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What is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974?

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Employers in private industries are not required to provide a pension or retirement plan for employees. However, if you are employed by a company in Pennsylvania that offers a pension plan as part of its employee benefits, your employer must follow certain guidelines set by the federal government so that the funds are still available when you retire. The legislation is called the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, also known as ERISA. The U.S. Department of Labor explains the standards for pension plans that are set out by ERISA.

Your employer is required to provide funding that is adequate to maintain your plan, although there is not a set amount to the benefit that you receive. You are also entitled to plan information about the funding and other features of the plan. Some of the information you are offered should be free, but not all of it has to be. There is typically a fiduciary, which is the person who manages your plan’s assets. In the event that there are losses due to misconduct, this person can be held accountable, according to ERISA.

There are quite a few different types of plans, but regardless of which one is provided, the law defines the length of time the employer can require you to work before eligibility to each of the following:

  •          Participating in the plan
  •          Accumulating benefits
  •          Achieving a nonforfeitable right to receive those benefits

Even if your plan is terminated, you still receive some benefits through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is chartered by the federal government. This information about ERISA and employee pensions should not be considered legal advice and is offered for educational purposes only.