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Changes in benefits? Make sure employees on military leave get written notice, too

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employee Benefits Program,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employers that change their disability or other benefit plans know to inform their employees about those changes. But what about employees on military leave? Make sure they get notice, too.

Recent case: Kenneth Lee, a pilot for American Airlines, was called to active military service and was placed on military leave.

As a member of the Allied Pilots Association, a union, Lee had been signed up for a disability insurance plan with coverage lasting 12 months, the length of allowed military leave.

But while Lee was away on active duty, the plan changed to exclude disabilities that occur within six months of enrollment.

When Lee was released from active military duty, he returned to his job at American and was able to enroll again in the disability program. Then, before six months had passed, he became disabled by diabetes and could no longer pilot aircraft.

He sued when he was denied disability benefits. Lee argued that his coverage should have been reinstated rather than started over, and that he never received appropriate notice that the plan was changing.

The court disagreed. The association showed it had sent Lee a letter describing the changes to his last known address. Plus, there was nothing illegal about terminating his benefits after his military leave expired, as long as he could sign up again when he returned. (Lee v. Allied Pilots Association, No. 4:08-CV-542, ND TX, 2010)

Final note: Get expert help on benefits administration—and don’t forget about military personnel.

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