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Employees fired because they might drive up health care costs can probably sue under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which governs many employee benefits.

Recent case: Michael Chalfont had a heart attack and was then diagnosed with leukemia. He had to take time off for chemotherapy. He returned to work, only to be laid off six months later.

Others laid off at the same time were eventually rehired, but Chalfont wasn’t.

He sued, alleging that management had been heard to say they did not want him back because he might be a “liability” if his cancer recurred.

The court said that was enough to allow his lawsuit to continue, alleging his former employer targeted him for termination to interfere with his right to ERISA-covered benefits. (Chalfont v. U.S. Electrodes, No. 10-2929, ED PA, 2010)

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