There are many laws that protect workers' rights with regard to pensions and healthcare benefit plans. However, workers in Washington, D.C., should be aware of the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974 and how the ERISA preemption can affect certain protections provided by local and state laws.
ERISA is a complicated federal law that is intended to prevent mismanagement and fraud in private health and pension plans. However, because the regulations take priority over any similar or conflicting local and state laws, individuals may find that the protections they have against unfair claim denials in the state in which they reside might not be applied.
A provision was included in ERISA to specifically preempt all state laws related to health and pension plans, and the courts have agreed with clause since the regulation became effective. This can be problematic for individuals who are victims of unfair behaviors by insurance companies because the stiffest protections against such behaviors are provided by state laws.
There are certain situations in which ERISA does not preempt state laws. They include cases involving workers compensation benefits, pension and health plans overseen by religious organizations or churches, pension and health plans overseen by a government or a government contractor or agency, and any disability, pension health and unemployment benefits that were not purchased in conjunction with a plan.
An attorney who practices ERISA benefits claims law may advise clients about their legal options if they believe that they have been the victim of unfair practices by an insurance or pension company and are unable to file a complaint in their state. The attorney may explain what type of civil actions are necessary to recover any benefits that are owed and what other actions should be taken if civil actions will not suffice.