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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I was recently punished or put on probation for including my

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I was recently punished or put on probation for including my step children under my employer's health care benefits. When I was asked, I told them that I was not aware nor did I know. I divorced my ex-wife, in 2006 and I immediately removed her from receiving my health benefits but I kept my step children because I am overall responsible for their well being, especially if they lived with me and I claimed them on my taxes up until 2009. Just recently my employer told me that I had no legal right to have them on my insurance plan becasue I have no legal obligations (one is 15 and the other is 18 today). So my company removed them from my insurance and I am now on probation for the next 2 pay raise and no bonus which equates to about 100K for both years. Why didnt they just ask me to remove them or ask me to remove them 6 years ago? Why do they need to punish my family financially over a process which they just implemented? I feel this is so unfair and I am not sure what to do about this. Can I sue my company for this financial loss/burden?
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. This sounds like an aboslutely horrible way for your employer to deal with this problem.

Unfortuantely, you're not going to like what I have to tell you. Since an employer is typically under no legal obligation to provide health care to an employee's step children, an employer would be free to impose whatever sanctions it wanted on an employee who included step children on his or her plan without the employer's permission, up to and including termination.

This tremendous freedom stems from Labor Code section 2922, which provides that employment in the state of California is "at will," absent an agreement to the contrary. Courts have interpreted this to mean that, since an employer retains discretion to terminate employees for no reason, he or she also retains the authority to dictate the terms of employment, freeze salary, or punish employees for any reason that is not discriminatory (race, religion, gender, etc) or otherwise in violation of California law.

Thus, regrettably, there would be no legal recourse where an employer freezes an employee's salary in response to finding out that the employee violated the terms of the employer's health care program. This is true even though freezing an employee's salary and withholding bonuses is a gross overreaction and entirely unfair given the circumstances.

I realize this is not what you were hoping to hear, and I wish that I could provide you with better news. Nonetheless, I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the very best of luck. Bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Please abide by the honor code of this website by kindly clicking on the GREEN ACCEPT button if my answer has been helpful to you. Thank you very much.

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