ERISA: Protection for Employee Pension and Benefit Plans

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What Is ERISA?

ERISA is the acronym for The Employee Retirement Income Security Act and was enacted by the 93rd United States Congress on September 2, 1974. Designed to provide pension reform, the act is a federal law that sets standards and regulations of protection for individuals that are in private sector company retirement plans. ERISA requires the set plans to provide employees with accurate plan information, and important facts about:

An employer is usually called the fiduciary that has to follow the plan guidelines while the employee is called the qualified beneficiary.

Who Oversees Employee Pension and Benefit Plans?

ERISA establishes minimum standards of vesting, funding, and fiduciary relationships and a system of compulsory benefit insurance to protect the security of pension rights. Specifically, ERISA protects pension and benefit plan recipients and beneficiaries. 

What Types of Benefits Plans Are Included in ERISA?

ERISA defines three main types of benefits plans: 

Plans Not Included

ERISA specifically does not cover employment plans:

What Protections Does ERISA Provide?

There are three main protections provided by ERISA:

How Is Compliance Monitored?

Compliance with ERISA is monitored through a series of reporting requirements. Failure to comply is a violation subject to civil liability and criminal penalties  including costly DOL penalties. Employees can also bring bad faith claims against their employers who deny them benefits that they are entitled to under ERISA.

How Is Compliance Encouraged?

Companies that comply with ERISA are offered tax breaks and incentives which encourage employers to follow ERISA guidelines. Failure to comply will result in loss of favorable tax treatment and other penalties.

How Can an Employment Lawyer Help?

If you believe your employer has acted improperly with regard to your benefits or pension, an employment lawyer can help you resolve the dispute and make sure you receive the benefits you are entitled to.  If you are an employer and are concerned about ERISA compliance, an employment attorney can help you establish a benefit plan that protects you and your employees.

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Last Modified: 11-05-2014 04:09 PM PST

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