The Importance of ERISA

HomeERISA & Retirement BenefitsThe Importance of ERISA
July 06, 2023

ERISA refers to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, and it is designed to protect the interests of participants in employee benefit plans and their beneficiaries. The sponsors of these plans are guided by a wide range of standards of conduct and enforcement provisions that help to ensure participants’ benefits are protected – even if the company itself goes under. If you have questions or concerns related to ERISA, you need an experienced Bay Area ERISA attorney in your corner. 

Those Protected

ERISA covers the retirement and additional benefit plans of about 141 million workers and their beneficiaries, which amounts to about $7.6 trillion in overall assets. The kinds of additional benefit plans involved include:

  • Certain health benefit plans
  • Life insurance
  • Welfare benefit plans, such as dismissal wages, unemployment benefits, and guaranteed annual wages
  • Disability insurance 

Approximately 54 percent of all workers in America earn retirement benefits, and about 59 percent earn healthcare benefits. 

ERISA’s Role

ERISA is designed to protect the retirement savings of American workers from financial abuse and mismanagement. It accomplishes this by holding those in charge of the funds to very high standards, which include always acting in the best financial interests of the participants in the plan – a basic requirement of this fiduciary role. Other obligations include maintaining transparency and accountability, which means ensuring that participants are able to maintain access to plan information. 

Enforcement of ERISA

Three governmental bodies are involved in the administration and enforcement of ERISA, including:

  • The Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service
  • The Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration 
  • The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

The Summary Plan Description

The summary plan description (SPD) provides participants with information about the plan, including the following:

  • At what point can an employee participate in the plan
  • When benefits become vested
  • How service and benefits are calculated
  • When benefits are paid and what form they are paid in
  • How to file a benefit claim

When plans are changed, participants must be notified. Employers – not their insurance providers – are generally responsible for providing employees with SPDs and all subsequent modifications. ERISA affords participants the right to sue for owed benefits and any breaches of fiduciary duty. 

Are You Covered?

Not every employer is subject to the terms of ERISA. The following are prime examples of those not covered by ERISA’s reach:

  • Churches
  • Government entities 
  • Plans run by companies outside the U.S. for employees who are nonresidents 

Further, employers with fewer than 100 employees can implement SIMPLE IRAs, which are covered by ERISA but don’t require the same administrative burden. 

An Experienced Bay Area ERISA Attorney Is on Your Side

The well-respected Bay Area ERISA attorneys at Olivier & Schreiber LLP have the experience, legal insight, and focus to tirelessly advocate for your financial rights as an employee and will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to do so. We are on your side and here to help, so please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us for more information today. 




(415) 484-0980


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