Because of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) employees who suffer a significant injury or illness have the right to request short term disability from work in order to secure their job in the future. However, the FMLA and other disability policies are not always clear to employees, and that confusion can lead to problems.
In one case of a former AT&T employee, the worker was granted short term disability, but when she needed an extension her request was denied. She was still unable to return to work and was fired. Citing protection granted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), she filed a lawsuit against the company she had worked for, a major corporation, but her case was dismissed.
Why did the courts dismiss her case? The courts ruled that AT&T as a company was not who facilitated the company’s employee benefits. A third party was responsible for the handling of disability claims.
The woman appealed a first court’s ruling, arguing that AT&T had more to do with the process than they claim. By presenting themselves to employees as the ones who are in control, corporations can easily mislead employees when it comes to knowing exactly who to turn to when they need to file a disability claim or some other distribution of benefits.
Corporate benefit packages are extensive, and are often reviewed very quickly as part of an employee’s orientation process. It’s easy for employees to get confused about exactly what their rights are, and who they should turn to when things go wrong. Because of this many benefits wind up being denied due to a virtual technicality.
Our law firm tries to help people understand why their disability claim was denied and help them get through this stressful time.
Source: Human Resources Journal, “Woman Suing for Denial of Disability Benefits May Have Sued the Wrong Company,” Oct. 10, 2012