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FAQs and Employee Benefits

Making sense of your employee benefits can be a challenge, especially in your later years or when you start to consider retirement. It’s important that you are informed and know your rights. Here are a few popular questions.

Ask your own questions here.

Q:  What does vesting really mean and what does it have to do with my pension?

A: "Vesting" refers to when the funds in your pension plan become yours to take, either upon termination or retirement. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") requires 100% vesting of employer-contributed funds, and sets out the various time frames under which this will be done.

"Self-vesting" generally occurs after five years of employment. A percentage of vesting can be spread out over a number of years. Complete vesting generally occurs after 7 years. Funds you contributed to a 401K are generally vested immediately.

 

Q: Are companies required to provide a pension to their employees?

A: No, it’s the company’s option whether or not to offer a plan. Companies generally establish a pension plan to help employees with retirement needs and to retain employees. If a plan is offered, the company must follow the rules of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, but the act does not require the company to offer a plan, 401k or otherwise.

 

Q: Do I have the right to insist on directing my 401k plan myself?

A:  While many plans do offer this option, employers are not required to offer plans with this option.

 

Q: In the event of a divorce, am I required to share my pension with my spouse?

A: In most cases, pension benefits are part of the property division in a divorce. State laws vary on how these benefits are to be equitably divided. You’ll want to consult with your divorce attorney for specifics.

 

Q: According to the Family Medical Leave Act, FMLA, even if I’ve been sick for more than 12 weeks, isn’t my employer required to take me back?

A: The answer is no for two reason.
First, the FMLA applies only under a limited number of conditions. In order to be "eligible" for Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave, an employee must:

  • Be employed by a covered employer and work at a worksite within 75 miles of which that employer employs at least 50 employees
  • Have worked at least 12 months (which do not have to be consecutive) for the employer
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding the date of commencement of FMLA leave.
  • Public employers are covered by the FMLA regardless of whether they meet the 50-employee threshold.

Second, If you're going to be out slightly longer than 12 weeks, the employer MAY have to hold your job slightly longer, pursuant to Americans with Disability Act protections. But your employer isn't required to hold your job indefinitely.

 

Q: The issue I’m looking for isn’t covered here. Where can I go to learn more about my rights as an employee?

A: You may want to consults with a reputable attorney and there are a variety of sites that may be helpful including:

 

 

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