On our sister blog — Employer Law Report — Sara Jodka analyzes a recent case — Gaglioti v. Levin Group, Inc. (6th Cir. Dec. 13, 2012), which serves as a good reminder to employers to pin down their reasoning for terminating an employee at the start, and stick to it.
In addition to his other claims, Gaglioti claimed that he was fired in response to the company’s fear of higher health costs for his wife, and that this was discriminatory under ERISA Section 510. Such a claim requires the plaintiff to establish “(1) prohibited employer conduct (2) taken for the purpose of interfering (3) with the attainment of any right to which the employee may become entitled.” In order to make out a prima face case of ERISA interference, the plaintiff must allege that the employer “had a specific intent to violate ERISA.” Here, the court found that the claim was entirely inferential — it was not sufficiently supported by specific evidence to make out a prima facie case of ERISA interference.
Good policies help prevent Section 510 claims like this, or help in defending such claims. For example, the process of submitting medical insurance enrollment forms that discloses health conditions is kept as separate as possible from the process of managing and disciplining employees.
I encourage you to read Sara’s analysis of this case here.