The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) protects employee benefits, including pension benefits. Plan managers of pension plans have a fiduciary duty to act in participants’ best interests and make reasonable investment choices. Unfortunately, sometimes companies underfund pension funds or pension funds are mismanaged — and employees suffer. Unless the wrongdoing is identified early, employees can experience thousands of dollars in losses at retirement or at a time when they need their promised benefits the most.
Too often, behavior considered misconduct under ERISA goes on behind the scenes and is hard to find. Whistleblowers, however, can come forward and report when something is being done wrong. When they do come forward, an ERISA whistleblower should be entitled to the strongest protection under the law. If an employer retaliates, Zamansky LLC can provide legal representation and stand up for the rights of those who face adverse employment outcomes for trying to report ERISA violations. Our experienced firm also represents all employees who face financial loss due to mismanagement or misconduct when there is an ERSIA violation.
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ERISA Whistleblower Protections
ERISA Section 510, found in 29 U.S. Code Section 1140, protects employees from being fired before they can qualify for certain benefits in which they would otherwise be eligible. Another part of Section 510, found in the statute’s second clause, explicitly provides protection to whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are people who come forward to report ERISA violations so wrongdoing can be investigated and stopped.
The relevant part of ERISA stipulates that it “shall be unlawful for any person to discharge, fire, suspend, expel, or discriminate against any person because he has given information or is about to testify in any inquiry or proceeding related to ERISA.” If an employee reports pension or benefits fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, or mismanagement of investments, this employee should be considered a whistleblower and should thus be protected under ERISA statute.
Speaking up about signs of wrongdoing is important to protect benefits that you and every company employee may be counting on. By coming forward when you suspect potential wrongdoing, you could prevent years of fraud and abuse that might otherwise not come to light until it is too late for employees to get all of the benefits they were promised.
You do not deserve to risk your job or benefits over bringing wrongdoing. To prevent mistreatment and loss you should consult with an ERISA attorney for help as soon as you think you are being treated unfairly after involvement with ERISA claims.
Are You Entitled to Whistleblower Protection Under ERISA?
While the ERISA statute provides whistleblower status to people who are involved with claims arising from the Act, different courts have developed differing interpretations of the phrase “given information… or testify in any inquiry or proceeding.” For example, the fifth, seventh, and ninth circuit courts have held that employees are protected from retaliation for making an internal complaint about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations while the second, third, and fourth circuit have held that ERISA’s whistleblower protection clause does not protect them after internal complaints, meaning whistleblowers in New York who report problems internally could potentially be subject to adverse employment actions under certain circumstances.
Getting Help from an ERISA Attorney
Zamansky LLC can provide guidance on whether you are considered an ERISA whistleblower entitled to protection. When you know there is misconduct surrounding employee benefits, you should not keep silent. Give us a call to learn how we can help you protect your benefits and your career.