Overview: The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sets minimum standards for pension, health and other welfare plans (e.g., life insurance, disability) in order to provide protection to participants in these plans. ERISA applies to private employers that provide employer-sponsored retirement, health and welfare benefit plans to employees.
ERISA does not require employers to offer benefit plans but regulates and sets standards for:
Two amendments to ERISA have expanded protection to participants and beneficiaries in health plans. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides employees and their families the opportunity to continue their health coverage after certain qualifying events, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides protection to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. Other important amendments to ERISA include the Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act, the Mental Health Parity Act and the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act.
Trends: Communicating benefit plan information to employees is still an area of exposure for employers. If not done properly, employers run the risk of being liable for breach of fiduciary duty. To avoid this liability, employers should be sure to control the flow of information concerning benefits and ensure designated representatives are well-trained and can provide timely and accurate information.
Author: Tracy Morley, SPHR, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect FAQs on the fiduciary rule published by the Department of Labor.
Updated to reflect IRS final regulations defining 'spouse' for federal tax and benefits purposes.
In the interest of encouraging retirement savings to protect the economic security of older Americans, the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration has issued a final rule guiding states on how to design payroll deduction savings initiatives with automatic employee enrollment (auto-IRAs) without being preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The final rule also provides guidance to the employers that eventually may be required to offer such programs to employees.
Class-action lawsuits have been filed against nine of the nation's top universities claiming that employees and retirees were forced to pay millions of dollars in excessive fees relating to their 401(k) and 403(b) accounts in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
The US Department of Labor has released its Final Fiduciary Rule under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Final Rule streamlines many of the more burdensome aspects of the proposed rule and stresses the importance of eliminating any potential conflicts of interests.
A federal court has denied an employer's motion to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit, Marin v. Dave & Buster's, Inc. The lawsuit alleges that the employer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by reducing workers' hours in anticipation of higher costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Employers seeking to advise employees of any retirement benefits offered to employees as part of their overall benefits package should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employment glossary definition of ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).
Employment glossary definition of Key Employee.
HR guidance on complying with ERISA requirements.