The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans. ERISA applies to private sector pension and health plans, but it does not apply to government plans or to plans established by churches and other /westerlaw.org/ religious organizations.
ERISA has a number of important provisions, including:
- Participation and vesting requirements: ERISA sets minimum standards for employee participation in pension plans and for the vesting of pension benefits. Vesting means that an employee has a legal right to their pension benefits, even if they leave the job before retirement.
- Funding requirements: ERISA sets minimum funding requirements for pension plans. This means that employers must contribute enough money to their pension plans to ensure that they can pay out the promised benefits to employees.
- Fiduciary duties: ERISA imposes fiduciary duties on the people who manage and control pension and health plans. This means that these people must act in the best interests of the plan participants and beneficiaries.
- Reporting and disclosure requirements: ERISA requires pension and health plans to provide certain information to participants and beneficiaries. This information includes information about the plan’s benefits, funding status, and investment performance.
- Enforcement provisions: ERISA includes a number of enforcement provisions to ensure that plan sponsors and fiduciaries comply with the law. Participants and beneficiaries can file lawsuits to enforce their rights under ERISA.
ERISA is a complex law, and it is important to consult with an experienced attorney if you have any questions about your rights under ERISA.
Here are some examples of how ERISA law has been used to protect the retirement savings of American workers:
- In one case, the Supreme Court ruled that ERISA protects participants’ rights to receive their pension benefits in a timely manner, even if the plan is insolvent.
- In another case, the Supreme Court ruled that ERISA prohibits plan fiduciaries from engaging in self-dealing transactions. For example, a plan fiduciary cannot invest the plan’s assets in a company that the fiduciary owns or controls.
- In a third case, the Supreme Court ruled that ERISA participants have the right to sue plan fiduciaries for breach of fiduciary duty. For example, a participant can sue a plan fiduciary for investing the plan’s assets in risky investments that lose money.
ERISA law is a powerful tool for protecting the retirement savings of American workers. If you have any questions about your rights under ERISA, you should consult with an experienced attorney.