CASENOTE: Employment Law - The Third Circuit's Holding that Employees' Unsolicited Internal Complaints Are Not Protected Under ERISA Stops Whistleblowers in their Tracks Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Methodist University
SMU Law Review

CASENOTE: Employment Law - The Third Circuit's Holding that Employees' Unsolicited Internal Complaints Are Not Protected Under ERISA Stops Whistleblowers in their Tracks

Spring, 2011

SMU Law Review

64 SMU L. Rev. 787

Author

Scott W. Thomas*

Excerpt



IN Edwards v. A.H. Cornell & Son, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the anti-retaliation provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) 1 does not protect employees' unsolicited internal complaints. 2 The circuits are currently split on whether ERISA's section 510 anti-retaliation provision covers employees' unsolicited internal complaints. 3 The court in Edwards erroneously concluded that section 510's language was clear and strayed from its own precedent of broadly interpreting similar statutory anti-retaliation provisions. 4 As a result, the court disregarded Congress's intent in passing ERISA and failed to consider the bad public policy that will ensue from denying employees protection for their unsolicited internal complaints.

In March 2006, A.H. Cornell & Son, Inc. (A.H. Cornell), a commercial and residential construction services company, hired Shirley Edwards (Edwards) as its Director of Human Resources. 5 After three years of employment, Edwards complained to A.H. Cornell's management that the company was violating ERISA. 6 Edwards alleged that her supervisor ordered her to make false statements to the company's workers' compensation carrier about an injured employee who continued collecting workers' compensation after returning to work. 7 In addition, Edwards alleged that the company tried to discourage employees from opting into group health coverage by misrepresenting the cost. 8

[lc-5d] Edwards sued her employer in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania claiming that she was fired for complaining to management about her employer's ERISA violations. 9
 
 
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