The US Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Adminstration (EBSA) has ruled in a determination letter that the mooning of a co-worker is not gross misconduct that would disqualify an individual from receiving COBRA premium assistance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The ruling came to light when the employer in the case, Stormont-Vail Health Care, Inc. (Stormont-Vail), requested a temporary restraining order (TRO) staying the final determination letter. In Stormont-Vail Health Care, Inc. v. US Department of Labor EBSA, DCKS, 10cv4052-RDR, 5/27/2010, the court denied the motion for the TRO.
According to the court, Jennifer Reavis (Reavis) was employed by Stormont-Vail as a nurse. Stormont-Vail received a report that “Reavis told [a male nurse] to answer some patient call lights, that he assertively told her ‘no, I’m busy,’ and that in response Reavis bent over with her scrub pants pulled down, exposing her rear end.” In response, “Reavis has claimed that she was responding to a provocative finger gesture and that she only partially exposed her backside to the male nurse.” Stormont-Vail fired Reavis and disallowed her claim for COBRA premium assistance under ARRA. Reavis filed an appeal with the Department of Labor, which ruled that Reavis did qualify for the premium assistance.
Due to the clear lack of standards to determine gross misconduct for COBRA and ARRA purposes, Vision Payroll strongly recommends that employers consult with a competent labor law attorney for assistance in deciding if ARRA premium assistance should be denied because of gross misconduct.