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Mother of Triplets Teaches Company a Lesson About the FMLA

Don't mess with health insurance!

by Catherine Caporusso  |  3383 views  |  1 comment  |        Rate this now! 

Kathy Ryl-Kuchar's first job out of high school was a position with a company called Care Centers.  In late 2002, while working as a dietary technician for the company, she became pregnant with triplets.  The pregnancy went very well and she was able to work right up to the birth by c-section in July 2003.  She then went on approved maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  After about two months at home with her triplet sons, an older son, and a husband who worked extremely long hours, Kathy decided she couldn’t go back to work full-time and she made the difficult decision to resign.

After she resigned, Kathy expected to be able to focus her full attention on her little ones.  Unfortunately, her employer had different plans for her.

While Kathy was working for the company, she received health insurance, and during her leave, she continued to be covered by an insurance plan, as is required under the FMLA.  However, several months after Kathy’s resignation, Care Centers retroactively cancelled her health insurance back five months, which was a month before the birth of the triplets.  That meant that the insurance company took back the money it had given to Kathy's health care providers, and in turn, those health care providers sought to collect tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills from Kathy.  Care Centers never told Kathy that they had retroactively cancelled her health insurance.  She didn't find out about what Care Centers had done until the bill collectors started to call.

Kathy later found out that the company had done something similar to another employee, who had resigned and elected to continue his health care coverage under COBRA.  While he was on COBRA, and making his COBRA payments on time every month, his infant daughter had a life-threatening incident and was hospitalized for six weeks.  Soon after his daughter returned home, the employee learned that Care Centers had retroactively cancelled his health insurance to the very first day of his employment with the company, leaving him with over $200,000 in medical bills.

Kathy first tried to negotiate with her former employer about the unpaid bills. When the company refused to respond to her requests, she sued the company for retaliation and interference under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  After years of litigation, on May 2, 2008, a jury awarded Kathy every penny of the medical bills that would have been covered by her health insurance had Care Centers not retroactively cancelled that insurance after her maternity leave.  A month later, the judge doubled that award, giving Kathy additional money as interest, and ordered that her attorneys submit their bill for attorneys fees, which are expected to total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to be paid by Care Centers.

About the Author

Chicago employment lawyer and mother of two.

Read more by Catherine Caporusso

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