New York 10007. Although participants in the PELS plan may remain responsible for any out of pocket expenses related to their legal matters, NO ATTORNEY FEES ARE CHARGED by our staff offices for the legal services provided to PELS participants.  

The Plan is administered by a board of Trustees, comprised of elected officers and officials of Local 375, and the type and extent of those benefits provided are governed by legal plan documents established through collective bargaining. The Trustees appoint the Plan’s Director and General Counsel, who is an attorney, and who is licensed to practice law in the State of New York. The Director and General Counsel supervises and directs the day-to-day operations of the legal plan.

SUMMARY OF BENEFITS

The PELS plan was designed to assist its participants in many areas of law other than employment and business matters. The types of services provided include the following, some of which are limited to advice and consultation, but most of which entitle the plan participant to full representation:

1. Preparation of Wills;
2. Matters involving a participant’s debts of more than $1,000.00 in controversy, including personal bankruptcy filings and the defense of foreclosure proceedings interposed against a participant’s primary one-family residence;
3. Correction of inaccurate credit reports;
4. Disputes with utilities (gas, electric, phone) provided the amount in controversy exceeds $1,000.00;
5. The defense of Housing Court actions that could result in a participant’s eviction from a primary residence;
6. Consultations regarding entitlements from government agencies;
7. Divorces, legal separations and annulment;
8. Review by a lawyer of a legal document;
9. Buying or selling a one-family house, cooperative apartment or condominium if it is the participant’s primary residence;
10.  Name Changes; and
11.  Representation in Family Court in many matters, including disputes over custody, visitation and paternity of children; matters involving spouse abuse other family violence; parental adoption of minor dependants; and the guardianship of minors. (NOTE: Services related to child support are limited to a single telephone consultation.)

THIS IS NOT A COMPREHENSIVE LISTING OF BENEFITS. IF YOUR PROBLEM OR CONCERN IS NOT INCLUDED, PLEASE CALL THE OFFICE TO FIND OUT WHETHER IT IS COVERED.

USING YOUR BENEFITS

Anyone wishing to use their legal benefits is encouraged to call the PELS offices at (212) 815-7530.  NOTE THAT IN THE WAKE OF TROPICAL STORM SANDY OUR NUMBER HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY CHANGED TO: (212) 815-1375. Both your status as an eligible participant AND our ability to provide assistance in your particular type of legal matter will need to be reviewed before PELS can provide you with any benefits. Upon contacting us you will be asked to complete and return a PELS New Matter Intake Sheet to our PELS staff. That form can be accessed by way of the following link.


PELS NEW MATTER INTAKE SHEET

Local 375 Members and Retirees with new matters should contact us either by telephone or by way of the following e-mail address:

pelsinfo@local375.org

We will typically have an attorney contact you within two business days of processing your submission. However, because we are required to verify your individual eligibility for benefits AND to determine whether the nature of your matter falls within the scope of  benefits provided by our offices; individuals with NEW MATTERS are ALWAYS required to complete the accompanying “PELS New Matter Intake Sheet” and return it to us when first contacting us.  (That form may also be submitted to us using the above e-mail address.) We cannot begin to process your request until the submission of this form has been made.
Note that submitting a New Matter Intake Sheet to PELS does NOT AUTOMATICALLY create an attorney-client relationship with our offices. PELS must first review your submission and agree to represent your interests before we are considered to be your attorneys; and in most cases we must ALSO agree to represent you by way of a formal engagement letter or attorney retainer agreement before any attorney services may be rendered.
If you have any questions at all about this procedure or about what benefits may be available to you, please feel free to contact us.

USEFUL LINKS
In using your PELS benefits, you will at times be asked to complete informational documents so that we will be prepared to represent your interests more expediently. The most commonly used of these documents can be found by clicking on the following hyperlink:

PELS INFORMATIONAL DOCUMENTS

GEOGRAPHIC LIMITATIONS

Some geographic restrictions also apply to PELS benefits, as listed below: Family law and divorce law matters are only provided in New York State and in the counties listed below. Overall, PELS legal services will be provided if the services may be performed in the State of New York and in the State of New Jersey.  In the State of New York, legal services will be performed only within the following counties: New York, Kings, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Bronx, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk; or, with respect to non-litigated matters, within a 50-mile radius as measured from the Plan’s office. Legal benefits may be provided by a limited fee reimbursement as opposed to actual staff attorney representation for certain legal claims involving participants who reside in other New York counties and whose work place is outside of the City of New York, and in such matters as have been determined by the PELS Trustees. In the State of New Jersey, legal services will be performed only within the following counties: Essex, Middlesex, Bergen, Hudson, and Monmouth.

ADDITIONAL LIMITATIONS

The PELS plan does NOT provide representation in criminal or traffic matters or advice in criminal matters other than misdemeanors. No advice or representation is provided in employment-related or business-related matters.  Legal representation is not available for the litigation of Small Claims Court matters. We do NOT represent in decedent estate matters or provide affirmative litigation in most cases other than Family Law cases.

Services are not provided in the following matter types: post-judgment enforcement matters; appeals; matters in which a plan beneficiary has already engaged counsel or is also entitled to counsel by law, contract, or otherwise; or matters arising out of claims against District Council 37 or any of its affiliated organizations, the Trustees, the Plan and the employees thereof, the City of New York in its capacity as Employer, its pension funds, or any other business or job-related claims.

The Plan will not pay filing fees, disbursements, fines, penalties, judgments, damages, costs or other expenses in connection with any service or representation offered.  In addition, the Trust will not pay any attorney’s fees awarded to opposing parties or their attorneys.

The Plan will not represent in matters which are, in the Plan’s own estimation, meritless, frivolous, or vexatious in nature, are being instituted or pursued for the purpose of harassment, or would otherwise be unlawful or in violation of an attorney’s code of ethical conduct.

Additional exclusions and limitations are specifically set out in the PELS Plan Document which can be made available for inspection upon appointment at the Legal Plan’s offices. In the event of any conflict or ambiguity between the contents of this notice and the contents of the PELS Plan Document, the content of the PELS Plan Document shall be controlling.

Notwithstanding anything provided herein, the Trustees of PELS reserve the right to take or to refuse to take any action as they consider such decision to be reasonable and necessary in conjunction with the Legal Plan, including but not limited to providing or amending special rules with respect to plan beneficiaries based upon geographic location. The Trustees also reserve the right, without limitation, to periodically define, alter, expand and establish limitations upon the scope and extent of those legal benefits available to plan beneficiaries, including but not limited to establishing and revising exclusions from plan benefits, limitations on benefits resulting from conflicts of interest, rules regarding eligibility and of the suspension and termination of benefits of plan beneficiaries, and limitations upon the direct payment of claims to covered employees.