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No COBRA for You: Gross Misconduct Outside of Work May Disqualify an Employee from Receiving COBRA Benefits

This report relates to 1 case(s)

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    Zickafoose v. UB Servs., 23 F. Supp. 2d 652 (S.D.W.Va. 1998) (0 other reports)

Author: Shannon C. Johnson

In Zickafoose v. UB Services, Inc., +23 F. Supp. 2d 652 (S.D.W. Va. 1998), the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia addressed whether an employee's gross misconduct outside the workplace was a legitimate reason to deny insurance coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

COBRA requires employers that offer insurance to employees to enable employees to continue their insurance benefits for a period of time after termination of employment. An employer is not required, however, to provide COBRA benefits to employees that are fired for gross misconduct. The question of whether gross misconduct outside of work may disqualify an employee from receiving COBRA benefits had never been considered in this jurisdiction prior to this case.

In this case, the district court held that a supervisor's violent assault of a co-worker was considered gross misconduct because it was extreme, outrageous and unconscionable. Further, the court held that even though the assault occurred outside of work, it was sufficiently related to the job itself given that the assailant was a supervisor and the victim was a co-worker. Thus, the assault was a proper reason to deny the supervisor's COBRA benefits after he was fired.