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Does your Houston employer need an ERISA audit?

Unless you are a human resources professional or you work in employment law here in Houston, you may not have heard that the Department of Labor is planning to ramp up its ERISA audits. ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, is a set of laws that governs pensions and employee benefits. The DOL recently found that three of four benefit plans that it audits may contain an ERISA violation, which may be of great concern to Texas workers.

Because of these violations of employee rights, the organization that administers and enforces ERISA has planned to add staff to conduct more audits. In fact, according to the Human Resource Executive Online journal, it is more likely than not that any given company will be audited.

Both small and large employers can be found to be violating ERISA in a number of ways that negatively impact employees. This might be excluding workers who should be eligible for retirement or health benefits, such as part-time workers; it may also be not communicating to employees the plans for which they are eligible. Another issue might be failing to provide 401(k) statements and disclosures quarterly, or failing to tell participants the full costs of the plan and the nature of fees.

ERISA violations occur not always because employers or plan administrators want to cheat employees, but because they do not fully understand ERISA. ERISA is a very complex area of law, but making an error that hurts workers is wrong and needs to be corrected whether or not the error was deliberate.

While the DOL will hopefully catch and correct a great number of these broad ERISA mistakes or violations, employees will still need to ensure their rights are safeguarded if they are denied a retirement or insurance benefit. When an employee notices a discrepancy or has an issue with health or retirement benefits, he or she may be wise to seek counsel.

Source: HREonline.com, "The DOL's Move to Increase ERISA Audits," Lin Grensing-Pophal, Sept. 13, 2012

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Warren & Siurek, L.L.P.
3334 Richmond Avenue, Suite 100
Houston, TX 77098

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