The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is an American statute that establishes minimum standards for pension plans in the private sector. Additionally, it provides rules for income tax effects on transactions linked to employee benefits. Enforced by the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury, ERISA was created to protect employee benefit plan participants and their beneficiaries by requiring the full disclosure of financial details of the plans by employers. Codes of action for fiduciaries and access to federal courts are also required under the Act.
The history of the ERISA Act can be traced to President John F. Kennedy's creation of the President's Committee on Corporate Pension Plans in 1961. In 1963, when the automobile corporation, Studebaker, closed down and was unable to provide its employees with their full pension benefits, the pension reform movement gained additional support. In 1967, Senator Jacob Javits proposed legislation to address funding, reporting, and the disclosure of benefit information as advised by the presidential committee. Although the legislation was initially opposed, especially by business groups, the Act gained a lot of momentum after NBC's 1970 television special Pensions: The Broken Promise. Millions of viewers witnessed the reality of shady pension plans. Immediately following, public support for pension reform increased drastically and ERISA was enacted in 1974.
ERISA creates a right of action against company executives overseeing employee stock ownership plans who violate their fiduciary duties to the plan participants. ERISA became a pivotal piece of legislation because, to a large extent, it prevented states from regulating the activities of employee health benefit plans. However, although it precludes states from regulating health benefit plans, ERISA contains a “savings” clause that preserves the ability of states to regulate the business of insurance. ERISA is a federal statute that standardizes the treatment of employee benefits and pensions that was passed in 1974, 29 U.S.C. It is a blend of contract trust and administrative law.
ERISA requires sponsors of employee benefit plans to distribute to eligible employees an up to date (every five years), easily understandable written summary of the plan?s terms, conditions, and requirements, known as a Summary Plan Description or SPD. To qualify as a valid SPD under ERISA, certain information regarding the plan and the plan sponsor must be provided and an ?ERISA Statement of Rights? ERISA drastically limits the remedies available to injured workers, as well as preempting State regulations designed to control the more egregious problems. Rigged Mandatory Arbitration gives injured patients the illusion of justice. ERISA's definition of the term fiduciary is functional. That is, a person is a fiduciary if the person performs any of the acts described in ERISA Section 3(21) (A), irrespective of whether the person's title or position gives that person discretionary authority to act for the plan.
ERISA section 510 makes it unlawful for any person to discharge, fine, suspend, expel, discipline, or discriminate against a participant or beneficiary for exercising any right to which he is entitled or may become entitled under an ERISA plan. It also makes it unlawful to discharge, fine, suspend, expel, or discriminate against any person because he has given information or has or is about to testify in any ERISA-related inquiry or proceeding.
During the past few years we have seen an increase in claims by employees who believe their discharge was motivated by their employers' desire to reduce or avoid benefit plan expenses. These claims are often joined with other claims such as claims relating to age discrimination or a whistleblower actions where the employee also alleges the employer attempted to interfere with ERISA-protected rights.
The Law Offices of Archibald J. Thomas, III, P.A., has expereince with ERISA 510 retaliation claims and will be happy to review your situation to help you determine whether your rights under ERISA have been violated.