Staying Up-to-date with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 put into place laws that protect the retirement assets of working Americans. Since then, ERISA has evolved. Over the years changes to the law have come about as a result of cases tried through the U.S. Supreme Court. 


Employers are responsible for complying with ERISA as it changes and develops. Currently, employers need to be aware of any changes resulting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and marriage equality.


There has been some concern that employers will reduce their contributions to retirement accounts, or withdraw from participating in ERISA, since it is voluntary, as one way to offset any additional costs required to comply with the ACA, which is mandatory. An ERISA program that is likely to be affected by the ACA is COBRA, which may become unnecessary as lower cost health insurance options become available.


Aside from the ACA, other big legal changes include the Supreme Court’s decision that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. In response to this ruling, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have provided guidance that states for the purpose of ERISA the term “spouse” will refer to “any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law, including individuals married to a person of the same sex who were legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, but who are domiciled in a state that does not recognize such marriages.” (


For more information about ERISA and ERISA compliance, visit the Department of Labor’s website at


This article is intended to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subject matter covered. It is distributed with the understanding that FBMC is not rendering professional or medical advice and assumes no liability in connection with its use.


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