New Mexico ERISA Attorneys Provide Knowledgeable Guidance

Albuquerque lawyers advise on rules governing employee benefit plans

Private employers that provide health insurance and retirement benefits to their workers must follow the detailed regulations set forth in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). This complex set of laws addresses various elements of plans provided as part of an employee’s compensation, including employer contributions, employer privacy and the jurisdiction of litigation relating to ERISA plans. At Hurley, Toevs, Styles, Hamblin & Panter, P.A., we have a thorough understanding of ERISA compliance and claims procedure and keep track of the latest developments in this field. Whether you’re seeking counsel on how to follow ERISA rules or are defending against a claim alleging a violation, our attorneys offer comprehensive legal support.  

What is ERISA?

ERISA was enacted so that the health and retirement benefits that employees rely on are not mismanaged by companies or the vendors they hire to handle plan assets. Under the law, plan trustees and administrators have a fiduciary responsibility to act the in the best interests of employee beneficiaries, rather than themselves or their companies. This duty has many different elements which change over time as new rules are passed to adapt to emergent needs and changes in employee benefits. For example, parts of the Affordable Care Act and some benefits associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are subject to ERISA standards.

Plans that fall under ERISA

Not every employee benefit is covered under ERISA, and businesses need to know the rules that apply to the particular plans they provide. Types of plans that fall within ERISA’s purview include:

  • Defined-benefit retirement plans, such as traditional pension programs
  • Defined-contribution retirement plans, such as most 401(k) accounts
  • Employee stock ownership plans and other profit-sharing plans where the company contributes funds or stock
  • Nonqualified deferred compensation plans (top-hat elective deferrals and SERPs)
  • Plans operating as ERISA payroll practices, such as bonus plans and paid time off policies
  • Employer-provided group health plans, including coverage for dental and vision care
  • Flexible savings accounts, disability coverage and life insurance policies offered by employers

ERISA governs most private employers. However, plans provided by government entities and churches to their employees are not covered by ERISA. We also assist with these and other nonqualified plans. If you are unsure as to whether a particular program is subject to ERISA rules, one of our business attorneys can review the facts and outline your responsibility.

ERISA compliance and small businesses

Navigating the various aspects of ERISA compliance is a hassle for even the largest companies, so small businesses often find themselves struggling with the burden presented by the multifaceted law. Even firms that bring in a third-party administrator to handle their various plans need to stay on top of several critical tasks and deadlines. Benefit statements, notices of plan changes, fee disclosures and other plan documents have to be sent to employees within the statutory timeframes. It is also vital to maintain adherence to the terms set forth in the individual plans and submit corrections to the Internal Revenue Service when an error is made. ERISA violations can trigger fines, legal action and the loss of qualified retirement plan status. Our attorneys answer complex questions and represent employers skillfully when an ERISA claim emerges. 

Contact an Albuquerque employee benefits attorney to discuss an ERISA matter

Hurley, Toevs, Styles, Hamblin & Panter, P.A. assists clients throughout New Mexico with a wide range of concerns related to employee benefit plans, including those governed by ERISA. For a consultation, please call 505-888-1188 or contact us online. Our office is located in Albuquerque.