On February 3, 2011, Seeger Weiss LLP filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of eight former union employees of the Entemann’s Bakery in Bay Shore, New York, against the Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund. The eight had been employed by Entemann’s as members of the company’s unionized workforce, putting in between 14 and 32 years there.
As members of the Bakery and Confectionery Workers Union and participants in its Pension Plan, the workers had been given the right to retire on a full pension under an alternative formula commonly known as Plan G, or more commonly as the “Golden 80.” Under that formula, plan participants could qualify for a full pension by adding their years of service to their age. Once these figures totaled 80, they were eligible for a full pension equal to what they would be eligible for at age 65. For example, a 50-year-old Plan participant who had worked as a Union employee for 30 years would qualify for a full pension under the Plan.
Many of these and other Entemann’s union workers accepted “buy-out” offers from the company as it downsized its personnel in recent years or accepted management positions, based on the understanding and expectation that they would qualify for a full pension under the Golden 80 option. But as of July 1, 2010, Pension Plan participants not already eligible for their full pension under the Golden 80 formula had their benefits cut by 60%. These eight men, with the help of Seeger Weiss, seek the redress of the illegally-diminished benefits on behalf of themselves and the thousands of other workers, either at Entemann’s or at other unionized bakeries across the country, who participate in their Union’s Pension Plan nationwide.
In suddenly amending the Pension Plan to reduce Golden 80 retirement benefits by 60% for those who had not already reached their full pension eligibility date, the Bakery and Confectionary Union and Industry International Pension Fund violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), the law that Congress passed in 1974 to protect workers’ pensions. The Pension Plan has refused to treat the earned and accumulated credits of the eight employees, and the thousands of other affected workers, as protected benefits under the ERISA statute, and insists that participants cannot receive a full pension until age 65, regardless of how many years they worked. It thus believes that it can unilaterally reduce workers’ vested and accrued pension benefits. Seeger Weiss and the eight plan participants insist that the pension they had been promised is a benefit, and cannot be reduced merely because they had not already reached the required number of 80 total credits of age plus years of service before last July 1st.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, and is assigned to Judge Joanna Seybert of that District’s Central Islip Courthouse. The case is captioned Schol et al. v. Bakery and Confectionary Union and Industry Int’l Pension Fund, No. 11-0537 (E.D.N.Y.)