Legal Question in Employment Law in California

Can my employer cancel my health insurance benefits while I'm out on disability without ample notice? My HR rep sent me a letter on 9/25/12 stating that my disability leave was approved through 5/21/13, and that they would continue my benefits through that long as I paid my portion of the premium, which I had. Then, last Friday I received a letter from the HR rep stating that per policy, my benefits will expire on 2/28/13. That would be 13 days from the date I received the letter! They are offering me COBRA after that, but I can't afford that on my income through disability. I emailed the HR rep after receiving the new letter, but he stated that they only cover employee benefits for 9 months while they are on disability, as per their new handbook that was released in March, 2012. However, the letter he sent me specifically stated that my leave was approved through 5/21/13, and they would continue to pay their portion through that time. Now he's basically saying that letter means nothing and since I've I will be out for 9 months, come the 21st, they will expire at the end of this month. So, now with little notice, I need to try to get on Medi-Cal ASAP. I have many other issues with this employee, beginning when I was actively employed there, such as not allowing me to work remotely when that was one of my only options for accmmodation when I was ill. Not to mention the shady finacial decisions I was forced to assist with, the raise I never received after training someone, the unfair reviews my supervisor gave me stating 'nobody deserves a 3, unless they're perfect...and nobody is perfect', and sooooo much more. I would've let it all go, until they gave me a 13 day notice that my benefits are ending. Do you think I have a legitimate case here?

Asked on 2/18/13, 8:20 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

If leave and benefit duration policy was part of company wide change, yes they can. They can't simple target you alone. The law requires only that the company grant protected medical leave for 12 weeks. If their policy grants more, great, but they can change that policy any time, just not retroactively. Unfortunately, your insurance benefits are also covered only by that 12 week protection, at most, or if at all. The company can change their benefit policies, including what is promised in your letter, but not 'retroactively'. Since you still are covered for a while before the change occurs, this is not 'retroactive'. Unfortunately, many companies are likely to drop all employee insurance benefits because of Obamacare driven cost increases.

As to your other claims, IF you can show failure to accommodate a disability legally recognized under the rules of the ADA, you may have a claim, if that occurred within the last 12 months.

The 'unfair' issues you raise don't appear to be 'illegal', and thus they are not likely to be grounds for a legal claim.

If you believe you can show you fall within any of the categories discussed, feel free to contact me.

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Answered on 2/19/13, 11:11 am

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