Many people rely upon benefits provided by their employer when making a myriad of important decisions about their lives. Some examples of these important decisions include decisions about when to retire, how to plan for their own and their children's education, how to plan for any future long-term health needs and how to financially plan for retirement with investments and otherwise. As a result of the important impact that employer sponsored retirement plans have on commerce, Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. 1001, et. seq, in part, to ensure that employees receive sufficient information about their rights under employee benefit plans to make well-informed employment and retirement decisions.
ERISA provides a detailed legislative scheme that requires disclosure of information and documents to employees about the nature of their employee benefit plans. It also establishes fiduciary duties with respect to the administration of such plans. Sometimes employers give false or misleading information about employee retirement plans that results in financial harm to the employee and his or her family who relied upon the incorrect information. When that happens, a claim can sometimes be brought under ERISA to compensate those harmed.
ERISA allows for only certain individuals to bring an action to enforce their rights under its provisions. A person must be a beneficiary or participant to bring some actions to enforce rights under an ERISA plan. This means that only a beneficiary or participant of a plan may have legal standing to bring the claim to enforce rights under the ERISA plan. For the most part, people who are at risk of losing their benefits entirely should take legal action before they lose the benefits, while they are still beneficiaries or participants in the employer's plan.