May 17, 2024

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established retirement and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans. ERISA provides a number of protections for plan participants and beneficiaries, including:

  • Vesting: ERISA requires that plan participants vest in their retirement benefits over time. This means that even if a participant leaves their job before retirement, they will still be entitled to a portion of their retirement benefits.
  • Funding: ERISA requires that retirement plans be funded adequately. This means that the plan must have enough assets to pay out the benefits that are owed to participants and beneficiaries.
  • Fiduciary duties: ERISA imposes fiduciary duties on plan administrators and other individuals who manage plan assets. This means that these individuals must act in the best interests of plan participants and beneficiaries.
  • Reporting and disclosure requirements: ERISA requires plan administrators to provide participants and beneficiaries with information about their plans, such as plan documents, summary plan descriptions, and annual funding notices.

ERISA also provides participants and beneficiaries with a number of rights, including the right to file a lawsuit if they believe that their rights have been violated.

ERISA law is important because it protects the retirement and health benefits of millions of Americans. ERISA helps to ensure that workers have a safe place to save for retirement and that they will have access to their benefits when they need them.

Here are some examples of ERISA law in action:

  • A worker who has been employed at a company for five years may be vested in their retirement benefits. This means that if the worker leaves their job at that time, they will still be entitled to a portion of their retirement benefits.
  • A retirement plan administrator must invest the plan’s assets in a prudent manner. This means that the administrator must consider the safety  of the investments and the best interests of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries.
  • A participant in a retirement plan may file a lawsuit if they believe that the plan administrator has breached their fiduciary duties. For example, a participant may file a lawsuit if the plan administrator invests the plan’s assets in risky investments or if they misuse the plan’s assets.

If you have any questions or concerns about ERISA law, you should consult with an attorney who specializes in ERISA law. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options.