Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), if your employer offers a welfare benefit plan covering items like health, life or disability insurance, then your employer, as the plan administrator, must act in compliance with ERISA. A mandated component of a plan provided by the plan administrator is the summary plan description, and if you are not provided with one, you should seek legal advice.
Under ERISA, to be valid, the summary plan description must be provided to the beneficiary and it must contain specific information that accurately reflects the contents of the benefits plan. Under federal law, the plan description must also be written in a manner so that the average person can understand it. Additionally, limitations of the plan cannot be written in a font smaller or harder to read than other parts of the description.
The bottom line is that the summary plan description is intended to be a tool for the plan participant.
By law, each summary plan description must accurately reflect the contents of the plan, including:
Although all plans must contain these elements, the complexity of the information will depend largely upon who your plan administrator is. Sometimes, a plan administrator is a single, small business employer providing benefits to a handful of employees. Other times, a large corporation may be your benefits provider. Regardless of the provider, they owe you a duty to present your plan contents in a clear way through the summary plan description.
While there are exceptions, generally speaking if your employer or plan administrator fails to provide you with a summary plan description within either 90 days of enrollment or 30 days after you request it, then they could be liable for heavy fines implemented by the Department of Labor. Additionally, the plan participant may be able to seek up to $110 per day for each day that an employer did not provide you with the appropriate plan documents as required or requested.
If you feel like your employer or plan administrator is not providing you with the documents you need and are entitled to, then you should contact the experienced Lake Forest ERISA lawyers at Michael Bartolic, LLC. We are dedicated to developing the best strategy for your case while also maintaining a proactive understanding of any changes in the law. Please call us today for a free consultation of your case.
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