Q: I just left my company and I was told my benefits ended on
my last day of work. I thought I would be eligible for COBRA. When I
asked my former manager, she said that I was ineligible for COBRA
because my former employer is too small. Can you help me understand
A: I hate surprises. Good ones or bad ones, but bad surprises especially.
Most of us know a bit about COBRA, a federal law requiring most
employers to offer benefits continuation after an employee leaves an
organization. The federal COBRA law only requires employers with 20 or
more employees to offer benefits continuation. However, Massachusetts
has a law very similar to COBRA, called MiniCOBRA. MiniCOBRA requires
most employers, with 2-19 employees, to provide benefits continuation to
employees who have lost coverage. Although leaving an organization is
probably the most common reason for being eligible for either COBRA or
MiniCOBRA, there may be situations where an employee loses coverage for
another reason (e.g., a reduction in work hours). Both of these laws
require employers to offer benefits continuation to employees who have
lost coverage, but also family members who have lost coverage. Here is a
link that will share some useful information on MiniCOBRA
Employers can deny an employee benefits continuation for very limited
reasons. “Gross misconduct” can disqualify an employee from benefits
continuation. Although the laws don’t define exactly what this means,
most agree that a termination for tardiness or poor performance are not
legitimate “gross misconduct” reasons for disqualifying an employee from
benefits continuation rights. Legitimate reasons for denying benefits
continuation rights might be theft or committing some some type of
violent act within the workplace.
I would re-connect with your former employer after you have had a
chance to review information on COBRA and MiniCOBRA. Your employer may
not aware of the state law.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.