Monday, August 11, 2008
Ross Runkel brings to our attention the case of Kouvchinov v. Parametric Technology (1st Cir 08/08/2008).
Kouvchinov sued the employer for violation of ERISA alleging retaliatory discharge, and for tortiously interfering with an advantageous business relationship. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment. The 1st Circuit affirmed.
Kouvchinov argued that proof of the employer's specific intent to interfere with his ERISA benefits was not required in retaliatory discharge cases as compared to preemptive discrimination cases. The court rejected Kouvchinov's argument because, without the specific intent requirement, every discharged employee who had exercised his right to benefits would have a potential claim against the employer. The court stated this would destroy ERISA's carefully calibrated balance of rights, remedies, and responsibilities in the workplace. The 5th, 7th, and 9th circuits ruled similarly.
It seems to me that Section 510 of ERISA is written in a different manner that discrimination provisions in laws like Title VII and the NLRA that do require intent.
Also, how can an interpretation of a non-ambiguous provisions destroy the balance of rights and remedies available under ERISA. Isn't that putting proverbial cart before the horse.
I shouldn't be surprise since circuit courts have becoming to this conclusion in the Section 510 context for over a decade (see the 5th Cir. case of McGann v. H&H Music, but it represents yet another court buying into a narrow interpretation of remedies available for plaintiffs under ERISA.