The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said
that an employer or plan administrator who sends proper notice by first class
mail to the employee’s last known address is deemed to be in good faith
compliance with COBRA notice requirements. Whether the employee actually
received the COBRA notice is not the real issue, the court said.
The address provided by Jacqueline T. Robinson-Reeder on
her original health plan enrollment form did not include an apartment number.
While she claimed that she filled out the form correctly, and implied the
apartment number was whited out after she turned the form in, upon review of
the original form, the court found “no markings or other indications that
an apartment number or anything else was covered up or otherwise removed from
the employee information section,” according to the opinion.
The COBRA notice issue arose out of a discrimination case
Robinson-Reeder brought against the American Council on Education (ACE). After complaining
that a coworker was difficult, Robinson-Reeder found herself put on probation
and therefore resigned. She filed a racial discrimination complaint with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Robinson-Reeder subsequently filed a lawsuit, claiming
ACE retaliated against her for the EEOC complaint by giving her bad references
for jobs and failing to send her COBRA notice. The court sided with ACE on both
issues, finding on the first claim that Robinson-Reeder could produce no
evidence that anyone at her former employer gave her a bad job reference, other
than the fact she had not been offered a job.