The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) sets uniform minimum standards to ensure employee benefit plans are established and maintained in a fair and financially sound manner. In addition, employers have an obligation to provide promised benefits and satisfy ERISA’s requirements for managing and administering private pension and welfare plans.

ERISA sets minimum standards for most voluntary pension and health plans in the private sector to protect individuals enrolled in the plans.

ERISA requires plans to provide participants with information about plan features and funding, provides fiduciary responsibilities for those who manage and control plan assets, requires plans to establish a participant grievance and appeals process, and gives participants the right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty.

Plans subject to ERISA:

  • Medical, surgical or hospital care
  • Benefits for accident, disability, sickness or death
  • Vacation benefits
  • Apprenticeship or other training programs
  • Prepaid legal services
  • Holiday and severance pay plans

In general, ERISA does not cover group health plans established or maintained by governmental entities, churches for their employees or plans which are maintained solely to comply with applicable workers’ compensation, unemployment or disability laws. ERISA also does not cover plans maintained outside the United States primarily for the benefit of nonresident citizens or unfunded excess benefit plans.