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The Affordable Care Act – better known as Obamacare – contains numerous provisions that define the relationships between employers and their employees with respect to health care benefits.
Among the most critical are the statute’s employer mandates requiring employers with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance coverage to its employees who work 30 hours or more a week or face statutory penalties.
As I have previously noted in discussing possible Obamacare-related employer liability issues, the ACA’s mandate creates incentives for employers to try to restructure their workforce to avoid the statute’s requirements.
The plaintiff alleges that after June 1, 2013, her hours were cut to an average of 17.43 per week, resulting in a reduction in pay and the loss of eligibility for medical and vision benefits.The plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against D&B and related entities in the Southern District of New York alleging that the workforce changes represented acts of discrimination in violation of Section 510 of ERISA.The complaint (a copy of which can be found here) purports to be filed on behalf of all persons who were participants in the D&B health plan and whose hours were reduced on or after June 1, 2013. 301 et seq.], or for the purpose of interfering with the attainment of any right to which such participant may become entitled under the plan, this subchapter, or the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act.Section 510 provides in pertinent part that It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge, fine, suspend, 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, this subchapter, section 1201 of this title, or the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act [29 U. The plaintiff’s complaint seeks reinstatement for all affected employees; equitable restitution of all lost wages and benefits; and equitable restitution for the costs the individual class members incurred to secure their own health insurance.The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.
The dismissal motion presented the question of whether or not the plaintiff had alleged a legally sufficient claim for relief that her employer’s curtailment of her hours discriminated against her “for the purpose of interfering with the attainment” of a right to which she “may become entitled” under the employee benefit plan of which she was a participant.