What Employers Are Exempt From ERISA?

by Krystal Wascher; Updated September 26, 2017

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 is a federal regulation that applies to businesses throughout the United States. The law is designed to establish specific rules and standards for health care and retirement plans offered by employers. Employers that do not currently offer these benefits are not affected by ERISA; however, there are several exceptions for certain employers that offer heath and retirement benefit plans to their employees.

Employers Administering Governmental Plans

Employers that administer governmental employee benefit plans are not subject to the provisions contained in ERISA. Governmental plans are defined under Section 1002 (32) of the Act as "a plan established or maintained for its employees by the Government of the United States." This exemption includes plans established by state governments and political subdivisions.

Church Plans

Church organizations that offer "church plans" as defined under Section 1002 (33) of the ERISA statute are exempt from the standards set forth by the statute for employee heath and benefit plans. "Church plans" are defined as "plans that are established and maintained for its employees "or their beneficiaries) by a church or by a congregation or association of churches which are exempt from tax."

Compliance Plans

Employers that maintain certain employee benefit plans for the specific purpose of complying with a state or federal statute are exempt from the standards and rules promulgated by ERISA. Generally, exempt compliance plans include those aimed at satisfying workmen's and unemployment compensation laws.

Foreign Plans

Employers that establish benefit plans substantially maintained outside the United States are generally exempt from ERISA provisions. For these employers to be exempt, the foreign plans must benefit individuals who are not citizens of the United States, or who are nonresident aliens.

About the Author

Krystal Wascher has been writing online content since 2008. She received her Bachelor of Arts in political science and philosophy from Thiel College and a Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law. She was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 2009.