Jun 19, 2020
Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Defends LGBTQ Rights June 15, 2020. In the biggest triumph for gay rights since 2015, th
The former employees, represented by Tybe Brett and Joel Hurt, had worked for United Refining for years but had left the company prior to their retirement age. At the time they left the company, each was promised unreduced early retirement pension benefits.
After years of interpreting its pension plan to provide unreduced benefits to the affected employees, in 2005 and 2006 the company changed its course and stopped paying unreduced benefits to these employees.
Two of the employees brought a class action lawsuit alleging that United Refining violated federal pension law by reducing or “cutting back” their accrued pension benefits. In April 2013, the Court ruled in favor of the two named plaintiffs.
Click here to review the April 8, 2013 Opinion: United Refining Summary Judgment Opinion
The Court found that the company’s initial interpretation that the former employees were entitled to unreduced early retirement pension benefits was rational. It also found that United Refining’s reinterpretation of the pension plan was unreasonable and rendered key plan language meaningless.
On November 5, 2013, the Court extended the named plaintiffs’ victory to a “class” of approximately 175 former employees. The Court awarded injunctive relief to all class members, forcing the company to provide unreduced early retirement benefits to each of them.
The Court also required the pension plan to reimburse those class members who had received a reduced benefit, in an amount equal to the difference between what they should have been paid and what they were actually paid, plus interest at 7.5%.
Click here to review the Court’s November 5, 2013 Order: Memorandum and Order
The parties are now in the process of determining precisely who is in the class and the amounts of past benefits owed to approximately 30 class members who had been paid reduced early retirement pension benefits. Once those issues are resolved, it is likely that United Refining and its pension plan will appeal the Court’s decisions.