DOL Reinforces Importance of Privacy for ERISA Plans

Personal information is one of the most valuable assets held by any organization. When dealing with employee benefits, the type of personal information managed is quite sensitive and, therefore, requires a heightened level of care and an increased value.

Given this, the Department of Labor has issued guidance to instruct and advise companies about how best to care for information gathered in connection with these benefits plans, particularly those that fall under the Employee Retirement and Income Security Plan Act of 1974. All of this amounts to an estimated $9.3 million in assets (and more than 150 million workers and dependents) in need of protection.

ERISA covers a multitude of employer-sponsored group plans that provides benefits to employee-participants and their dependents-beneficiaries — including pension plans and health and welfare plans. ERISA covers more than 700,000 retirement plans, approximately 2.5 million health plans and a similar number of other welfare benefit plans. The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that private employers that offer benefit plans to their workers must act affirmatively to protect those plans, as well as their participants. Thus, in conjunction with other federal laws governing information security, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, employers offering ERISA plans must take steps to protect the participants and beneficiaries of those plans. 

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