DoL Releases Electronic Delivery Guidelines

April 8, 2002 ( - The Department of Labor (DoL) has given its formal stamp of approval to the electronic distribution of benefit plan information to employees.

In a final rule released Monday, DoL said employers can send material to workers’ homes electronically if the employee agrees to receive it there, and if they still have the option of requesting a paper document instead.

The rule also sets standards for administrators, employers, and others using electronic media to keep employee benefit plan records as required by ERISA.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said electronic delivery would benefit employees because information access will be faster and easier because of the Web’s “hot links” that can quickly take a user from one Web page to another. She said plan sponsors would also save money by eliminating or cutting back on printing and mailing costs.

The DoL rule applies to all reports, statements, notices, and other documents required to be distributed by ERISA. DoL officials said it was patterned after the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, which gave online signatures the same legal weight as those in hard copy.