Employees' Rights Under ERISA

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that applies to most private-sector employee benefit plans. This protects employees if their employer denies benefits. Plan providers have a fiduciary duty to plan participants. ERISA provides a private right of legal action for workers if their benefits are denied.

This is an overview of ERISA and how it protects benefits for workers and retirees. If your employer is not meeting the minimum standards or unlawfully denying your benefits, you may be able to file a claim for financial compensation. Talk to an ERISA lawyer for legal advice about your retirement benefits rights.

What Does ERISA Cover?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act governs most voluntarily established employee benefits plans. This applies to benefits plans in private industry. There are minimum standards for compliance with ERISA. ERISA covers many types of benefits plans, including:

  • Defined contribution plans
  • Defined benefit pension plans
  • 401(k) and 403(b) plans
  • Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs)
  • Simplified employee pension plans (SEPs)
  • Profit sharing plans
  • Employer-sponsored health plans
  • Employer-sponsored welfare benefit plans

Some employers contribute to their workers’ retirement accounts. Other plans include a mix of employee and employer contributions. These are among the most common employee retirement benefit plans. You contribute a certain amount of each paycheck to your private retirement fund, and your employer will match what you put in up to a certain amount or percentage.

ERISA Requirements

There are several ERISA requirements to make sure employers are in compliance with federal laws. These laws help protect employee retirement benefit plans and plan beneficiaries. ERISA also guarantees certain benefits through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) if a plan terminates.

ERISA requires plan administrators to provide participants like you with a plan description. This includes plan eligibility, enrollment, funding, and benefits. This helps plan participants make informed decisions about participating in a retirement plan. Employers must periodically send individual updates on plan information and changes.

Employers must submit plan information to the federal government. ERISA also sets minimum standards for who can participate, vesting, benefit funding, and benefit accrual. Plan administrators have a fiduciary duty to you. This means that administrators have to manage the plan in the best interests of beneficiaries like you and your coworkers.

The plan fiduciary has to provide a grievance and appeals process. There is a way to find out the reason for a denial and file an appeal. ERISA also allows you to sue for benefits if you are wrongfully denied. You can also sue for a breach of fiduciary duty if the administrator is mismanaging the plan’s assets.

ERISA also created the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) under the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The EBSA regulates and enforces ERISA.

What Happens If My Employer Breaks ERISA Laws?

Retirement security for Americans is not guaranteed, even if you think you have enough retirement savings. The small business that funded your retirement plan may go bankrupt. A plan administrator may have breached their fiduciary responsibilities and devalued the plan. Fortunately, ERISA provides many protections for employees and retirees.

Under ERISA, your plan has to provide a grievance and appeals process. You can file a grievance to get information about why your claim was denied. For example, your employer may claim you are not eligible or that you are not covered by the plan. If they deny your claim, the plan provider must provide a notice with a detailed explanation. The denial must also provide a description of the appeals process.

How Can a Lawyer Help With ERISA Claims?

If your employer or former employer denied your benefits, you have legal protections under ERISA. If the plan administrator is not properly managing the retirement funds, you can file a claim against the fiduciary. If they deny your appeal, you can contact a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the employer or administrator.

Dealing with federal retirement laws can be intimidating. An experienced ERISA lawyer can review your case and explain your legal options. An ERISA lawyer can help you identify any violations of the laws, negotiate a settlement with your employer, or, if necessary, represent you in an ERISA lawsuit. They can file a claim against your employers to help you fight for what is yours.

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