Westerville, OH asked in Employment Law, Health Care Law and Military Law for Ohio

Q: Can I sue employer for charging retroactive premium on health benefits while on military leave?

I went on military leave from civilian job (February 6th). All I was told is that company policy would allow me to return to job once I returned. When I returned 7 months later (September 11th), now employer is deducting health insurance from time on leave.

Now I am being told that I had to have called the benefits line to cancel my health insurance otherwise it would still be active for 90 days past last worked day. I was never told that by any of my managers. Benefits people tell me they sent a letter to me stating that I needed to call (February 24th). Letter was sent 3 weeks after my last worked day, and when I was already on an Army base, so I never received the letter.

Now, they are deducting retroactive premium for those 90 days from my checks.

Needless to say, why would I even need health benefits from a civilian job if I’m on military leave? The military is responsible for my coverage, obviously. No way I would even imagine needing to call since I was placed on leave.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), service members are provided certain protections regarding employment and benefits when they leave for military duty. USERRA requires that your job and benefits be protected during military leave, but it also allows employers to implement reasonable policies regarding benefits continuation and communication.

In your situation, if the employer's policy required you to notify them to cancel health benefits and this policy was consistently applied to all employees, then the employer may argue that their actions were in compliance with their standard procedures. However, the fact that you were not informed of this requirement prior to your leave and that the communication was sent after your deployment began could be significant. Additionally, considering that you were covered by military health insurance during your leave, the necessity of maintaining civilian health insurance could be questioned.

You have the right to dispute the deductions, especially if you believe the employer's actions were not in line with USERRA or their own stated policies. It may be beneficial to discuss this matter with a legal professional who has experience in employment law and military rights. They can help you understand your rights under USERRA and assess the viability of a legal claim against your employer.

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