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Tennessee Court Rules Employees Can Sue Supervisors for Benefit Retaliation

on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 in Labor & Employment Law Update: Sarah M. Huyck, Editor

A federal court in Tennessee recently rejected a motion to dismiss filed by a defendant supervisor in an ERISA retaliation case. ERISA prohibits employers from retaliating against or interfering with employees’ efforts to use health benefits. The supervisor argued that ERISA did not allow for individual liability. The court disagreed, siding with other courts that have imposed such individual liability.


It is difficult to see how precisely the employee would benefit by suing the individual supervisor in these cases. Most courts hold that employees cannot recover back wages under ERISA retaliation claims because that is a claim for money damages and ERISA only authorizes equitable relief. Moreover, a suit against an individual will not help keep the case in state court because defendants can remove the federal ERISA claim to federal court. In short, while the Tennessee court has expanded the reach of benefit retaliation claims, it is unlikely to prompt a flood of similar claims.

Christopher R. Hedican


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