Employer Cleared of ERISA Violations in Firings

January 4, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - A federal judge in Philadelphia has cleared a building materials manufacturer of wrongdoing in firing a half dozen sales representatives for violating its travel expense policy.

U.S. District Judge Bruce W. Kauffman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled the plaintiffs had not proven CertainTeed Corp. had terminated them with the goal of denying them retirement and health benefits. The company is based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia.

Kaufman asserted the plaintiffs had not shown a violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) with their allegation that the company’s practice of tolerating expense policy violations from other workers signaled its intent to get rid of the plaintiffs so the employer would not have to pay their benefits.

According to the court, the sales representatives claimed they were targeted for firing because they were either sick or had spouses who were ill.

The sales representatives were let go in late 2003 after audits found multiple irregularities and inaccuracies in their expense reporting. In addition, Kaufman turned aside plaintiffs’ arguments that problems identified in the audits were widely tolerated with other workers.

The case is Balmat v. CertainTeed Corp., E.D. Pa., No. 04-2505, 12/28/07.