What plans are covered by Title I of ERISA?

Title I of ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) applies to employee benefit plans established or maintained by an employer (or an employee organization representing employees) engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce. [ERISA {S}4(a)] As a practical matter, nearly all employers and employees are engaged in commerce or in an industry or activity affecting commerce. [Winterrowd v David Freedman & Co, 724 F 2d 823 (9th Cir 1984)] Some types of plans, however, are excluded either by statute or by regulation from coverage under Title I of ERISA. For instance, plans covering only partners (or partners and their spouses), only a sole proprietor (or a sole proprietor and his or her spouse), or only the sole owner of a corporation (or the sole owner and his or her spouse) are not covered by Title I of ERISA. [DOL Reg {S}2510.3-3(a)] Employee benefit plans for purposes of Title I of ERISA include employee welfare benefit plans, employee pension benefit plans, and plans that are both. [ERISA {S}3(3)] Significant differences exist in the amount of regulation that those plans are subject to under Title I of ERISA. In contrast to employee pension benefit plans, employee welfare benefit plans, which include such plans as health plans and group term life insurance plans, are not covered by the portions of Title I of ERISA concerned with funding, participation, and vesting. [DOL Reg {S}2510.3-2(a)] The focus here is on employee pension benefit plans.