Not many lawsuits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) turn on whether an employer legitimately insisted that an employee sign a no-compete agreement in order to receive benefits, but a federal court lawsuit currently pending in Chicago presents that very scenario.

Specifically, in a case brought by a former Bank of America employee against Bank of America and others, Charles Corbisiero alleges that he was lured into continuing to work for Bank of America by a promise of certain allegedly vested bonuses and other benefits, only to be told upon his termination that he could only receive such bonuses and benefits if he signed what Corbisiero describes as “an unconscionable non-compete agreement.” Corbisiero refused to sign, Bank of America refused to pay, and the end result was this rare mix of ERISA and a no-compete.

Bank of America recently moved, successfully, to dismiss Corbisiero’s state law claims (on the grounds that they are preempted by ERISA), but the Court denied Bank of America’s motion to dismiss Corbisiero’s claim that Bank of America is equitably estopped under ERISA from providing the bonuses and benefits at issue.

Although the Court was unwilling to dismiss the equitable estoppel claims at this juncture, it noted in its decision that at the summary judgment stage, Corbisiero will need actual evidence to prove up his allegations.