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Extended Leave or Terminated? California

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  • Extended Leave or Terminated? California

    I have been on medical leave since mid-March. My FMLA ‘coverage’ was up in early June. In early June, my doctor said that I am not ready to return to work and has extended my leave into September. I promptly notified my employer of this extension.

    I have now received a letter from my employer saying that they are providing me with ‘this additional leave’ (while at the same tie pointing out that I don't have any FMLA time left) yet they cannot hold my current position that long. The letter goes on to say that upon my return they will review my options. To that point, it sounds like I’m still employed but still on leave.

    Then the letter says that my medical benefits are being terminated at the end of this month.

    Question: Can they terminate my medical benefits while maintaining my employment/extending my leave?

    I will be responding to the letter, of course, asking them to please clarify - but considering that they have been less-than-forthcoming about my LT disability coverage, I don't fully trust them anymore.

    Any input would be helpful.

    Thanks

  • #2
    An employer is only required to maintain medical benefits while a person is covered by FMLA so, if you are no longer covered by FMLA then the employer can legally terminate them. You should have the option to continue them through COBRA.
    I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Marketeer View Post
      An employer is only required to maintain medical benefits while a person is covered by FMLA so, if you are no longer covered by FMLA then the employer can legally terminate them. You should have the option to continue them through COBRA.
      Thanks, Marketeer. My question is:

      Can my employer terminate my benefits and still consider me an employee?
      Last edited by Exhausted1; 06-25-2011, 06:31 AM. Reason: Rewording to make sense. :)

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      • #4
        You question implies that all benefits are the same. Legally that is not true. If you are talking medical benefits and only medical benefits, then there are both the ERISA and COBRA laws in play. ERISA requires a formal published plan called a Summary Plan Document and requires that the employer follow those rules to the letter. COBRA requires the current or former employee be offered the chance to pay for the medical benefits. Refusing to formally terminate the employee does not relieve the COBRA requirement.

        If you are talking about some benefit other then medical coverage, then you will need to tell us exactly which benefit(s) you are talking about. There really is no "one size fits all" answer here. Each benefit has it's own unrelated rules.
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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        • #5
          Can my employer terminate my benefits and still consider me an employee?

          Yes. As long as the eligibilty requirements in the plan document are followed and COBRA is offered when required, your employer can terminate your health insurance benefits and still consider you an employee.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by DAW View Post
            You question implies that all benefits are the same. Legally that is not true. If you are talking medical benefits and only medical benefits, then there are both the ERISA and COBRA laws in play. ERISA requires a formal published plan called a Summary Plan Document and requires that the employer follow those rules to the letter. COBRA requires the current or former employee be offered the chance to pay for the medical benefits. Refusing to formally terminate the employee does not relieve the COBRA requirement.

            If you are talking about some benefit other then medical coverage, then you will need to tell us exactly which benefit(s) you are talking about. There really is no "one size fits all" answer here. Each benefit has it's own unrelated rules.
            Thanks, DAW.

            The letter says that my 'medical coverage' will end on the last day of June and it acknowledges my eligibility for COBRA.

            It is not, however, clear about whether they are terminating just my benefits or my employment, as well.

            A friend of mine that is in HR for a large corporation said that it sounds to her as if they are terminating my employment since they are terminating my benefits.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by cbg View Post
              Can my employer terminate my benefits and still consider me an employee?

              Yes. As long as the eligibilty requirements in the plan document are followed and COBRA is offered when required, your employer can terminate your health insurance benefits and still consider you an employee.
              Really? They can terminate my benefits and yet consider me an employee?

              I'm searching the internet and so far have not found a single response that supports that being accurate - not to say that you're wrong...just that this is the first comment I've seen to that effect.

              Comment


              • #8
                One more time. There is no "one size fits all" answer for benefits. If you have questions about specific benefits, you will need to tell us what the specific benefit is.

                Regarding your assumption eliminating your benefits means that you are terminated, there is no legal basis for such an assumption. You may indeed be correct. Or not. But this is what is called in the labor law world as "guessing".
                "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
                Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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                • #9
                  Yes. They can terminate your benefits and still consider you an employee, if your changed circumstances put you into a classification of employee that is not eligible for benefits.

                  I do this for a living. I know what I'm talking about.

                  I would very much like to see what websites are telling you that the employer cannot terminate your benefits unless your employment is also terminated.
                  The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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                  • #10
                    Most medical SPDs require ees on leave to be offered COBRA after FMLA is exhausted. Keeping inactive ees on active coverage is against medical plan rules. In the absence of FMLA, most plan rules specify a certain period of time, such as 30-60 days, and then COBRA must be offered.

                    So yes, you can be not terminated, and lose medical benefits.

                    I suspect that's what they're doing now, based on the wording of your letter. However, keep in mind that once FMLA is exhausted, they are no longer required to hold your job.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Exhausted1 View Post
                      Thanks, DAW.

                      The letter says that my 'medical coverage' will end on the last day of June and it acknowledges my eligibility for COBRA.

                      It is not, however, clear about whether they are terminating just my benefits or my employment, as well.

                      A friend of mine that is in HR for a large corporation said that it sounds to her as if they are terminating my employment since they are terminating my benefits.
                      The letter seems to be perfectly clear. They have decided to extend additional non-FMLA leave time to you (which is generous of them.) They are terminating your benefits as of the end of your FMLA leave. Yes, they can do that and still consider you an employee.

                      When you are released to return to work, your employer will see if there are any available positions which you may be qualified to perform. If there aren't any, then I would anticipate that at that point they will terminate your employment.

                      In the meantime, you can anticipate that your employer will send you information on how to continue your medical insurance by paying the full monthly premium.

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