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How ERISA helps with employee benefits

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as "ERISA," was enacted in 1974 in an effort to administer rules for employers to provide pension and insurance benefit plans for retiring employees. The act also addresses pre-paid legal services, apprenticeship and training programs for employees, as well as scholarship funds and day care centers for children of employees.

Such benefits are not required by law, but are governed by ERISA after such a plan is offered to an employee. They do not include mandated benefits, such as unemployment compensation or workers' compensation, but ERISA does make sure that the interests of the employee are met and that such plans are properly handled by the employer.

Essentially, each plan must be managed by the employer to maintain an "exclusive benefit" to the participant and beneficiaries of the plan, such as immediate family members of the employee. The employer must avoid conflicts of interest during the decision making process of investment, and comply with specific guidelines on how and where the regulated funds are to be invested.

If you are an employee and believe your employment law benefit terms have been violated or compromised by your employer, you may be able to file a claim under ERISA. The claim will then go back to the plan administrator, who has 90 days to accept or deny the claim. If denied, a review will be given to the employee, who must respond within 60 days. If the issue is still unresolved, the employee may file a lawsuit under ERISA.

Source: "ERISA and Healthcare Plan Enforcement" Accessed June 23, 2015.

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