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The Wagner Law Group

The Wagner Law Group is a nationally recognized practice in the areas of ERISA and employee benefits, estate planning, employment, labor and human resources and  investment management.

 

 

Established in 1996, The Wagner Law Group is dedicated to the highest standards of integrity, excellence and thought leadership and is considered to be amongst the nation's premier ERISA and employee benefits law firms. The firm has six offices across the country, providing unparalleled legal advice to its clients, including large, small and nonprofit corporations as well as individuals and government entities worldwide. The Wagner Law Group's 27 attorneys, senior benefits consultant and three paralegals combine many years of experience in their fields of practice with a variety of backgrounds. Seven of the attorneys are AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell and six are Fellows of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, an invitation-only organization of nationally recognized employee benefits lawyers.  Seven of the firm's attorneys have been named to the prestigious Super Lawyers list for 2016, which highlights outstanding lawyers based on a rigorous selection process.

 

 

 

Contact Info

The Wagner Law Group

 

  Integrity | Excellence

  

Boston 

Tel: (617) 357-5200 

Fax: (617) 357-5250 

99 Summer Street 

13th Floor

Boston, MA 02110

 

Washington, D.C.

Tel: (202) 969-2800

  Fax: (202) 969-2568

800 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

Suite 810

Washington, D.C. 20006

 


Palm Beach Gardens 

Tel: (561) 293-3590
Fax: (561) 293-3591
7108 Fairway Drive
Suite 125
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

   

Tampa

Tel: (813) 603-2959

Fax: (813) 603-2961

101 East Kennedy Boulevard

Suite 2140
Tampa, FL  33602 

 

San Francisco

Tel: (415) 625-0002

Fax: (415) 358-8300

300 Montgomery Street

Suite 600

San Francisco, CA 94104

 

St. Louis

Tel: (314) 236-0065

Fax: (314) 236-5743
25 W. Moody Avenue
St. Louis, MO  63119

 

 

www.wagnerlawgroup.com

 

 

 

June 9, 2017

 

 Health and Welfare Law Alert

 

 

 

 Court: Employer Need Not Translate COBRA Election Notice into Non-English Language

 

 

 

 

A federal district court in Florida has ruled that COBRA does not require an employer, acting in its role as group health plan administrator, to translate COBRA Election Notices into terminated employees' non-English native language.

 

Law. Although employers must provide language assistance or translation services when furnishing certain benefits-related documents, COBRA does not say the mandated notices must be translated into a non-English language for a qualified beneficiary who does not speak English. Instead, COBRA merely requires employers to provide COBRA-mandated notices that are "written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant."

 

Background. In Valdivieso v. Cushman & Wakefield, Inc., a terminated employee who spoke Spanish as his primary language sued his former employer after he received a COBRA Election Notice. Specifically, the former employee alleged that the employer had violated COBRA's requirements for Election Notices because the one he received was written only in English. The former employee also claimed that the notice violated COBRA's requirements because it did not specify the date on which coverage would end or the address to which premium payments should be sent.

 

District Circuit. The district court dismissed the former employee's initial claim, finding that at 68 years old and with English as his second language, he was not an "average plan participant" within the meaning of COBRA. The court noted that while the employee may not have understood the notice, there was no evidence that it would not be understood by an "average plan participant."

 

Interestingly, the court allowed the former employee's other claims to continue, finding that COBRA regulations required Election Notices to include an explanation of: (i) the maximum period for which COBRA coverage will be available; (ii) the COBRA coverage end-date; and (iii) the address to which COBRA premium payments should be sent. Therefore, because the employer's notice did not contain this information, the court determined that the former employee had stated a plausible claim for COBRA violations.

 

 

 

 

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This Newsletter is provided for information purposes by The Wagner Law Group to clients and others who may be interested in the subject matter, and may not be relied upon as specific legal advice.  This material is not to be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. Under the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this material may be considered advertising.