Employees in the Washington, D.C., area and throughout the country may be covered by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). It applies to most retirement and health plans, and it sets rules as to the information employees who are covered by an ERISA plan are entitled to know. It's worth noting that this legislation does not apply to most plans created outside of the United States. ERISA also doesn't apply to plans that were created or overseen by employees, government agencies or churches.
The legislation has been altered several times since it was first created. Important changes include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). HIPPA laws are designed to prevent employees from being discriminated against due to their medical care. The COBRA amendment allows employees who have been terminated retain an employer plan for a predetermined amount of time.
Under ERISA, those who manage or have control of a plan's assets must act as a fiduciary. This means that a plan manager or administrator must act in a plan participant's best interests at all times. Those who breach their fiduciary duty could be sued for their actions or face a grievance as outlined in plan documents.
If a plan administrator or other parties that control a retirement plan violate HIPPA, COBRA or other laws, an employee may take legal action. A victim of an ERISA violation may be entitled to compensation or other relief via a settlement or after a trial. An attorney could help an individual file a claim in a timely manner. Legal counsel may also be able to gather evidence that could show that a party breached its fiduciary duty toward a plan participant.