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Joseph
Joseph, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 4828
Experience:  Extensive experience representing employees and management
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Customer Question

I work for a union hotel as a banquet server, I had until 3/31 medical insurance thru the hotel but I decided to switch and get it thru the union because it's way cheaper.
I'm currently without insurance until 10/1/13, I need to accumulate 270 hours in the next 3 months to be able to qualify for it.
Since I barely get hours I contacted my HR department today to see if I can go back to my benefits thru the hotel but I was told that I can't because it's in the union contract that once we switch we can never go back to the hotel benefits.
I feel cheated, if I don't qualify in the next 90 days I don't know when I'm going to but they won't let me have my hotel benefits ever again.
Is it even legal to do this?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Joseph replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can help.

Do you know whehter this provision is actually in your collective bargaining agreement or not?

Did you cancel your insurance with the hotel prior to signing up with the union?

Finally, have you tried contacting the insurance company directly to reinstate your benefits for the next three months?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yes, it is in our union contract that once we cancel our benefits with the hotel we can never go back. I canceled my insurance with the hotel, last day was 3/31 and first day with the union insurance (if I collect 270 hours to qualify) will be 10/1.
When you ask if I tried to contact the company you mean my company HR ( not HR at the hotel) or Kaiser which is my provider?
Expert:  Joseph replied 1 year ago.
Hello Carolina,

I think it would be a good idea to contact Kaiser directly to see if you can work something out to cover the 90 days when you will be without insurance.

Unfortunately, since it states in the collective bargaining agreement that an employee who decides to decline the company insurance in favor of the union's insurance cannot go back and get the company insurance after cancellation, that is the governing document that the employer and union are held too.

For that reason, there's really nothing your employer can do, unless it's willing to violate the collective bargaining agreement, which is unlikely. However, you may be able to get 'gap' insurance for the 90 days from Kaiser, although you would be responsible for paying for the insurance yourself. (If you qualify, you may also want to consider applying for Medi-Cal to cover the gap).

Had you not canceled your insurance when you signed up for the union's insurance it woudl have been possible for you to continue to get the company's insurance until the union's insurance kicked in, but it seems like the company is 'bound by bureaucracy' to not be able to let you get back on their insurance plan.

Also, you asked if it was possibly illegal. Unfortunately, the answer to that is no. Although things will change in 2014 when Obamacare goes into effect, employers are not obligated to provide employees with any health care benefits, so they are legally allowed to cancel an employee's insurance at any time for any reason with or without any prior notice.

I agree that this is a completely unfair and unjust situation that your company and union have put you in with the collective bargaining agreement and delay in insurance with the union taking effect, but, unfortunately, it is legal.

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX had better news to give you, but I hope you appreciate a direct and honest answer to your question.

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Thanks and best of luck!

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