Image of Is it unlawful to fire an employee for exercising a right to obtain an employee benefit?

Is it unlawful to fire an employee for exercising a right to obtain an employee benefit?

Section 510 of ERISA makes it unlawful for a person to “discharge, fine, expel, discipline, or discriminate against a participant or beneficiary for exercising any right to which he is entitled under the provisions of an employee benefit plan . . . or for the purpose of interfering with the attainment of any right to which such participant may become entitled under the plan.” 29 U.S.C. § 1140. The purpose of this anti-retaliation provision is to prevent employers from terminating or harassing employees in order to stop them from obtaining ERISA-protected benefits.

To prevail under § 510, a plaintiff must demonstrate:

  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.

An ERISA retaliation plaintiff need not prove that the sole reason the employer mistreated the employee was to interfere with or avoid paying ERlSA-protected benefits.  Rather, an employee must put forth evidence suggesting that interference with ERISA benefits was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision.” Balmat v. Certain Teed Cop., 338 F. App’x 256, 259 (3d Cir. June 22, 2009).

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Jason Zuckerman, Principal of Zuckerman Law, litigates whistleblower retaliation, qui tam, wrongful discharge, and other employment-related claims. He is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015 and selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® and in SuperLawyers.