Atlantic City government workers will wait at least a week for a judge to decide whether to ban the municipality and an insurance company from releasing their Social Security numbers.
Strict regulations already govern access to such sensitive information, but City Hall’s five bargaining units want that court order in place while they resolve a lawsuit they filed nearly four months ago.
The complaint alleges the local government should not have let Colonial Life Insurance Company access employees’ Social Security numbers during mandatory informational sessions where insurer representatives also made sales pitches for other products.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez heard arguments Tuesday from lawyers representing the city, the unions and Colonial Life.
He will not rule for at least a week on the unions’ request for an injunction and temporary restraining order, said Bob O’Brien, the lawyer representing the Alliance of Atlantic City Supervisory Employees, Atlantic City PBA Local 24, Superior Officers’ Association, White Collar Professional Association and Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 198.
The issue arose after workers complained that Colonial Life representatives had access to Social Security numbers and other sensitive information during meetings about flexible spending accounts. State law now requires public agencies to offer employees the accounts, which hold pre-tax paycheck deductions to reimburse medical expenses.
Colonial Life also sold other, additional insurance — such as accident or life insurance — to about 230 workers during those info sessions, which were described as “mandatory” in employee memos.
Part of the city’s agreement with Colonial Life and partner FlexFacts stipulates at least 75 percent of the city work force attend the FSA meetings. That captive audience of government workers — and its sales potential — helped Colonial and FlexFacts offer an FSA administration rate of $350 per account, $45 lower than the two other bids on the contract, documents show.
In the end, just 66 city workers opted for a flexible spending account, saving the city $2,970. About 230 employees purchased other Colonial Life insurances products. And 1,030 — or 82 percent — of them attended the meetings, with no repercussions for the roughly 300 who skipped, said city human resource director Doreen Tucker during court proceedings Tuesday.
Tucker and the city’s lawyer Jill Fisher declined comment afterward.
Fisher works for Zarwin, Baum, DeVito, Kaplan, Schaer and Toddy. The Philadelphia-based firm charges $180 hourly to represent the city on labor matters, according to its contract.
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