Persistent Questions About Withheld Funds Led To Retaliatory Firing Explains Chicago Employment Lawyer
Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) May 9, 2013 - The law allows a worker to sue an employer for improperly using funds earmarked for ERISA benefits.
“George v. Junior Achievement, No. 11-3291, 7th Cir., 2012 raises an issue that is quite important to note,” stated Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. “It deals with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and the fact that it is illegal for companies to not properly process funds withheld from a worker’s paycheck to pay for ERISA benefits.”
In this case, the plaintiff suspected something was wrong with his paycheck withholdings and started to ask questions. He wanted to know why money taken off his paycheck for his health savings account and retirement account did not show up on his statement. He vigorously pursued inquiries for five months, but did not get any answers. He finally made a phone call to the Department of Labor. At that point, the plaintiff’s employer gave him a check for the disputed amount, which included interest.
“Thinking the matter was settled, the plaintiff continued on in his job. Not long after he received his check he was terminated. He sought legal advice and filed a lawsuit alleging retaliation because he persistently asked why the money being withheld from his check was not being put into ERISA accounts,” Coffey recounted.
At trial, the employer suggested that only a formal complaint to the Department of Labor was adequate to file a retaliation lawsuit. The court did not agree. Their decision in this matter stated that the mere asking about paycheck withholding is enough notice if the plaintiff is able to connect the dots to some adverse action as a result of asking questions.
“In this case, it was clear to the court that the man had been asking for five months where his money was, until he annoyed the employer enough to return his money. Right after, he was discharged. In short, his persistent questions resulted in his termination,” said Coffey.
Should an employee suspect their ERISA funds are being handled in an inappropriate manner, under the law, they have a right to sue for retaliation for pursuing the matter. In this instance, the court is saying that the plaintiff’s questions may include “any” question a worker may have relating to their ERISA benefits.
Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654
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