When signing an employee contract, Minnesota residents expect to see some provisions about their pensions, retirement plans and health insurance plans. Upon seeing them, many sign on the dotted line without actually knowing what those plans are, what laws they are being provided under and what happens if an employer fails to pay these benefits.

The Employment Retirement Income Security Act is the federal law that exists to protect employees who are working for private, for profit employers. Not only does ERISA establish the minimums that should be provided by employers, but it also gives employees being covered certain rights. When there is a failure to pay these benefits, employers can even be held liable through a range of penalties and punishments authorized by ERISA. An employer is supposed to provide participants about information about the plan they are going to be enrolled in and how the plan is going to be financed. Additionally, it also places fiduciary duties on those who are supposed to manage the assets covered by the plan. Lastly, it also lays out a procedure for grievances under the plan as well as the appeals process for grievances.

ERISA violations include improperly denying benefits to former employees, interfering with the rights of employees and breaching fiduciary duties towards employees. Penalties for violations include civil and criminal ones. Civil penalties could be fines, changing procedures or making a payment to plan member or a fiduciary. Criminal punishments include imprisonment for violators.

Employees are entitled to certain guarantees under federal law and it is an employer’s obligation to provide them. Failure to do so might be actionable and an experienced employee rights attorney might be able to discuss legal options with wronged employees.