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Messing With Your Benefits

Employment Attorneys Representing Workers in Dallas and Surrounding Areas

Many employers offer a range of benefits to their employees on a voluntary basis. These benefits include retirement plans, severance plans, pensions, insurance, and more. Among the benefits that employees are often given are plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). ERISA provides certain protections to employees who are covered by ERISA plans. Our Dallas employment lawyers can represent you if you have been denied benefits or if your employer has been messing with your benefits. You should contact Rob Wiley, P.C. if you believe that you have been treated in a discriminatory or retaliatory fashion in connection with your employment benefits.

Messing with Your Benefits

Benefits provided to Texas employees may include retirement plans, severance plans, pensions, insurance, and more. Many of these plans are covered by ERISA. Under ERISA, employers are supposed to provide employees with plan information, including plan features and how the plan is funded. Additionally, an employer needs to act with the highest duty of loyalty in controlling and managing assets for employees in the plan. An employer is supposed to establish a grievance and appeals process for participants who are denied benefits.

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee for the purpose of depriving them of benefits. Some employers try to get rid of elderly workers or employees with expensive medical conditions because it costs more to insure them. One type of actionable discrimination, for example, is to terminate or take action against an employee because it is more expensive to cover them under a plan due to their medical condition. Other actions that could be discriminatory in this context include terminating an employee prior to the vesting of their retirement benefits or stock options.

It is also illegal to retaliate against an employee who engages in a protected activity in connection with discrimination related to benefits. Moreover, it is illegal to retaliate against an employee who opposes discrimination in the workplace related to benefits offered by the employer.

Proving Discrimination Under ERISA

Numerous federal laws prohibit employment discrimination. ERISA section 510, 29 U.S.C. § 1140, specifies that it is illegal for someone to fine, terminate, suspend, discipline, or expel a plan participant or beneficiary for exercising their rights under the provisions of an employee benefit plan. Participants as defined by ERISA include employees, former employees, and members or former members of an employee organization who may be eligible to get a benefit from a plan.

Most often, discrimination claims are brought under ERISA section 510 in connection with employee termination. For example, if your employer terminates you to stop you from making a claim under a plan covered by ERISA or to prevent you from becoming eligible for benefits under an ERISA benefits plan, an attorney may be able to help you bring a claim for discrimination under section 510.

The burden to establish your claim for benefits discrimination, or for your employer to disprove it, shifts three times under section 510. The first burden of proof lies with you as a plaintiff. You will need to produce evidence to show a prima facie case that your employer engaged in prohibited conduct for the purpose of interfering with rights to which you may become entitled. If you make this prima facie showing, there is a rebuttable presumption that section 510 was violated. In that case, the employer must be able to articulate a valid and non-discriminatory reason for acting as it acted. If the employer is able to articulate this reason, you will need to show that the employer’s actions were taken with the specific intent to interfere with your exercise of rights.

Retain a Skillful Dallas Attorney

If your employer is messing with your benefits, you may have recourse to legal remedies under ERISA or other laws. You should consult the skillful and experienced employment lawyers at Rob Wiley, P.C. about your options. We represent people throughout Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, Rockwall, and Ellis Counties. Call us at (214) 528-6500 or contact us via our online form.

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