Workers in Houston often rely on their employer-provided benefits, including their health insurance and retirement plans, for many of the most important aspects of life. However, some plan administrators and companies may make damaging decisions that deny benefits or waste the plan participants’ money. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), was implemented in order to protect workers who receive benefits through a private employer. While ERISA does not mandate the existence of benefits programs, it requires that companies that offer these programs uphold standards that keep them working to benefit the plan participants rather than third parties or the company itself.

ERISA applies to a wide range of employee benefit programs, including health insurance, disability insurance, pension plans, retirement funds, severance plans, training programs, death benefits and others, as well as employer-sponsored day care and wellness plans. Under the law, companies must operate these programs in a way that is fiscally sound and fair to workers, including managing them for the exclusive benefit of the beneficiaries, refraining from conflicts of interest in investment choices, complying with government investment guidelines, and providing proper information to plan participants and regulators. Employees and plan members should know how they can file for benefits and have objective, clear standards used in their distribution.

In some cases, however, these plans may give limited, incorrect or improper information to employees. Workers may find themselves unfairly denied disability pay despite years of work. They may see the funds in their pension plans depleted due to questionable investments by plan administrators. In these cases, ERISA may provide recourse.

Employee benefits are critical to many workers’ health and even lives, and tampering with them can be devastating. An ERISA benefits claims attorney may help plan participants to protect their rights in case of fiduciary misconduct.