Court Finds no Discrimination Based on Health Insurance Use

September 22, 2011 ( – A federal court has found an employer did not wrongly terminate an employee in retaliation for his use of health insurance for his son.

Michael Berry was fired from Frank’s Auto Body Carstar, Inc. following an argument with a coworker. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio found that it cannot be said that defendants tolerated similar misconduct in the past by Berry without having taken action, as the argument which led to his termination was of a greater scope and degree of ferocity than past disagreements.  

In addition, the court noted that Berry’s son’s diagnosis preceded his termination by a few months and given his history of disagreements, defendants could have fired him far closer to the son’s diagnosis if their true intent was to firm Berry to avoid paying for medical care. In addition, the person who fired Berry testified that at the time he was unaware of the amount Carstar paid in health insurance for the family or the family’s claims history.  

After Berry’s son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, he contends, a manager made a remark that “you guys are killing me on insurance.” After an argument in which Berry made threats and hand gestures to a coworker, Carstar hired an outside consultant to investigate the incident. The consultant recommended Carstar terminate Berry.  

Berry’s wife contacted the company, concerned about medical insurance, and the company agreed to keep the Berrys on the insurance until the end of the year in which Berry was terminated.  However, he secured a new job and new insurance.  

The case is Berry v. Frank’s Auto Body Carstar, Inc.