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Discrimination Based On A Worker's Health Care Choice

Posted by Kathy Harrington-Sullivan | Apr 03, 2014 | 0 Comments

Protecting Whistleblowers Who Report Affordable Care Act Violations

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, reduces healthcare costs for American workers by abolishing dollar limits on health benefits, eliminating preventative care co-pays and deductibles, and capping out-of-pocket expenses.

However, the policy has been a controversial topic among businesses. To ensure everyone receives the insurance they need at a price they can afford, employers' costs for healthcare coverage will increase, and in turn, many companies may try to find loopholes to get out of paying for this upsurge, although it is required by law.

In the past year, companies have cut employee hours since workers are to be offered healthcare if they work more than 30 hours a week. Others have been reclassified as part-time workers as opposed to full-time, shifting them to public healthcare exchanges.

However, on January 1, 2014, it became illegal for an employer to make employment decisions based on a worker's health care choice in relation to Title I of the ACA. That means you cannot be fired, demoted, disciplined, harassed, or receive fewer hours for having pre-existing health conditions, receiving a cost-sharing reduction for enrolling in a qualified health plan, or appealing an insurance company decision.

In addition, the law protects you from retaliation if you file a report against you employer or health insurance providers for alleged violations of Title I or if you receive a premium tax credit to purchase insurance through the health insurance exchange.

But why is the tax credit so controversial? In a statement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency explained, “The relationship between the employee's receipt of a credit and the potential tax penalty imposed on an employer could create an incentive for an employer to retaliate against an employee.”

Like other cases of retaliation in the industry, it comes down to he said/she said. However, in the case of Title I retaliation, employees only need to prove the action was a motivating factor for the change in his or her employment status.

What to do if you blow the whistle on your employer

If you feel you have been retaliated against for reporting an injustice, it's important to file a complaint with OSHA within 180 days after the retaliation. Complaints can be filed by contacting the OSHA office in you region or sending a written complaint to the agency.

If a claim has merit and the retaliation can be proved, OSHA will require your employer to put you back to work, pay any back wages, and restore the benefits to which you're entitled. In the case of a delayed decision, you can also file a complaint in federal court against your employer.

While the ACA can be confusing and controversial, it is still a federal law connecting Americans to affordable healthcare, regardless of how an employer feels about the policy. Therefore, your right to insurance as well as your right to report any violation is protected. For more information on ACA whistleblower complaints, visit the OSHA website or contact an employment lawyer at Barrett & Farahany, LLP, LLP at (404) 238-7299.

About the Author

Kathy Harrington-Sullivan

Kathy Harrington Sullivan is a Partner at Barrett & Farahany and manages the firm's case evaluation team. Because knowledge truly is power, Kathy and the Atlanta employment attorneys on her team regularly consult with and empower potentia...

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