An ex-Home Depot employee claims COBRA notices sent by the retailer do not comply with federal law and aim to steer former workers away from electing continued health insurance coverage.
Despite having access to the Department of Labor’s model Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985—COBRA—form, the defendant has instead sent its own version of the document to those no longer working with the company, “presumably to save Home Depot money,” the 19-page lawsuit claims. The plaintiff, a former employee who was covered under Home Depot’s health plan, alleges he was “confused and misled” by the retailer’s COBRA form, and suffered economic injuries in the form of lost health insurance and unpaid medical bills.
“Rather than including all information required by law, written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant, Home Depot’s COBRA notification process instead offers only part of the legally required information in a haphazard and piece-meal fashion,” the suit claims.
More specifically, the complaint says Home Depot’s COBRA notice never actually explains how to enroll in continued health coverage following a qualifying event, such as separation from the company. Further, the notice did not bother to include a physical election form, such as the one included in the DOL’s model notice, that an individual can fill out to sign up for COBRA coverage, according to the case.
Instead, Home Depot’s COBRA notice directs recipients to a “catch-all,” general human resources phone number in order to enroll in continued coverage, the suit says. Additionally, the notice steers recipients to a third-party website “guised” as Home Depot’s benefits department while failing to explain how to enroll in COBRA, the case claims.
“Thus, it defies logic for the same document—which purports to be a ‘COBRA enrollment notice’—not to also contain instructions on how to enroll in COBRA,” the complaint argues.
Still further, the Home Depot COBRA notice sent to the plaintiff failed to identify a plan administrator, an omission the case calls “particularly problematic and confusing.” Though Home Depot has reported in DOL filings that the administrator of its health plan is “Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.,” the COBRA notice sent to the plaintiff identified the plan administrator as “the Administrative Committee Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.,” the lawsuit says.
“In fact, the confusion created by Home Depot’s naming of two separate entities as both serving as plan administrator forced Plaintiff to name both entities as defendants to this lawsuit, as pled in the alternative below,” the complaint reads.
Lastly, the suit says Home Depot’s COBRA notice fails to sufficiently identify its health insurance plan given it refers to such solely as “the Plan” and not formally as “The Home Depot Medical and Dental Plan.”
In all, the plaintiff, who worked for the retailer for 19 years, was unable to understand Home Depot’s COBRA notice and was thus unable to make an informed decision regarding his health insurance, the lawsuit claims.
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