Phila. construction co. accused of not funding employees’ healthcare plan

By Jon Campisi | May 9, 2013

A Philadelphia construction company is facing a federal lawsuit by a fired employee who

claims he was terminated after raising concerns about the defendant’s alleged failure to adequately fund company employees’ healthcare plan.

Ellis Brownson, III, who resides in New Castle, DE, filed suit at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 7 against Nello Construction Co., which is based in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood.

The complaint, filed by Mount Laurel, N.J. attorneys Gregg L. Zeff and Drake P. Bearden, Jr., of the Zeff Law Firm, says that Brownson, who began working for the defendant in 2006, was fired from his job this past January shortly after a Teamsters representative notified Nello that the plaintiff had alerted the union that the healthcare plan was not being properly funded.

Brownson, a Teamsters member, became shop steward for the employees in his unit in 2011, which was right around the time that Nello began ignoring its obligations to fund the healthcare plan, according to the civil action.

As a result, employees were unable to get healthcare services from November 2011 to February 2012, the suit states.

That February, Brownson wrote a letter to the Teamsters and Nello complaining about the lack of healthcare plan funding, the complaint shows, but nothing came out of the correspondence.

In fact, Nello again failed to properly fund the employees’ healthcare plan from July 2012 to December of that year, the plaintiff claims in his lawsuit.

Brownson’s attorney finally wrote a letter to Teamsters representative William Einhorn on Jan. 2 of this year complaining about the fact that the healthcare plan was not being adequately funded by the construction company.

The letter also requested that Nello provide a printout of all payments and coverage during the previous two years, along with an explanation on why payments were being delayed at this point.

Einhorn soon notified the defendant that Brownson had alerted the Teamsters to the healthcare plan problem, after which Brownson was let go from his job of nearly seven years.

The lawsuit accuses Nello of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

It contains counts of retaliation, failure to provide information and breach of fiduciary duty.

Brownson seeks declaratory relief, front and back pay, more than $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, costs, attorney’s fees and other court relief.

The plaintiff also demands a jury trial.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-02508-TJS. 

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