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The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, covers far more than retirement, unlike its name might imply. Most employers fail to realize the power of ERISA. Th is complex law guarantees employees and their benefi ciaries the right to initiate civil and criminal actions in federal court when such actions seek to enforce the requirements of ERISA and/or the terms of a health and welfare plan. Failure to comply with ERISA can be costly to an employer, with daily and cumulative penalties possible.

Who must comply with ERISA?
Any business that offers one or more employee health and welfare benefit plans, which may include the following:

• health insurance • life insurance • vacation • sick pay • day care assistance • dependent care assistance • educational assistance • pre-paid legal services • financial assistance for employee housing expenses • disability plans • disability and death benefits

What is ERISA?

ERISA is a comprehensive federal law enacted by Congress in 1974 and amended several times since to regulate group sponsored benefi ts called “employee benefit plans.” The main purpose of ERISA is to protect the interests of employees and their beneficiaries who are participating in employee-sponsored health and welfare benefi t plans, and to ensure that employees receive pensions and group sponsored health and welfare benefi ts promised by their employers. For most plans, ERISA requires full disclosure to covered individuals (employees and beneficiaries). Meanwhile, for many plans, ERISA additionally requires detailed and timely reporting to the government. Further, the law imposes a strict fiduciary code of conduct on many of those who sponsor and administer ERISA plans. Failure to comply with ERISA can result in costly Department of Labor enforcement actions and penalty assessments, as well
as employee lawsuits.

 

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