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What is ERISA?

In the mid-1970's, the United States government created the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, commonly known as ERISA. The purpose of ERISA is to protect the assets of American workers, including New Jersians, who have put in contributions towards their retirement funds, such as a pension.

Although, there are no laws in place requiring an employer to create a pension plan for their employees, if one is in place. ERISA has specific guidelines to assure that the retirement funds are protected. This includes how long an employee needs to work to qualify for a pension, how long an employee can be away from their job before the benefits are affected, how long an employee must work for their investment to obtain a nonforfeitable interest and whether a spouse is entitled to a pension, if the contributor dies.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act also requires that employers maintain accountability for these pension plans. This means they have a fiduciary duty to maintain transparency. They must also follow the principles of conduct while maintaining control and management of the plan. They also guarantee payment if a plan is terminated through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federally chartered program designed to help protect employees from breaches of fiduciary duty.

While there is always some level of uncertainty in the stock market, the ERISA Act helps give workers in the United States some peace of mind with regards to their investments in pensions through their employer. If one believes that their rights as an employee may have been violated, it might be wise to reach out to a law professional familiar with ERISA to see how they can help.

Source: DOl.gov, "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)," accessed on July 24, 2017

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