ERISA Suit Sent to Maine Court

October 21, 2005 ( - A Maine federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit claiming that the American Lung Association of Maine violated The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by firing the plaintiffs because of their age should move to state court.

Chief US District Judge George Singal of the US District Court for the District of Maine agreed with plaintiffs Marie Borgese and Sharon Gleason that the case should be prosecuted in a Maine state court under the Maine Human Rights Act.

In doing so, Singal asserted that the American Lung Association was wrong that the dispute should be settled in federal court under the dictates of ERISA. The plaintiffs had not alleged that they were discharged as a way to stop paying them ERISA protected benefits, the court said. .

Singal also noted that, at most, the case involved “the possibility of mixed motives, in which an employer both engaged in age discrimination and desired to avoid paying plan benefits.” The court found that the potential for mixed motives was not enough to warrant ERISA preemption of the employees’ state law age discrimination claims.

The opinion in Borgese v. American Lung Association of Maine, D. Me., No. 05-CV-88-P-S, 10/17/05 is  here .