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benefits promises and employee handbook (CA)

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  • benefits promises and employee handbook (CA)

    Our employee handbook states that we are eligible for health benefits after a 90-day orientation period. The handbook does not anywhere define whether this period is 90 calendar days, 90 work days, whether at full- or part-time, or a certain number of hours worked within 90 days.
    The closest thing I can find to clarity in the handbook is: "The first 90 days of your employment are an orientation period."
    I was hired as a full-time employee. Since then I have had some weeks when I have not been given full-time work. I was verbally told by my employer that I would be eligible for benefits "after 90 days", excluding a two-week period when I did not work at all while I was relocating from out of state.

    At any rate, she is now saying that it's 90 "full time equivalent" (she doesn't define this either) days not calendar days.

    This is a small company with not many employees who have stuck around long enough to get benefits and I have a sneaking feeling that she might be inclined to try to keep vague about the vesting period when it suits her personnel needs.
    My question is, if the employee handbook does not clear define what the 90 days consist of, can she define it after the fact (4 months after, actually) and deny my benefits?
    Thanks for any advice or input.

  • #2
    My question is, if the employee handbook does not clear define what the 90 days consist of, can she define it after the fact (4 months after, actually) and deny my benefits? That's not the question to be asking. What the Handbook says on this subject doesn't really carry any weight.

    The question is, what does the employer's group heath Plan Document and/or insurance contract say about eligibility for new employees? That is the legal document that must be complied with, not the Handbook. For what it's worth, many employers have a 90-day eligibility requirement and that typically means 90 calendar days of employment.

    I suggest you nicely ask your employer for a copy of the insurance booklet/Plan Document and then look for the section that describes eligible classes of employees. It's almost certainly in the front section of the booklet/document.


    • #3

      Thank you for replying. I'm going to inquire (nicely!).
      Do you by chance know what (exactly) "full-time equivalent" means? --i.e., does this have a standard definition?

      Thank you for your help.


      • #4
        There's not one absolute definition of that term but here's the generally accepted one: FTE stands for "Full-Time Equivalent", and is used to arrive at a number of employee full-time positions rather than an actual count of individuals. For instance, suppose two employees were each working at 50% of full time, their effort would be combined to produce one full-time equivalent position. Full time is generally considered as 40 hours of work per week.


        • #5
          However, in some companies full time can be as low as 24 hours and in other companies it's not full time till 45 or 50.

          The ONLy legal significance 40 hours a week has is with relation to overtime. As far as benefits go, full time is whatever the employer and/or the insurance policy says it is.
          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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