What Is ERISA Law?


Quick Answer

The Employee Retirement and Security Act of 1974 is a U.S. federal law that establishes legal responsibilities to the custodians of health care and pension plans provided to private industry employees, explains the U.S. Department of Labor. It also provides the right to file lawsuits against employers that violate ERISA.

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Full Answer

Lawsuits can be filed because of a denial of benefits the plaintiff is entitled to under a health or pension plan covered by the act, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Employees can also file suit for breach of fiduciary duty, the department notes. Fiduciary duties include running the plan for the sole benefit of the plan's participants and beneficiaries, making responsible decisions regarding administration of the plan, and following the terms of the plan documents, provided those terms are in accordance with ERISA.

Fiduciary duties also include avoiding conflicts of interest and minimizing financial risks. Individuals with fiduciary responsibility under ERISA include plan trustees, plan administrators and the members of the plan's investment committee. Fiduciaries can be held personally liable for ERISA breaches, including monetary civil judgements and forced removal from their fiduciary position. The department notes that ERISA does not generally apply to health and pension plans provided by governmental agencies, churches, or plans created for the sole purpose of complying with workers compensation, unemployment and disability laws.

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