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Workplace discrimination under ERISA

Workplace discrimination in California can take many different forms. Employees can sometimes face unlawful discrimination because of their race, religion, sex, age or disability, to name a few examples. One form of workplace discrimination that is often overlooked by both employees and employers is discrimination under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

ERISA discrimination takes place when a worker is unfairly discharged, demoted or disciplined for exercising their rights under an employer-provided employee benefit plan that is covered by that act. ERISA discrimination can also involve employees who face disciplinary action that interferes with their attainment of rights under an employee benefit plan. An employee who is a current beneficiary or may become a beneficiary of an employment benefit plan could potentially file a discrimination lawsuit under ERISA.

The majority of ERISA claims are filed by employees who say that their employers fired them so that they couldn't become eligible for employee benefits or make a claim under a benefit plan. For such claims to be successful, an employee must be able to show evidence that the loss of benefits was the purpose of the termination, not simply an unintended consequence of it. An employer that is attempting to prevail against an ERISA claim must show evidence that it had a legitimate and non-discriminatory reason for terminating the plaintiff.

Employees who believe that they were fired so that they could not collect retirement benefits may want to discuss their case with an attorney. If the worker's employer has a history of terminating employees before they are eligible to collect retirement benefits, there may be enough evidence to prove that this form of employment discrimination took place.

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