What the Heck is ERISA?
Even after completing law school, most lawyers have no idea what ERISA is other than a vague impression that it involves employee benefits and that they should consult an expert if they encounter it. If you are not a lawyer, the first time you hear “ERISA” is likely to be only if you’ve been denied some type of benefit that was provided by your employer.
So what the heck is ERISA?
ERISA is an acronym for the “Employee Retirement Income Security Act,” a federal law enacted in 1974 that sets minimum standards for employee benefit plans including: pension plans, long and short-term disability plans, health insurance plans, life insurance plans and other types of employee benefits. ERISA requires plans to provide participants (typically employees or their dependents) with certain information about the plans such as what benefits are provided, how to apply for them and what to do if benefits are denied. The ERISA law also sets out standards of fiduciary conduct for those people who manage and control plan assets. The fiduciary standards are meant to assure that people who are plan fiduciaries act in the best interests of the plan participants as a group. ERISA also gives participants certain rights to sue for benefits or to sue if the fiduciary breaches a duty to participants.
What Does an Attorney who Focuses on ERISA Do?
As attorneys working on ERISA matters, we help people obtain benefits through their employee plans. This could mean helping a person with a disabling condition who cannot work apply for disability benefits. It could mean helping a person appeal to the insurer if they do not get approval for medical care they need. It might mean challenging the decision of a life insurance company if it denies the proceeds from an employer-provided life insurance policy. Practicing in the area of ERISA might mean assisting a retiree to get the correct amount of monthly pension payments after he or she retires.
Here at the Law Office of Katherine MacKinnon we really enjoy helping people get the benefits they need and are entitled to receive.