Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal


Debra A. Davis


It is not uncommon for state legislatures and the federal government to enact laws that involve similar issues. However, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA) provides that state laws are preempted to the extent they relate to employee benefit plans. Since its enactment in 1974, most of the state laws that have been preempted focused on health matters. However, this is likely to change. With many of their constituents lacking adequate retirement benefits as well as the increased attention being placed on 401(k) plans, states are likely to start attempting to legislate in the area of retirement plans. In fact, some states have already begun to propose legislation in this area. States that want to help bolster their constituents’ ability to save for retirement will enact bills designed to address the amount of workers covered by 401(k) plans, the fees charged to these types of plans, and the adequacy of the benefits received by workers who participate in 401(k) plans. However, a uniform system is necessary for plans to operate efficiently and effectively. Interested persons and organizations should not be required to spend their time and resources interacting with the multitude of states in addition to the federal government. Furthermore, workers should be able to take comfort that the same rules apply regardless of where they are located and that they can freely transfer between their employer’s locations without having to worry that their retirement benefits will change. As a result, ERISA’s preemption provisions should be interpreted broadly to provide a uniform set of rules for retirement plans that does not differ based on where the employer and its workers are located. This Article argues that the federal government is optimally suited to address coverage, cost, and benefit adequacy issues related to 401(k) plan



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