Many workers in Pennsylvania are familiar with ERISA laws protecting employees who work for companies that provide perks like retirement plans, health insurance and pensions. The Employee Retirement Security Act and includes the laws that set minimum standards for benefits plans. ERISA regulations also outline the range of punishments that become relevant when an individual, company or benefit plan is non-compliant with regulations.
Employees should know that ERISA regulations only apply to plans set forth by for-profit companies under private ownership. Health insurance and pension plans provided by a government organization, religious institution or other public entity do not qualify for ERISA protections. Furthermore, ERISA regulations take precedence over any state laws with which they may conflict.
Employers that provide health insurance, retirement and pension plans to the people who work for them must abide by a list of rules. These rules include:
• Providing a full description of all features and finances involved with a plan
• The management of plan assets both legally and ethically
• Providing an employee grievance system for workers dissatisfied with the plan
• Providing an appeals system for dissatisfied employees
Violations and penalties
Generally speaking, a violation occurs when an employer does not live up to the obligations imposed on them by ERISA regulations. Common violations include breach of trust, denial of benefits and denial of employee rights.
The penalties assessed for ERISA violations fall under the civil and criminal category. Civil penalties commonly include fines or an order to make payments to a beneficiary of a plan. Individuals convicted of criminal ERISA violations may be ordered to pay a fine but can also end up spending time in prison.
Employees who take part in employer-provided benefits programs become the beneficiaries of federal protections. These ERISA regulations represent a complex area of the law and can become cumbersome for the laymen to navigate alone. Individuals with questions regarding an employer-provided benefit plan may receive the answers they need by speaking with an employment law attorney.