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What is ERISA?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, is a federal law that was passed in 1974 and took effect in 1975.

Although the scope of ERISA has been broadened many times via amendments to address issues that arose after the law, the primary purpose of the law remains the protection of an employee's pension or other retirement plan. ERISA also applies to employee health plans.

ERISA only imposes legal obligations on private employers who operate for profit. It is important to also note that ERISA, per se, does not require an employer to have any particular employee benefit plan, although other laws, such as the Affordable Care Act and various state laws, may require employers to afford certain benefits.

In any event, if an employer does choose to have a plan subject to ERISA, the employer must follow the law's requirements. Some of these most basic requirements are to manage the funds in an employee retirement plan in a reasonable and prudent manner, the idea being that employees should get paid at least what they put in to their retirement plan, as they are no doubt counting on that income. Moreover, and perhaps more obviously, an employer must pay out benefits as agreed with the employee.

Although it is important that San Diego workers at least understand what ERISA, the law is in fact quite complicated and detailed. For this reason, a worker who feels that he or she has not been paid retirement or other benefits as agreed, or who feels like their money is being managed improperly, should consider speaking with an experienced California employment law attorney about their employee rights.