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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, November 20, 2002


Forced waiver
of benefits is illegal


Question: We are part-time employees working for a market research firm in downtown Honolulu. We were recently informed that we are being outsourced to another company. If we are not hired or if we choose not to work for the new company, do we qualify for unemployment benefits from the old company since we had nothing to do with this decision? Also, we were recently told that the company does not want to pay for health benefits. In order to work more than 20 hours per week, as a condition of employment by the company, we are required to sign a waiver releasing the company from its obligation of providing health care benefits to its employees working more than 20 hours per week. I thought the law states that if you work for more than 20 hours per week for four consecutive weeks, the employer is required by law to pay for health care benefits. If we wanted to, where can we file a complaint?

Answer: If the employees "are not picked up, then more than likely they will qualify for unemployment benefits," said Tom Jackson, spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. "If they refuse to go to work for the new company, then they probably are not going to qualify for unemployment."

In either case, he said you should apply for unemployment anyway and "let it be determined" by the Labor Department.

"That's a hard one (to answer) without knowing how the company is going to react," Jackson said.

As far as being forced to sign a waiver for no health insurance, that's illegal.

"They can't do that," Jackson said.

Employees may waive their health insurance benefits, but they have to be able to show that they already have health benefits under some other form, he said. An example would be being covered under a spouse's health plan or a retiree plan, Jackson said.

You can file a complaint by contacting the Labor Department's Disability Compensation Division. Call 586-9151.

Q: Alan Greenspan received an honorary knight citation from the Queen of England. I would like to send a congratulatory card. Have you got an address for me?

A: You can send a letter to the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board as follows: Federal Reserve Board, 20th and C Streets N.W., Washington, D.C., 20551.

Queen Elizabeth II approved the honorary knighthood for Greenspan in August in recognition of his "outstanding contribution to global economic stability." He is to receive the award whenever he next visits England.

Auwe

To police for not addressing the numerous jaywalking violations that occur every single day on Kapiolani Boulevard, in front of Bakery Kapiolani and especially on Punchbowl Street between Queen and Halekauwila streets. The jaywalkers are breaking the law, yet they are so obnoxious to drivers who have the right of way. With the many pedestrian accidents, police should be monitoring these areas and issuing citations. -- No Name

(We relayed your complaint to the Honolulu Police Department.)


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