Employers of all shapes and sizes need to be aware of ERISA – tribal employers are no exception. Numerous court cases across the country have found ERISA to apply to various types of tribally sponsored employee benefit programs. With the 2006 enactment of the Pension Protection Act, the United States Congress made clear its determination that at least certain types of employee benefit programs maintained by tribes and tribal entities are subject to ERISA.
ERISA imposes stringent compliance obligations; failures expose employers to significant risk. Moreover, important considerations should be taken into account in determining the most appropriate employee benefit products for tribal benefit programs subject to ERISA versus those that may be exempt. Understanding whether a tribal benefit program is covered by ERISA at the outset can save tribal employers both time and money. The information included in "ERISA For Tribes &Tribal Enterprises," as presented at the National Native American Human Resources Association's 2017 annual conference, highlights some of these considerations.