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What is ERISA?

When we are hired for a job, some rights are apparent. This includes receiving a wage, breaks and a safe work environment. Additionally, employees are aware of their right to not be harassed in the workplace. Beyond these obvious rights, some employees may be unsure of their rights when it comes to retirement, pensions and health plans. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 outlines these rights.

What is ERISA? This act is a federal law, and it was designed to set the minimum standard for much of the pensions established voluntarily and health plans in private industries as a means to protect the individuals in these plans. ERISA has various requirements. To begin, participants must be provided with plan information. This includes important information regarding plan features and funding.

ERISA also creates fiduciary responsibilities for those that manage and control the assets of the plan. The Act also requires that the plan establish a grievance and appeals process for participants as a means to obtain benefits from their plans. Finally, ERISA provides participants with the right to sue for benefits as well as the right to sue for breaches of fiduciary duty.

It should be noted that ERISA does not cover group health plans that have been established or maintained by government entities, churches for their employees or plan maintained solely to comply with workers' comp, unemployment or disability laws. Additionally, ERISA does not cover plans that were maintained outside of the U.S.

For employees dealing with ERISA issues, it might be beneficial to seek legal guidance. This not only ensures that the employee's rights are protected under this and other employment rights, but it also helps the employee reach a resolution that meets their needs and best interests.

Source: Dol.gov, "Health Plans & Benefits: ERISA," accessed March 11, 2018

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