Can the cost of health benefits change if a severance packagestates otherwise?

UPDATED: Sep 13, 2010

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Can the cost of health benefits change if a severance packagestates otherwise?

After 23 years with my employer my job was recently excessed and I received a severance package for 23 weeks taking me through the end of the year. Regarding my health benefits, my severance agreement states, “Employee is presently enrolled and will continue to be eligible to participate in the College’s group health plan as offered to active employees pursuant to the following limitation. The College will pay the premiums of said health plan until January 31st…” The College is changing the benefits package effective October 1st whereby “—College will be offering these plans with a cost share, XX College will pay for 90%of the premium and require a 10% contribution from those who elect to continue their coverage…” The HR department is telling me that I have to pay the premium as it is what is offered to active employees. I believe I will be paying the increased deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses but they should be paying 100% of the premium as the agreement states. Am I responsible for premium? I have to pay in 2 days but would like to know my options.

Asked on September 13, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

From the language you quote--". . . as is offered to active employees pursuant to the following limitation..." it would appear that you need to pay the same amount as would active employees. The agreement appears to state that the employer's obligation is implicitly to pay the share they do for employees, since your obligation is explicityly to "participate . . .as  . . . active employees." From the structure of what you quote, it would appear that the "limitation" is that the employer will only pay its share through Jan. 31st.

However, that is based only on the language you have quoted, which is just a few lines. For a definitive answer, you should bring the agreement to an employment law attorney who can analyze it for you. Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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