Employer Cleared in Firing Dispute

May 12, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge in Oregon has cleared an employer of wrongdoing in connection with allegations a former employee was fired in an effort to deprive her of rightfully due benefits.

U.S.   Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon rebuffed arguments by plaintiff Lori Alfonso that Tri-Star Search LLC discharged Alfonso because of complaints her retirement contributions had not been properly made.   Stewart ruled that Alfonso had not proven that the employer’s stated reason for the firing – disloyal behavior – was actually a pretext to discrimination.

According to Stewart, Alfonso charged that after complaining to the employer about the depositing of her retirement savings, Tri-Star’s owner began to treat her with “uncharacteristic hostility.”     That meant, according to Alfonso, she was disinvited from a lunch with a client she normally handled, among other things. However, Tri-Star contended the client canceled the meeting.   

Alfonso also argued that her employment was terminated on the same day she met with an employment attorney to discuss the company’s alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) with respect to Alfonso’s retirement plan.

Tri-Star argued that Alfonso had tried to recruit a fellow employee away from the company, and it therefore fired her for disloyalty.

Stewart said evidence showed that Tri-Star had also quickly resolved the problem with Alfonso’s account and that Alfonso did not blame Tri-Star’s owner for the error.

The case is Alfonso v. Tri-Star Search LLC,   D. Or., No. CV-07-1208-ST.