Filing an ERISA 510 Claim
If you’re worried you’ve been fired or discriminated against because you’ve filed claims under your employee benefit plan, you may have an ERISA Section 510 claim.
Experienced ERISA attorneys, like the team at Peace Law Firm, can help you file an ERISA 510 claim to seek the compensation you’re entitled to.
What Is ERISA Section 510?
ERISA Section 510 protects you from employment discrimination and retaliation for exercising your right to benefits under an ERISA plan. It also protects whistleblowers. ERISA plans are usually health insurance plans, certain retirement plans, and other benefit plans.
What Are Examples of ERISA Retaliation?
A common example of ERISA retaliation is when an employer terminates employees who use their benefits. Perhaps you get fired soon after delivering a premature baby or immediately before vesting in your employer’s generous pension plan. This is a way for an employer to cut costs for years to come.
If you believe you were terminated because of your use of benefits, contact Peace Law Firm.
How Do I Know If ERISA Section 510 Applies to Me?
ERISA Section 510 typically protects participants and/or beneficiaries in employee benefit plans. This can mean any of the following:
- Employees of the firm offering the benefit plan;
- Former employees still entitled to benefits;
- Dependents of either current or former employees with access to benefits;
- Union members who can use the plan; and
- Members of employee organizations who have negotiated access to the plan.
If you fall into any of the above groups and your employer’s benefit plan is governed by ERISA, then ERISA Section 510 likely applies to you. The good news is that almost all benefit plans fall under ERISA. Once you’ve confirmed that ERISA Section 510 applies to your situation, you’re over the first hurdle of filing an ERISA Section 510 claim.
How Do I Know If I Have a Claim?
There are three elements to a successful ERISA Section 510 claim. To demonstrate all the elements of a prima facie case you must show:
- You engaged in an activity protected by ERISA;
- You suffered an adverse employment action; and
- There is a causal link between your protected activity and the adverse employment action.
An experienced lawyer like John Peace can help you assess whether you meet the basic elements of an ERISA Section 510 claim.
Once you have established the basic framework of your claim, you will need to support it with evidence. It can be hard to find direct evidence of ERISA 510 violations. Courts usually apply a “burden shifting” framework, meaning that employees can present both direct and indirect evidence of discrimination and retaliation.
Direct evidence is what an employer actually said or did. Generally, people do not say, “We are firing you because you’re about to vest in our pension plan.” However, you’d be surprised at the crazy things people say!
Indirect evidence of retaliation is more circumstantial. For example, if you are a highly paid, high-performing employee who was terminated immediately before vesting in a benefit plan, you might present evidence that a colleague who performs a similar job but has poor performance reviews, earns a lower salary, and is not eligible for the plan kept their job.
Considerations in Establishing Cause
An essential part of your claim is establishing a causal link between your use of benefits and the adverse employment action. A few considerations in establishing that are as follows:
- The individuals making the employment decisions;
- What benefit plan data is monitored and by whom;
- What health plan expense data is shared with decision-makers;
- The pension plan vesting schedules and determinations; and
- The company’s plans to handle an economic downturn/rising plan costs/employee expenses.
If you have copies of any of this information, keep it to support your claims. If not, you may be able to obtain it during litigation.
How Do I File a Claim?
Filing a claim can be tricky, and you should seek the guidance of an experienced ERISA lawyer. If you are only seeking to obtain ERISA benefits, then you may have to exhaust your plan’s ERISA appeals process before filing a lawsuit. You may be able to proceed directly to a lawsuit against your employer if they have discriminated or retaliated against you or if you have a whistleblower claim.
Should I Seek Help from a Lawyer?
Seeking help from an experienced ERISA lawyer is essential to your successful ERISA Section 510 claim. Peace Law Firm has nearly 20 years of experience negotiating and litigating for individuals in ERISA cases. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and find out how we can help you get the benefits you deserve.