Biography Photo of Deborah L Grace

Deborah L. Grace

Deborah (“Deb”) Grace is an experienced benefits attorney skilled at providing practical advice to CFOs and HR professionals about the complex tax and labor laws that impact retirement and savings (401(k)) plans, executive compensation, and welfare benefit plans.  She regularly counsels private companies and private equity funds on the benefit plan implications of business acquisitions and dispositions, including employee benefits, tax, and ERISA compliance review, and advises buyers on the integration of benefit programs based on the structure of the business deal.  She advises US based entities and their non-US based owners on the unique tax rules that require separate legal entities under common control to be treated as one employer for US coverage and non-discrimination rules.  

Her position as Chair of the Firm’s Benefits Committee means that she has practical experience in applying ERISA’s prudent fiduciary rule including facilitating discussions with service providers about the reasonableness of fees charged and the need to monitor investments offered by the retirement plan.  She has negotiated favorable results for clients correcting retirement plan design and administration errors, including late transfer of deferrals, using the IRS’ Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System and the Department of Labor’s Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program.  She advises clients about compliance with the Affordable Care Act and the privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  

Education & Credentials


Kalamazoo College

B.A., 1979

Wayne State University School of Law

J.D., 1983

Bar Admission

  • Michigan1983


  • Best Lawyers in America©
    • Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, 2010-2024
    • "Lawyer of the Year," Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, 2021 
  • Michigan Super Lawyers®
    • Employee Benefits/ERISA, 2010-2023
  • DBusiness Magazine
    • "Top Lawyers," Employee Benefits Law, 2013-2021
  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business
    • Employee Benefits, 2009, 2022-2024

Representative Clients

  • Active Interest Media, Inc.
  • Gestamp North America
  • Hino Motors Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc.
  • Metropolitan Detroit Bureau of School Studies
  • Oakland Community College
  • Lawrence Technological University
  • Wayne State University

Prominent Assignments

Regularly facilitate discussions about ERISA’s fiduciary responsibilities and the Internal Revenue Code’s retirement plan rules with members of a retirement plan investment and advisory committee established by a large multi-state manufacturing company that is owned by a non-US based manufacturing company.  

Within a 12 month period, assisted private equity client in its acquisition of six companies that were assimilated into one entity.  Services provided include extensive review of employee benefits plans offered by the companies and advise on benefits to be offered going forward.     

Represented US Company in its sale of operating subsidiary for $133 million dollars to a London-based global business; sale involved restructuring plans so that subsidiary had appropriate benefit plans in place after closing.

Guided school district in auditing service records of individuals who were misclassified as independent contractors and negotiated with representatives of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System on the proper method to report service and pay missing contribution.

Represented private equity firm, and its fund company, in the sale of subsidiary; that used a “professional employer organization” to offer benefits to its employees. 

Advised plan sponsor on correction of missing documents evidencing participation in plan sponsor’s 401(k) by sister corporation’s employees.  

Advised plan sponsor on correction of late transfer of missed deferrals due to errors caused when payroll provider was changed. 

Advised higher educational institution on application of Affordable Care Act’s rules regarding coverage of part-time faculty.

Advised governmental entity on tax and employee benefits consequences of its practice of allowing employees to retiree, begin collecting benefits, and then rehire them without a break in service.

Advised client on purchase of target company that was owned by an ESOP.
Advised governmental entity on correction of improper purchase of credited service and excess benefits arising under an early retirement program.

Counsel to defined benefit plan offering lump sum window benefits to terminated vested participants, thereby reducing company’s market risk.

Negotiated favorable results for clients correcting retirement plan administration errors using the IRS’ Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System.

Advised governmental employer on establishing and administering a FICA replacement plan.


Professional Involvement

  • Past, Chairman of the Employee Benefits Committee of the Oakland County Bar Association
  • Michigan Bar Association, member of the Employee Benefits Committee of the Tax Section
  • American Bar Association Member, active on the Employee Benefits Committee of the Tax Section
  • Member, ASPPA Governmental Affairs Committee

Community Involvement

  • Legal Counsel to Angels' Place, a Michigan non-profit corporation


  • Author, "Remote Employees Participating in Employee Benefit Plans – What’s Local Law Got to Do with It?,” Dickinson Wright HR Blog, May 2024

  • Author, "Avoid the Year-End Rush – 5 Proactive 401(k) Plan Administrative Steps to Take Now," Dickinson Wright All Things HR Blog, October 2023
  • Author, "A Cautionary Tale for Administrators Who Neglect Employee Benefit Plan Terms," Dickinson Wright All Things HR Blog, August 2023
  • Author, "What Happens to the 401(k) Plan When a Company Is Sold?,” Dickinson Wright All Things HR Blog, May 2023
  • Author, "Using the New Group Health Plan Fee Disclosure Rules To Reduce Plan Costs," Dickinson Wright All Things HR Blog, April 2022 
  • Author, "What Do a Newly Married Employee, A Long-Term Employee, and a Change of 401(k) Recordkeepers Have in Common? Beneficiary Designation Forms," Dickinson Wright All Things HR Blog, October 2021 
  • Author, "IRS Provides Details on the Extension of the April 15 Filing Date," Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, March 2020
  • Author, “What to do if your Company is Close to the Affordable Care Act’s 50 Full-Time Employee Threshold”, Dickinson Wright HR Blog, September 2019
  • Author, “Form 5500 Provides Insight on Compliance with IRS and DOL Plan Administration Priorities”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog”, June 2019
  • Presenter, “Retirement Plan Audit Risks”, National Webinar for Strafford Publications, May 2019  
  • Author, “The Top 5 Things to Know if You Are New to 401(k) Benefits Administration”, Dickinson Wright HR Blog, February 2019
  • Author, “When to Call Your ERISA Benefit Attorney”, Dickinson Wright HR Blog, September 2018
  • Author, “Time for Non-Profits to Update Their 403(b) Retirement Plans”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, June 2018 
  • Author, “Now is the Time to Confirm That Your 2017 Salary Deferrals Were Within IRS Limits for 2017, Especially if You Made Salary Deferrals under More than One Employer’s Plan”,  Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, February 2018
  • Author, “Keeping the End in Mind When Managing Employee Benefits at a Company Owned by a Private Equity Fund”, Dickinson Wright HR Blog, 2018
  • Author, “Confidential Settlements of Sexual Harassment Claims Are No Longer Deductible by a Company”, Dickinson Wright HR Blog, February, 2018
  • Author, “Do Your Employees Pay for Their Company Sponsored Medical Coverage with Pre-Tax Dollars?”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, November 2017
  • Co-presenter at seminar for International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists on “Retirement Plans – Things we wished our Clients Had Asked Us Ahead of Time” (Livonia, Michigan), June 2017
  • Author, “Company Liable for Not Providing Accurate Information about Benefit”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, April 2017
  • Author, “April 18, 2017 is the Deadline to Make Contributions to a Health Savings Account for 2016”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, April 2017
  • Presenter, “Covering Your Assets – Tough Talk and Best Practices about Your 401(k)” Webinar with Clayton & McKervey, December 2016
  • Presenter, “Fiduciary Best Practices & Department of Labor Updates”, Seminar sponsored by Morgan Stanley, Detroit, MI, July 2016
  • Presenter, “ERISA Fiduciary Duty for Retirement Plan Investment Decisions”, a Dickinson Wright Sunrise Seminar at Automation Alley, April 2016
  • Author, “New Department of Labor Rule Helps Plan Sponsors and IRA Owners Determine If Their Advisor is a Fiduciary Providing Impartial Investment Advice”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, April 2016
  • Author, “Affordable Care Act Update – Some Questions Answered, Some Relief Granted”, Dickinson Wright Client Alert, December 2015
  • Author, “Businesses under Common Control are Treated as one Entity under Certain Retirement and Welfare Plan Rules”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, October 2015
  • Author, “Time to Check the “Qualified” Status of a Company’s 401(k) or Profit Sharing Plan”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, September 2015
  • Presenter, "The Affordable Care Act," Webinar for members of Middle Tennessee chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) (2014)
  • Presenter, "The Affordable Care Act - Preparing for 2014," Sunrise Seminar (2013)
  • Author, "Determining if the Affordable Care Act "Play or Pay" Rules Apply to a Business," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (January 2013)
  • Author, "Penalties and Measuring Periods for Large Employers," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (February 2013)
  • Co-Author, "The HIPAA "Omnibus" Final Rule," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (January 2013)
  • Co-Author, "Participant Fee Disclosure Deadline Approaching," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (April 2012)
  • Co-Author, "New Rules Aid Plan Fiduciaries," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (April 2012)
  • Presenter, "Know Your Role and Control Your Risk: What Every CEO, CFO or Human Resources Director Should Know About Their Responsibilities In Administering a Retirement Plan," Sunrise Seminar (2011)
  • Presenter, "Yes, You Can Navigate the Maze of the New Health Care Reform Act," Sunrise Seminar (2010)
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