When an employee settles his or her workers’ compensation claim, the Employer/Insurer usually requires the employee voluntarily resign. At the settlement, many employees become concerned about their pension and/or retirement benefits, such as flight privileges, monetary bonuses, health insurance coverage, disability insurance coverage and numerous other perks. Often times, employees have worked hard for these benefits and do not want to forgo benefits that have taken years to earn. Employees’ concerns about waiving rights to retirement benefits is valid, and such concerns should be discussed with a workers’ compensation attorney during the initial consultation.
The aforementioned retirement benefits are considered contractual benefits which fall outside the scope of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. Workers’ compensation attorneys will explain to their clients at the inception of a claim that several additional claims may arise out of a workers ‘ compensation claim, such as violations of ERISA or COBRA. Often times ERISA or COBRA violations are tangentially related to a claim for compensation and will not be handled by a workers ‘ compensation attorney.
For example, an employee may be confronted with a violation of ERISA or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 with regards to an employer denying the employee access to health benefits. ERISA was enacted to ensure that Employers uphold their legal obligations to their employees with regards to health insurance plans. Most employee health plans are covered by ERISA and require that employers provide participants or beneficiaries (employees and their dependents) with access to plan information. Additionally, ERISA also requires employers uphold their fiduciary responsibility to their employees by ensuring employers properly manage and oversee plans with the best interest of the employees in mind.
In the context of a workers’ compensation claim, an employee must be mindful of possible ERISA related issues that may arise either during the handling of their claim or during settlement. ERISA claims are often very complex and although your workers’ compensation attorney can identify an ERISA violation, the claim will probably be referred to an ERISA attorney.
It is important that employees take full responsibility for discussing and/or bringing concerns about related issues to their workers’ compensation attorney. At the Ramos Law Firm, our attorneys specialize in workers’ compensation, however, we work with our clients to ensure their rights are protected under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act and will refer our clients to experienced attorneys if an issue outside of the employee’s workers’ compensation claim arises.