Philadelphia Employment Law News

Do Employers Have to Provide Health, Retirement Benefits?

So you have your job and the main benefit is that you are getting paid. But is that the only benefit that you are getting? Sure, you are improving your mind and sharpening your skills, but we're talking about the other benefits, ones that are covered by a federal law called ERISA.

Not all jobs come with added benefits, especially when you are working as an independent contractor. When you're contracting, you're on your own to get things like health insurance, retirement funds, and snacks. However, when you are an employee your company might offer you these great things.

But are employers required to offer you benefits?

Employers are actually not required by law to offer any benefits to their employees. This doesn't mean that you aren't going to see any benefits in most full-time positions that you take. Most companies offer health insurance and retirement plans because they want to be able to compete for qualified applicants.

Once those things are offered, then the law kicks in to make sure everyone is being treated fairly and the employer isn't just taking a bit off your paycheck for their own party fund. This law is called ERISA, which is short for Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Besides ERISA, these benefits are also governed by the same anti-discrimination laws that prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace. So if health insurance is offered to employees, you can't be denied insurance because of your gender, race, age, or other protected characteristic.

ERISA itself protects workers by requiring employers to give you information related to health and retirement programs (information such as plan eligibility, participant rights, changes to the plan, etc.). Not only does the law require that you get information about the plans, but it also requires that employers manage the funds and plans in a way that benefits employees.

This means your bosses can't take all the retirement funds to try and improve their stock portfolio by investing them in unproven stocks. If you suspect that your retirement or health insurance funds have been used improperly by management, you can talk to an employment attorney to see if you have a cause of action against the company.

Otherwise, remember that you're not guaranteed benefits -- but once they're offered, they sure better be there.

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