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November 4, 2008    DOL Home > Compliance Assistance > By Topic > Benefits > Retirement Benefits   


Retirement Benefits

 Frequently Asked Questions


A pension plan is an employee benefit plan established or maintained by an employer or by an employee organization (such as a union), or both, that provides retirement income or defers income until termination of covered employment or beyond. There are a number of types of retirement plans, including the 401(k) plan and the traditional pension plan, known as a defined benefit plan.

Most private sector pension plans are covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Among other things, ERISA provides protections for participants and beneficiaries in employee benefit plans, including providing access to plan information. Also, those individuals who manage plans (and other fiduciaries) must meet certain standards of conduct under the fiduciary responsibilities specified in the law.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) of the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for administering and enforcing these provisions of ERISA. As part of carrying out its responsibilities, the agency provides consumer information on pension plans, as well as compliance assistance for employers, plan service providers, and others to help them comply with ERISA.



For Employees:

For Employers:

For Small Businesses:





  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) - Sets uniform minimum standards to ensure that employee benefit plans are established and maintained in a fair and financially sound manner. In addition, employers have an obligation to provide promised benefits and satisfy ERISA's requirements for managing and administering private pension and welfare plans.
  • 29 CFR Parts 2509 to 2590 - EBSA (formerly known as the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration) regulations, including interpretive bulletins related to ERISA (29 CFR Part 2509).



  • Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)
    200 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Room N-5623
    Washington, DC 20210
    Contact EBSA
    Tel: 1-866-444-EBSA (3272)
    TTY: 1-877-889-5627
    Regional Offices

  • For questions on other DOL laws,
    please call DOL's Toll-Free Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL. Live assistance is available in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Additional service is available in more than 140 languages through a translation service.
    Tel: 1-866-4-USA-DOL
    TTY: 1-877-889-5627

*Pursuant to the U.S. Department of Labor's Confidentiality Protocol for Compliance Assistance Inquiries, information provided by a telephone caller will be kept confidential within the bounds of the law. Compliance assistance inquiries will not trigger an inspection, audit, investigation, etc.

Phone Numbers