Employee Retirement Income Security Act
Employee Retirement Income Security Act, better known as ERISA, is a federal law in place since 1974 that regulates employee benefits offered by a company to its workers. This law sets the minimum standards for health plans, pensions and tax options, and outlines how each employee benefit should be handled. When employers violate this employment law, employees and former employees may file a claim against them in order to recover any money they lost.
What Is Covered By ERISA?
Employee benefits often make up a large part of the compensation package offered to an executive or manager, and are often even available to hourly employees. While not all benefits are regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, many of the most common types of benefits are covered. These include:
- Health Plans
- Retirement Plans
- Stock Options
Many of these plans — especially where healthcare and stock options are concerned — offer the employee the opportunity to buy into a plan at a price that is far below the market price. In a retirement plan, the employer may contribute to the worker’s account regularly or offer access to a retirement account with a high interest rate. In this way, the benefits help the employee save money.
How Is ERISA Violated?
ERISA sets out specific guidelines for how employee benefit plans must be offered and run. Participants must be presented with accurate plan information in a timely manner, they must be notified about funding, and the employers must offer a grievance and appeals process for anyone who encounters issues. At the same time, the law requires those who are responsible for making decisions about the plan to always act in the best interest of the employee who benefits from the plan. When these guidelines are not followed, the employee may not receive all of the benefits promised in his compensation package, and the federal law may be violated.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer with ERISA Experience?
Employees can file a lawsuit against an employer who has violated ERISA laws in order to recover any money that was lost due to the illegal handling of their retirement or stock option plan, or other benefits covered by the regulations. This process, though, can be difficult.
Before the claim can be litigated in a federal court, the law requires an administrative appeal that must be filed. The process laid out for filing this appeal must be followed exactly in order for the employee to retain their right to sue their former employer. This is why a lawyer with extensive experience in ERISA cases is the best asset for someone who wishes to recover lost money from their benefits plan.
If your employer or former employer mishandled your benefits plan, you may want to consider discussing your case with a qualified employment lawyer as soon as possible. The Attorney Referral Service of The San Fernando Valley Bar Association can connect residents of San Fernando Valley, California, with an experienced local lawyer. Call us today at (818) 340-4529.