Help! I got someone else’s termination letter!

During a medical leave, my employer sent my paperwork to previous addresses of mine, and I ended up being terminated for not providing information. The real kicker is, they sent me another employee’s termination letter! I would imagine that this is a BIG breach of confidentiality. They never even sent me a termination letter or cancelled benefits, until over a month and a half later. Besides breaching the other person’s confidentiality, and I would imagine mine as well–since they probably sent my letter somewhere, and didn’t provide information in a timely manner–what can be done? 

Ann Kiernan replies: 

Sounds like you need an employment lawyer! Let’s start with the medical leave problem. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, employers have to give employees notice of various rights and responsibilities. If you did not receive the notices, you may have a claim for FMLA interference. For instance, in Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges, 761 F.3d 314 (3d Cir. 2014), the employee was out for 14 weeks, and denied reinstatement because she had exhausted her FMLA. She sued for FMLA interference, claiming that she had never received the designation notice, sent regular mail, and that she would have come back to work earlier if she had known of the FMLA’s 12-week limit. The appeals court sent the matter for a jury trial to decide whether she had received notice or not.

As for the wrong and late termination letter, under federal COBRA law, the employer has 44 days to notify you of your COBRA rights to continue your group health insurance. It sounds like they may have missed that deadline. If your COBRA rights were violated, the IRS can impose an excise tax of up to $2,500 and a penalty of up to $15,000, the Department of Labor can fine the employer $110 per day, per violation, and you can pursue a civil lawsuit for damages, including medical expenses, and attorney’s fees. 

If you do not know a local employment lawyer, you can go to the National Employment Lawyers Association at www.nela.org for a referral. Good luck.

Posted 01-29-2019

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2019-01-29T16:50:04+00:00

About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.