ERISA, which is short for “Employee Retirement Income Security Act” was established in 1974 and laid out how private pension plans and investment practices must be handled. The act established legal guidelines for welfare, disability and life insurance, retirement plans, health plans, and apprenticeship situations. It was originally created to address corporate pension plans but later expanded to other areas.
An ERISA pension lawsuit would be filed if any of these laws are violated. It applies only to private employers and non-governmental entities that offer employer-subsidized health insurance and related benefits.
ERISA laws have been amended more than three dozen times, including with the 1985 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act and in 1996 with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
According to ERISA, employee benefit plans must be in writing and include all of the important information relevant to the plan.
Should I Contact an ERISA Pension Lawyer?
Determining the right time to contact an ERISA pension lawyer can be challenging.
ERISA law is complex and changes on a frequent basis. The various laws and regulations can be extremely confusing to someone who does not work with the law full-time. Lawyers who practice employment law dealing with general issues even struggle to keep up with ERISA guidelines, which is why it is important to work with someone who is an expert in ERISA.
An employer can be in violation of ERISA if they:
- Do not operate the offered benefit plan prudently and for the exclusive benefit of employees
- Do not properly value plan assets based on current fair market values,
- Do not hold plan assets in trust
- Do not follow the terms of the plan
- Take adverse actions, including termination, fines, or discrimination against employees who exercise their rights under the plan
A significant portion of ERISA related to pensions and benefits related to health, disability, and medical insurance.
Filing an ERISA Claim
If you choose to file an ERISA claim, you can expect a multi-step process that includes:
- Filing the claim in writing and notifying the insurance company that deals with the plan
- Filing an appeal in writing and submitting information and any pertinent documents to the court
- Establishment of fees
There is a good reason why the 1984 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was established. The ERISA law protects the interests of participants and their beneficiaries in employee benefit plans while also ensuring that whoever manages the plans meets certain standards of conduct. That’s why Seeger Weiss’ ERISA lawyers work tirelessly to make sure that the law is upheld and unions and employers don’t find creative ways to avoid honoring their pension benefit responsibilities by adjusting provisions illegally or commit pension fraud.
The ERISA law, and the subsequent Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, are very clear about what unions and employers can and can’t do: for instance, they can’t change eligibility for those no longer in Covered Employment or absent from work for a short period of time; they can’t freeze benefits for participants over a certain age; and, they can’t deny benefits to a spouse in the event of a divorce—or in the event of a death.
- As a highly respected ERISA law firm, Seeger Weiss, is currently serving as Interim Co-Lead on behalf of 25 Bakery and Confectionery union workers in two ERISA litigation cases. So far, the Court has agreed with us and upheld the central merits issue in the litigation stating that the July 1, 2010 plan amendment eliminating Golden 80 and 90 early retirement benefits eligibility for those no longer in Covered Employment violates ERISA law.
- Formerly, Seeger Weiss ERISA lawyers also served as Lead Counsel representing thousands of active and retired Delta Air Lines pilots nationwide whose pension benefits were being compromised due to new plan amendments and practices. Effort recovered $16 million on behalf of pilots. And our ERISA lawyers also represented tens of thousands of Bell South employees in an ERISA class action that proved breaches in fiduciary duty in how company’s administrator managed their 401K plan.
ERISA Pension Attorney
There are two different types of pension plans, including defined contribution and defined benefit plans.
Defined benefit plans are set up to deliver a specific monthly benefit when an employee retires, either in an exact amount each month or an amount calculated via a formula that takes into account service and salary.
Defined contribution plans do not specify a concrete amount. The employer and employee pay contributions into the plan at a set rate based on a percentage of annual earnings, which means the amount paid is based on contributions, as well as the growth and losses that occurred over time.
A 401(k) is an example of an ERISA plan. A 401(k) is part of a group retirement plan that is considered a defined contribution plan and set up as a cash agreement or deferred arrangement.
By law, employers must provide details in writing about the facts of its pension plan, including a summary plan description listing the benefits employees are entitled to under the plan. There must also be details about how the plan operates, including the commencement date, when benefits become invested, the cost of services and benefits, and information about when payment is due and how it will be paid.
An ERISA lawyer can help you determine if you have a case and if there are any problems with your employer’s benefit plan. Employers are required to provide a procedural safeguard, including how claims should be filed and an appeal process guidelines to follow if claims are denied. Claims must also be dealt with in a timely manner that is fair for everyone involved.
Working with an ERISA attorney who understands the laws governing pension plans can help you determine if you have a case and if your rights have been violated. Contact us to learn more.