HR Director Dismissal Lawsuit Thrown Out

October 7, 2003 ( - The former HR director of a New York City-based media services company who claimed she was fired after pointing out a 401(k) plan underfunding problem, has lost her bid to recover back pay

>US District Judge Barbara Jones of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York threw out plaintiff Chrystina Nicolaou’s suit against Horizon Media over allegations that the firm violated ERISA and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when she was demoted in November 1999 and ultimately fired a year later.

>Nicolaou charged that she was let go because she complained about an underpayment of overtime wages to non-exempt workers in Horizon’s New York and Los Angeles’ offices, which she said had the effect of underfunding the firm’s 401(k) plan.

>Jones ruled that Nicolaou didn’t have a legitimate claim under the FLSA because she never formally brought the matter to Horizon’s attention. “Although (Nicolaou’s) efforts to bring the payroll errors to the attention of her superiors, both on her own and with counsel, are laudable, (Nicolaou’s) efforts did not include the filing of a formal complaint, ” Jones wrote.

>Nicolaou’s ERISA claim also failed, Jones ruled, because she was only seeking back pay.  

The case is Nicolaou v. Horizon Media Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 01 Civ. 0785 (BSJ), 9/23/03.