Your Rights Under ERISA
Participants in the plans in this Handbook that are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) are entitled to certain rights and protections under ERISA. ERISA provides that all plan participants shall be entitled to:
  • Examine, without charge, at the Plan Administrator's office, and at other specified locations, such as worksites and union halls, all documents governing the plan, including insurance contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and a copy of the latest annual report (Form 5500 Series) filed by the plan with the U.S. Department of Labor and available at the Public Disclosure Room of the Pension and Welfare Benefit Administration.
  • Obtain, upon written request to the Plan Administrator, copies of documents governing the operation of the plan, including insurance contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and copies of the latest annual report (Form 5500 Series) and updated summary plan descriptions. The administrator may charge a reasonable fee for the copies. You may also review all official plan documents, during normal business hours, in the Benefits Department.
  • Receive a summary of the plan's annual financial report. The Plan Administrator is required by law to furnish each participant with a copy of this summary annual report.
  • Continue health care coverage (including health care flexible spending account coverage) for yourself, spouse/registered domestic partner and/or dependents if there is a loss of coverage under the plan as a result of a qualifying event under COBRA. You or your dependents may have to pay for such coverage. You may also review this summary plan description and the documents governing the plan or the rules governing your COBRA continuation coverage rights.
  • Reduction or elimination of exclusionary periods of coverage for pre-existing conditions under your group health plan, if you have creditable coverage from another plan. You should be provided a certificate of creditable coverage, free of charge, from your group health plan or health insurance issuer when you lose coverage under the plan, when you become entitled to elect COBRA continuation coverage, when your COBRA continuation coverage ceases, if you request it before losing coverage, or if you request it up to 24 months after losing coverage. Without evidence of creditable coverage, you may be subject to a pre-existing condition exclusion for 12 months (18 months for late enrollees) after your enrollment date in your coverage.
  • Obtain a statement telling you whether you have a right to receive a pension at normal retirement age (age 65) and if so, what your benefits would be at normal retirement age if you stop working under the plan now.
If you do not have a right to a pension, the statement will tell you how many more years you have to work to get a right to a pension. This statement must be requested in writing and is not required to be given more than once every twelve (12) months. The plan must provide the statement free of charge.
Prudent Actions by Plan Fiduciaries
In addition to creating rights for plan participants, ERISA imposes duties upon the people who are responsible for the operation of the employee benefit plan. The people who operate your plan, called "fiduciaries" of the plan, have a duty to do so prudently and in the interest of you and other plan participants and beneficiaries.
No one, including your employer, your union, or any other person, may fire you or otherwise discriminate against you in any way to prevent you from obtaining a benefit or exercising your rights under ERISA.
Enforce Your Rights
If your claim for a benefit is denied or ignored, in whole or in part, you have a right to know why this was done, to obtain copies of documents relating to the decision without charge, and to appeal any denial, all within certain time schedules.
Under ERISA, there are steps you can take to enforce your rights. For instance, if you request a copy of plan documents or the latest annual report from the plan and do not receive them within 30 days, you may file suit in a federal court. In such a case, the court may require the Plan Administrator to provide the materials and pay you up to $110 a day until you receive the materials, unless the materials were not sent because of reasons beyond the control of the administrator.
If you have a claim for benefits which is denied or ignored, in whole or in part, you may file suit in a state or federal court. In addition, if you disagree with the plan's decision, or lack thereof, concerning the qualified status of a domestic relations order or a medical child support order, you may file suit in federal court.
If it should happen that plan fiduciaries misuse the plan's money, or if you are discriminated against for asserting your rights, you may seek assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor, or you may file suit in a federal court. The court will decide who should pay court costs and legal fees. If you are successful, the court may order the person you have sued to pay these costs and fees. If you lose, the court may order you to pay these costs and fees, for example, if it finds your claim is frivolous.
Assistance with Your Questions
If you have any questions about your plan, you should contact the Plan Administrator. If you have any questions about this statement or about your rights under ERISA, or if you need assistance in obtaining documents from the Plan Administrator, you should contact the nearest office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, listed in your telephone directory, or the Division of Technical Assistance and Inquiries, Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20210. You may also obtain certain publications about your rights and responsibilities under ERISA by calling the publications hotline of the Employee Benefits Security Administration.