A job is a necessity for most Texas residents, but not everyone wants to work until the end of their life. As such, many individuals save, invest, and utilize work-provided retirement accounts to plan for their non-working futures. When a private employer provides a plan for their employees to use to save for their post-work lives, it may be governed by the rules of ERISA.

ERISA, an acronym for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, applies to private plans that give workers pensions, retirement accounts, and even healthcare programs. ERISA is not a plan itself, but a set of rules that dictate minimum standards for the operation of such plans to protect employees from wrongful acts.

Under ERISA, a fiduciary duty is created when a plan takes and purports to grow the money of a worker. The assets that an employee puts into an employer-provided plan must be honestly managed, truthfully reported on, and carefully reviewed to ensure that the employee’s financial interests are protected. That is not to say that a plan will not lose money from time to time; fluctuations in markets can lead to losses. However, if a plan’s managers undertake wrongful or illegal acts that have detrimental results for the employees that invest in it, action under ERISA may be warranted.

ERISA violations can result in both civil and criminal liability. While civil damages may compensate a worker for benefits they lost due to the wrongful acts of their plan’s administrators, criminal penalties may cause punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. The nature of the ERISA violation will dictate the type of punishment the violator should receive, and individuals who have suffered due to the mismanagement or wrongful conduct of plan administrators may have recourse through the legal system.