Admin Assistant Can't Sue NY Law Firm

June 28, 2002 ( - An administrative assistant at a New York law firm no longer had standing to sue his former employer after getting a lump-sum pension distribution and agreeing that he wouldn't pursue any pension-related legal matters, a federal judge has ruled.

US District Judge Constance Baker Motley of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, threw out the suit filed by Bennett Yablon’s brother, which alleged that the firm improperly cut off employer contribution to its defined contribution plan.

Motley said that Yablon had given up any rights to pursue ERISA claims as part of his separation agreement from of Stroock Stroock & Lavan. The brother represented Bennett Yablon’s estate after his death.

Too Late

The Yablon suit was also filed late, violating New York State’s six-year deadline rule, Motley said.

Motley also court rejected the estate’s claim that the firm’s plan trustees breached their fiduciary duties by not following funding and investment policies.

Case Background

Bennett Yablon worked as an administrative assistant at the law firm from February 1989 through October 1996.

While Yablon was employed there, the company made a series of changes to its retirement and pension plans. In 1993, the firm terminated its defined benefit pension plan and integrated it with its defined contribution plan.

But prior to the termination, the firm had stopped making contributions to the defined contribution plan because the firm had adopted a savings plan, which eventually merged with the defined contribution plan in 1993.

Yablon received a notice from the firm in November 1991 informing him that the defined benefit plan was being terminated and that his accrued benefits would be frozen on December 31, 1991.

The defined benefit plan was eventually terminated in September 1993 and the plan benefits were distributed to Yablon and other plan participants in February 1996.

According to the court, Yablon also was notified in November 1991 that the firm was discontinuing its contributions to the defined contribution plan.

When Yablon left the firm in October 1996, he received a lump sum distribution of $53,728, which he rolled over into an individual retirement account.

The case is Yablon v. Stroock & Stroock & Lavan Retirement Plan & Trust, S.D.N.Y., No. 01 Civ. 452 (CBM), 6/12/02.