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Can they do this?

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What is the name of your state? West Virginia
My mother was working for a very large retail department store as store trainer/HR specialist. She was with the company for several years. Last year she was diagnosed with inflamatory breast cancer (not sure if that is the correct medical terminology). It turns out they caught it kind of late and this is a rare and severe form of breast cancer. She has been through two different types of chemotherapy (neither successful) and is currently in radiation (seems to be working favorably). Anyways she was awarded short term-disability and now long-term disability. Well the department store general manager at the location she recently worked called her the other day and said the company is fazing out the job that she held and her disability and insurance will end in December. This doesnt seem right to me. I know nothing about the law, but i would think that as long as she was gainfully employed (an employee in good standing) at the time she became sick and was awarded disability, that it should not matter what happens to that position AFTER she is on disability. This seems like they are firing her when she is not even working for them anymore..Can the company really do this??I know she will probably be able to get COBRA, but that is 1) more expensive (she cant afford) and 2) could affect which doctors she can and can not see for treatment (an inconvenience she should not have to go through at this point)...Any help would be greatly appreciated....Sorry if this is too long -- i'm not sure how much you would need to know to offer a helpful legal opinion...


I'm a Northern Girl
If she is unable to return to work, the company is not required under any law (even the ADA) to hold her job indefinitely. As far as the disability benefits go, that is a contractual issue. Most plans that I'm familiar with will continue to pay even after employment ends, as long as she was eligible when benefits began. However, the law does not require that the contract read that way. It is legal, as long as the contract so states, for benefits to end when employment does. It's also possible that the person who talked to her doesn't really understand how the benefits work. She should talk to someone in Human Resources or ask someone at the insurance carrier's office.

The above paragraph applies to disability benefits. Upon re-reading your post, it appears that you are asking about health benefits also. It is quite legal and VERY common for health benefits to end upon the end of employment. It is so rare as to be almost unheard of, for health benefits to continue without COBRA, with the possible exception of a couple of months at the courtesy of the company IF they choose to do it. NOTHING in the law requires them to do anything about her health benefits except offer COBRA.

I understand your concern about cost. But why do you think it will affect the doctors she can see? COBRA is simply the extension of the same benefits she's always had, with the difference that now she is paying for it instead of the company. COBRA does not generally involve moving to a different plan.


Senior Member
I agree with everything cbg shared with you.

Your mother needs to get hold of the plan document/insurance booklet for her disability and LTD benefits and see what they say about this type of situation. While not required, every LTD plan I've ever put in place calls for continuation of LTD benefits as long as the person is certified medically disabled. (That's why it's called a LONG TERM DISABILITY plan.) The end of employment typically has no bearing on the benefit as long as LTD benefits/disability began before termination of employment.

And it's also quite possible whomever your mother has been speaking to at her workplace (her supervisor?) doesn't have a clue how her disability and LTD benefits really work.

Good luck and I hope your mom comes through this okay.

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