Legal Translation Services to Comply with ERISA

Legal Translation Services Help with ERISA Rule Changes

Legal translation to comply with ERISA rules is often needed. Are you responsible for administering ERISA issues at your company? Do you own a business and know that you must remain in compliance with ERISA laws and regulations? If so, you need to know that the United States Department of Labor will put into effect new regulations in 2018 that will likely impact your business.

In particular, one facet of the new regulations involves translating benefits notices for non-English speaking employees. This article gives you what you need to know with regard to that ERISA regulation change. It also explains how you can easily make sure that you remain in compliance with ERISA by simply taking advantage of a professional legal translation service like All Language Alliance, Inc.

ERISA: The Basics

ERISA stands for The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. It is a federal law that establishes minimum standards for most pension and health plans that are voluntarily established by private companies. The goal of ERISA is to give much needed protection for individual employees with regard to their employer’s pension and health plans.

As a quick overview, ERISA requires that employer health and pension plans do the following:

• Disclose health and pension plan information, including plan features and funding;
• Set minimum standards for participation, vesting, and benefit accrual;
• Provide fiduciary responsibilities for those who manage and control plan assets;
• Establish a grievance and appeals process for benefit participants;
• Provide participants a right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty; and
• Guarantee payment of benefits with federal assistance if a benefit plan is terminated.

ERISA does not generally apply to retirement plans created by government entities; plans for church employees; or plans created only to comply with workers compensation, unemployment, or disability laws.

Translate Plan Documents to Comply with ERISA

• Plan Administrators Have Always Needed to Offer Translation Assistance In Some Form

In general, ERISA already requires that a summary description of a benefits plan for employees must be written “in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant.” In that vein, if a significant portion of plan participants (usually around 10% or more) are literate only in a language other than English, the plan administrator must provide an option for those employees to seek legal translation assistance.

Specifically, the federal regulation at 29 CFR 2520.102-2, states that the benefits plan summary must have a prominently displayed notice, in the relevant non-English language, that offers the employees assistance with translating the benefits plan description.

In addition to that general translation assistance requirement, the Department of Labor (DOL) has recently proposed a new final rule for ERISA that revises claims procedures. In particular, the final rule addresses some concerns surrounding employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits. The final rule was supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2018. However, to allow for further review, the final rule is now scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2018.

• New ERISA Final Rule Enhances Translation Assistance Regarding Benefit Claims Procedures

Section 503 of ERISA requires every employee benefit plan to “provide adequate notice in writing to any participant or beneficiary whose claim for benefits under the plan has been denied, setting forth the specific reasons for such denial, written in a manner calculated to be understood by the participant.” Apparently, because denial letters to plan participants and beneficiaries in the past have not provided adequate information, the DOL felt the need to promulgate a new final rule relating to Section 503.

One important proposed change to Section 503 is that plans must now provide denial notice to claimants “in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.” That means that if a claimant’s address is in a county where 10% or more of the population residing in that county are literate only in the same non-English language (as determined by the American Community Survey), then denial notices must include a prominently displayed notice in the relevant non-English language indicating how to access language services provided by the benefits plan. Further, plans must provide a customer assistance process (like a telephone hotline) with oral language interpreting services in the non-English language, and provide written notices translated in the non-English language upon request.

To simplify, lets take an example. Assume you are an ERISA plan administrator in the Los Angles area (which has a more than 10% Spanish-speaking population), and you need to send a denial letter to one of your plan participants. In order to comply with the new final rule, you must

1. Put a prominent notice in Spanish in the denial letter that states that the claimant may obtain English to Spanish translation services.
2. You also need to provide a way in which a plan participant can speak to a Spanish interpreter by phone for further assistance, and
3. You should be prepared to translate any written documentation into Spanish at the claimant’s request.

Legal Translation Services Can Make Your ERISA Compliance Much Easier

The three requirements above may seem like a tall order when combined with all of your other ERISA administrative responsibilities. But have no fear, it is not as difficult or costly as it may seem.

All you need to do is contact a respected, prominent, professional translation service to handle your translation needs. All Language Alliance, Inc. is a one-stop shop for high-quality translation services, and can make compliance with the new ERISA rule easy. All Language Alliance, Inc. provides accurate written translation services in over 100 languages, including Spanish, Korean, Burmese, Mongolian, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, French, Russian, Bosnian, and employs interpreters who can do in-person translating.

In sum, don’t be daunted by the new ERISA final rule coming down the pike. Rather, get ahead of the curve by contacting All Language Alliance, Inc. today. Put us on your speed-dial so you can get the help you need to address ERISA legal translation and interpreting requirements.  We are also here to provide you with legal translation of 401(k) retirement plans from English to any foreign language.

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