Briggs & Stratton Retirees Sue over Benefit Cutbacks

August 19, 2010 ( – Retired Briggs & Stratton employees have sued the company, alleging it went against its word by dropping or reducing retiree health benefits.

Plaintiffs Michael Merrill, Gregory Weber and Jeffrey Carpenter filed the suit in federal court in Wisconsin asking for class action status.

The complaint charges that by eliminating or cutting back the retiree health benefits, the company violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA).

The LMRA allegations relate to the suit’s assertion that the company violated a 2006 union contract promising to provide workers with 30 years of service hired before 1980 with full company-paid medical, dental and vision benefits for up to 10 years but not beyond age 65.  A clause in the 2006 agreement essentially gave the company the right to change the retiree health benefits only for workers who retired on or after August 1, 2006.

According to the suit, many retirees left the company before August 1, 2006, so they would qualify for the 10 years of company benefits; by retiring early, they also forfeited $4,000 in pension benefits.