Your employer or former employer may have offered you benefits as part of your employment, such as a 401k plan or health insurance. These range from formal benefit plans like 401k, pension and health insurance, to bonus plans, paid sick leave and vacation pay. Many of these benefits are protected by law under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) that prohibits your employer or prior employer from abusing you financially or legally through plan benefits. Your employer may offer some benefits or even no benefits covered by ERISA. Some benefits offered may be outside the realm of ERISA. Your employer is not required to offer any benefits (except those required by the Affordable Care Act) but once it decides to make ERISA-protected benefits part of your compensation it must comply with ERISA requirements. Some employee benefits are covered by other federal or state laws while other voluntary benefits have little or no legal protections. Understanding the laws that govern benefits and how to protect them can be complicated. Working with an employment benefits attorney familiar with ERISA and other benefit laws can put you in a better position to protect your rights.
What benefits ERISA protects
ERISA is a federal law that regulates most retirement and welfare plans offered by employers. ERISA sets out a complex web of regulations that govern the operation and allocation of benefits to participants and beneficiaries of benefit plans subject to the law. ERISA ensures that participants and beneficiaries are treated fairly under the plan and prohibits the plan administrator from promising benefits and then taking them away.
ERISA protects most health and retirement plans among other benefits for most private employees including: