Is COBRA Option for Employer?

I was terminated from my position less than 30 days ago (not for cause, for failing to meet performance guidelines -- although there were no performance guidelines). My benefits were cancelled three days later (before the end of the month). When I contacted my former employer to find out when they were sending the COBRA package I was told that they "don't do COBRA," and that there would be no continuation of benefits.

I need benefits coverage immediately and believe that in compliance with COBRA, I am entitled to that option. This company has more than 50 employees.

Is it time for me to get an attorney?

1 answer  |  asked Jul 12, 2004 10:39 AM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
COBRA Violations

Provided that an employer is big enough to be covered by the law, COBRA is not optional for employers.

Now, COBRA is enforceable by both the government and private citizens. The US Department of Labor has responsibility for enforcement by the government.

If a private citizen (that is, an employee) attempts to enforce COBRA, what the employee can get is very limited. Basically, an employee can get only the difference between what the employee had to pay out for medical care, and the amount the employee would have had to pay to get COBRA coverage. It may not be much. (You would also be able to get attorneys' fees.)

I think at the very least that the employee would have to be able to show that the employee looked for private coverage to replace denied COBRA coverage. Unless the facts are pretty compelling, an employee would not be allowed to simply refuse to get coverage to replace the denied COBRA coverage, and then have the employer pay for medical costs the employee may have to incur.

But I have had situations where employees did not even have the chance to get COBRA or other replacement coverage, such as when the employer cancelled medical coverage even before the employee knew she was fired. The employee had already scheduled surgery. In the right case, the employer can be held liable for the costs of medical care, less the amount the employee would have paid for denied COBRA coverage.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Jul 14, 2004 08:53 AM [EST]

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