What Exactly Constitutes An ERISA Claim In New York?
In 1974, the U.S. federal government passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), intended to protect employee benefit plans by establishing minimum standards for pension plans and fiduciary conduct. If your employer is preventing you from accessing the benefits you have earned through your career, you may be able to file an ERISA claim to compel access. The right attorney on your side can help to smooth out the process.
ERISA Has A Wide Purview
ERISA is one of the tax and labor laws that is entirely federal in nature, with no real state-level equivalent (though some New York laws touch on similar topics). It is administered by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) under the U.S. Department of Labor. It does not impose a requirement on employers to provide employee benefit plans, but it regulates those that an employer does choose to provide. The average employee does not often think about their ERISA plans, because so often the Act is associated with retirees – but current employees may have to deal with ERISA issues as well. Plans and programs for disability, training, scholarship and many other potential benefits for employees will also fall under the regulation of the EBSA.
ERISA covers several aspects of employee benefit law. They include:
- Protecting employee benefits and demanding “best practices” with regard to their holding and distribution;
- Demanding disclosures for plan participants, ensuring transparency; and
- Instituting and procedural safeguards such as requiring uniform claim and appeal policies.
Essentially, if you have been denied a benefit that you have a right to collect, and you can show that your employer actively or negligently denied you that benefit, you may have an ERISA claim.
Filing Suit Is More Complex
If you do believe that you have a valid ERISA claim, it is crucial to understand that you cannot pursue remedies in the same way that you might with a standard civil lawsuit. Generally, you may not file a lawsuit unless all administrative remedies have been exhausted – this is referred to in ERISA jurisprudence as “claim exhaustion” – and if you do get to that point, a lawsuit must be filed in federal court, rather than in a state circuit court as most civil suits are. In addition, ERISA trials are uniformly bench trials – that is, they take place in front of a judge, rather than a jury, which may require a different type of strategizing than would be necessary for a jury trial.
There is one way that ERISA claims mirror more standard civil liability cases, and that is that employers are prohibited from any kind of retaliation or discrimination against an employee who files a claim to get the benefits they deserve. Retaliation on the part of your employer may open them up to further problems, and grant you the option to pursue back pay and other remedies. As an employee, you are entitled to certain benefits by the nature of your employment (if they are granted to every employee of the company); failure to get them is actionable.
Contact A New York ERISA Claim Attorney
ERISA cases are notoriously difficult to navigate without experienced legal help on your side to make sure all the little details are managed. The New York City Employment Retirement Income Security Act attorneys at Mansell Law, LLC have the capability to help you get through the process of getting your benefits. Contact us today at 646-921-8900 for a free consultation.