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ERISA violations may carry civil and criminal penalties

Private Tennessee employers who offer health insurance, retirement investments, pensions or other benefits may provide certain security for their employees and obtain their loyalty in return. These are benefits that the law does not require, but employers who provide them must comply with federal laws outlined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Violations of ERISA not only place the health and future of employees in jeopardy, but they may result in civil and even criminal penalties.

A fiduciary responsible for the management of an ERISA-protected benefit risks prison and potentially hundreds of thousands in fines for intentional actions, such as backdating paperwork and other acts of fraud. The federal government periodically passes new laws to stiffen penalties for convictions of fraud and other malfeasance related to employee benefits. In this way, it hopes to deter employers and account managers from seeking their own gain over the welfare of the plan participants.

In addition to criminal charges, those who violate ERISA laws may face civil penalties. For example, employees who can prove to a Tennessee court that they suffered damages when a fiduciary improperly denied benefits may seek restitution. This may include payment for the benefits, interest on the benefits accrued during the denial and attorney fees.

Courts assess penalties and awards based on the circumstances of each individual case. It can be a challenging effort to seek compensation following a perceived ERISA violation, but recovering lost benefits may be critical. Reaching out for legal assistance is an understandable move in the face of such complicated matters.