Most employees in Minnesota go to work every day just to do their jobs – do them well – and then go home to their families. They don’t usually think about the many different laws that are in place to protect employees and their rights. Previous posts here have mentioned many of these laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the laws that protect employees from various forms of discrimination. But, there is one law that many people aren’t familiar with: the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, commonly known as “ERISA.”

What is ERISA and why does it matter for employee rights in Minnesota? Well, ERISA is a fairly broad law dealing with healthcare plans and pension plans that employers offer in the private sector. ERISA sets minimum standards for these plans, protecting employees who are part of the plans.

Under the requirements of ERISA, employers must ensure that employees receive detailed information about the healthcare and pension plans that they are part of. ERISA protections are also in place to ensure that the entities that are handling the funds for these plans have strict fiduciary duties that they are obligated to abide by.

Two amendments to ERISA may be somewhat familiar to Minnesota residents. One, known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – “COBRA” – ensures that employees can keep their healthcare coverage for a certain amount of time after leaving their jobs. The other, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – “HIPPA” – ensures that employees’ medical information is protected.