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What Is Covered Under ERISA?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) became law in 1974 with the goal of preventing employers in the United States from misusing or misappropriating employee benefits plans. ERISA also provides various avenues of legal recourse for any employee who has been subjected to any such mistreatment, allowing them to seek compensation for any fiduciary malfeasance they encounter from an employer. In North Carolina, ERISA applies to almost all employers.

If you believe your employer has misappropriated funds from any type of benefits plan you have through your employer, it can potentially form grounds for an ERISA violation claim. The attorneys at Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler have extensive experience handling these cases for our clients throughout the state and can leverage this experience for you.

What is covered under ERISA?

What Is an ERISA Violation?

Any employer that offers benefits plans covered by ERISA must follow strict requirements. When they fail in these requirements, it is an ERISA violation. Affected employees can potentially face tremendous losses from these violations, and it is important to know the value of having legal counsel you can trust if you intend to pursue legal recourse in response to any ERISA violation.

ERISA covers employer-provided retirement plans and various types of healthcare plans. If your employer has entered into any ERISA-covered agreement with you but has not held up their end of the agreement, it is a serious issue that requires the attention of an ERISA attorney. Violations may include:

  • Denial of benefits. If your employer illegally withholds benefits from a plan covered by ERISA, or if they fail to provide employee benefits under the terms of a group plan, it can amount to an ERISA violation.
  • Reduction of benefits. Once an employer has created an ERISA plan agreement with an employee, they must continue to abide by the terms of the plan. They cannot reduce the benefits allocated by the plan or make changes to the terms of the plan once established.
  • Retaliation. It is illegal for any employer to retaliate against an employee’s ERISA plan claim in good faith. For example, if you attempt to assert your rights under ERISA and your employer fires you, it would be a retaliatory wrongful termination and a clear violation of ERISA.
  • Denial of healthcare coverage. Almost all employer-provided healthcare plans are covered by ERISA as well as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Any time an employer refuses to meet their obligations under an ERISA or COBRA-covered healthcare plan, it is a serious violation and most likely to occur involving disability benefits following work-related injuries.
  • Failure to provide proper notice. Whenever the terms of an employer’s ERISA-covered plan change, they must provide affected employees with proper notice advising them of such changes.
  • Breach of fiduciary duty. ERISA plans exist solely for the benefit of covered employees. Whenever an employer misappropriates funds from an ERISA-covered plan, it is a direct breach of their fiduciary duty.

These are just a few examples of commonly cited ERISA violations. If you are unsure whether your employer has committed any such violation or are unsure of your options for legal recourse after experiencing a violation, an ERISA attorney is the ideal resource to consult. Unfortunately, many ERISA violations initially go unnoticed, or affected employees know that something is wrong but have no idea how to correct the issue they have encountered.

Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler, can provide the comprehensive legal counsel you need to navigate the legal proceedings likely to follow an ERISA violation. Our firm has years of experience resolving these cases, and we are ready to help hold an employer accountable for any intentional breach of their obligations under ERISA.


Q: What Does ERISA Cover for Employees?

A: ERISA is designed to protect employee benefits plans, including disability and retirement benefits provided through their employer. When an employer breaches the terms of any such benefits plan, or if an insurance carrier refuses to honor the terms of an ERISA plan, ERISA grants the employee the right to pursue legal recourse.

Q: What Does ERISA Allow?

A: ERISA ensures an employee has several legally protected rights concerning ERISA-covered plans. An employee can recover benefits due under any ERISA-covered plan, file a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, hold another party accountable for any violation of the terms of an ERISA plan, and pursue anti-retaliation legal recourse when you have attempted to take a legally protected action in good faith.

Q: Does ERISA Apply to Small Companies?

A: North Carolina ERISA applies to almost all private employers in the state. This includes small companies, even those with just one or two employees, nonprofit companies, charities, limited liability corporations (LLCs), partnerships, C-corporations, and S-corporations. Any employee who works for a private business in the state is likely covered by ERISA.

Q: What Does ERISA Cover?

A: ERISA broadly covers two types of plans: Employee Pension Benefit Plans that pertain to retirement benefits and Employee Welfare Benefit Plans, which typically pertain to employee disability. Some plans covered by ERISA include retirement funds, medical and dental insurance plans, flexible spending accounts, severance plans, prepaid legal plans, business travel insurance plans, and more.

Q: Why Should I Hire an ERISA Attorney?

A: Resolving any type of ERISA violation may be more challenging than you initially expected, and having the right attorney on your side can make resolving your case much easier. This will require dealing with insurance carriers who have no real incentive to help you and may try to coerce you into a settlement that does not suit your interests. Your attorney can help ensure your rights remain protected under ERISA and that you receive the benefits you deserve.

The attorneys at Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler have years of professional experience helping ERISA claimants secure the benefits they are legally owed. We know how confusing and challenging these cases can be and that you are likely to have many pressing legal questions regarding your recovery options. Contact our firm today to schedule a free consultation with an ERISA attorney to find out how we can assist you.