Edwards v. A.H. Cornell & Son, Inc., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 12962 (3d. Cir. June 24, 2010)

The Third Circuit holds that unsolicited internal complaints are not protected activities under the anti-retaliation provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA").

In Edwards, the plaintiff alleged that she was terminated from her position as director of human resources after she "objected to and/or complained" to management about alleged ERISA violations. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and determined that the plaintiff's alleged objections or complaints to management were not part of an "inquiry or proceed" as required by the anti-retaliation provision of ERISA. In affirming the decision, the Third Circuit relied on the Fourth and Second Circuit decisions which, likewise, held that unsolicited complaints fail to support a retaliation claim under ERISA. Specifically, the plain meaning of the word "proceeding" implies a formal action has occurred and "inquiry" is generally defined as a "request for information" and neither definition encompasses an employee's unsolicited, internal complaint.

Case Law Alert - 3rd Qtr 2010