Compliance

UC Regents Sued By Terminated Pension Participant

The plaintiff argues she was improperly fired to prevent her from fully vesting in pension and retirees healthcare benefits. 

By John Manganaro editors@strategic-i.com | February 14, 2017

Layla Suscavage, a former employee of the University of California San Diego Health division, argues in a new lawsuit that she was “forced to resign” from her job because the university wanted to prevent her from accruing full retirement pension and health benefits.

At the time of her termination, the lawsuit contends, Suscavage had a vested “service credit” of having worked approximately 9.25 years with the University. “Had she reached 10 years of service, the plaintiff would have been entitled to additional (and substantial) retirement and healthcare benefits,” the compliant suggests.

“Throughout her employment, plaintiff performed her job in a capable and competent manner and has been commended for doing so,” the lawsuit argues. “Plaintiff experienced a constructive termination from her employment effective on or around July of 2016. Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave and due to hostile work conditions (and lack of work) was forced to resign her position.”

The text of the complaint also alleges gender discrimination: “As Suscavage performed her job in a capable manner, and was commended for doing so, she is informed and believes that job performance had nothing to do with her termination. As such, she alleges that any assertion from UC Regents that she was terminated for cause, was pre-textual … Additionally, throughout her employment plaintiff alleges she experienced gender discrimination in that she received less pay than her male counterparts for performing the same, or significantly similar duties in her role with defendant.”

The compliant argues the university violated Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which stipulates “an employer may not take an adverse action against a participant or beneficiary for exercising any right to which she is entitled under the provisions of an employee benefit plan ... for the purpose of interfering with the attainment of any right to which such participant may become entitled under the plan.”

“Plaintiff was terminated, at least in part, in order to interfere with her rights under defendant’s employee benefit plan,” the complaint alleges.  

The lawsuit goes on to suggest the defendant or its employees “discriminated against and/or harassed plaintiff on the basis of her age and gender … Plaintiff is over 40 years of age. Plaintiff believes and thereon alleges that her age and gender was a motivating factor in defendant's decision to discriminate against her, pass over her for advancement and eventually led to her termination.”

Few details about the alleged discrimination are actually included in the complaint, which requests a jury trial, but to establish standing the plaintiff argues she has sustained injuries and damages “including but not limited to, loss of earnings and earning capacity; loss of career opportunities; loss of fringe and pension benefits; mental anguish, physical and emotional distress; humiliation and embarrassment; loss of professional reputation; and loss of the ordinary pleasures of everyday life, including the right to pursue the gainful employment of her choice.”

The full text of the complaint is available here