ERISA protection for Tennessee employees

When a Tennessee employer offers a job to a qualified candidate, the candidate's motivation for considering the position certainly relates to the salary the employer offers. However, the deciding factor is often the benefits package. Besides paying Social Security and federal insurance, private, non-government businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required by law to offer benefits beyond workers' comp, family and medical leave, and unemployment insurance. If employers choose to provide more, they must abide by the rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA.

ERISA sets minimum standards for businesses to meet when they include certain benefits in their employee packages. If a private employer with fewer than 50 workers on the payroll offers health care insurance or a retirement plan, those plans are regulated by ERISA. Among other aspects, ERISA oversees the fiduciaries of health care and retirement funds to ensure they are properly administrating the plans.

The guidelines in ERISA require plan administrators to make regular reports to the federal government as well as keeping participants informed of the rules and benefits of plans to which they contribute. Participants should receive clear instructions about how to file claims, appeal rulings and contribute to the decision-making progress if the plan providers want to make changes. ERISA offers a very important protection by ensuring the plan providers and fiduciaries always make decisions and act in the best interests of the plan members.

When those who manage employee benefits packages fail to provide that protection or to keep members aware of any changes in the plan policies, this may be a violation of ERISA rules. Failing to keep participants informed could be detrimental to their health and their retirement security. A Tennessee employee has the right to seek legal assistance if he or she suspects a violation of ERISA rules.

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