HR Rep Not a Fiduciary in Disability Plan

April 20, 2006 ( - A disability plan participant lost her legal battle against her employer's human resources department over an HR employee's failure to enroll her earlier than he did, when a federal judge ruled the HR employee was not a fiduciary.

Because the HR representative was not a fiduciary, the judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas asserted, he did not breach his fiduciary duty. The court dismissed the plan participant’s lawsuit, BNA reported.

The court said the acts of enrolling participants in the plan, learning of coverage requirements, informing participants of their coverage, and acting as a contact between the employer and the insurer were ministerial and not fiduciary functions. The HR employee did not exercise discretionary control, authority, or responsibility over the plan.

The participant had requested as a remedy if the court had ruled in her favor that her plan records be modified so she would be enrolled in the plan a year earlier, which would allow her to avoid a pre-existing condition exclusion, the court said. However, the court said the employee did not have any authority to amend the plan documents.

The case is Tennant v. Swor, E.D. Tex., No. 4:05cv294, 4/3/06.