Timing of Employment Contract Decision Bars Retaliation Claim

February 19, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - An employer's decision not to renew an employee's contract after the employee filed a claim for benefits was not an ERISA violation or act of retaliation.

That was the ruling of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.   The employee had claimed retaliation on the part of his former employer. But, due to the employer’s decision months before the benefits claim not to renew his employment agreement, the retaliation charge was void, the court said, according to Washington-based legal publisher BNA.

The court also dismissed two other claims made by the employee.   The employee’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA Sections 404(a)(1) and 409 was dismissed. The other claim thrown out by the court was the employee’s argument that the company allegedly failed to compensate him for overtime hours worked in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).   Since this claim was filed more than three years after the alleged violation, the court ruled that too much time had passed for it to be considered.

Additionally, the court ruled equitable tolling did not apply in this case.  This decision stemmed from the employee having legal counsel present at the original negotiations on his employment contract in 1998, and thus, full access to his legal rights.

The case is Patraker v Council on the Environment of New York City.