Coca-Cola Employees Sue over Dropped Benefits during Strike

August 31, 2010 ( – A group of employees for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Washington have filed a lawsuit alleging the company unlawfully terminated their health plan benefits while they were on strike.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, says that on or about August 23, 2010, the plaintiffs went on strike, and on or about August 24, 2010, via a memorandum, “Coca-Cola unilaterally and without notice or lawful authority, terminated all health benefits for the class representatives and putative class members.” In addition, the suit says Coca-Cola ceased to permit or enable the plaintiffs to make employee contributions toward the cost of their coverage under the Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. Health & Welfare Plan for Non-Flex Participants through monthly payroll deduction. 

According to the suit, Coca-Cola at no time communicated to employees the specific reasons for its termination of benefits and employee contributions, and did not notify or otherwise inform employees of any right to, or process for, making a claim regarding or otherwise appealing Coca-Cola’s actions. “The class has therefore been denied access to any claims and/or appeal procedures that may exist under the Plan,” the complaint says.  

The complaint notes that the plan provides that coverage ceases on the earliest of the date a member’s employment ends, the member no longer meets eligibility requirements, or the member fails to make any required contribution toward the cost of coverage. The suit says Coca-Cola failed to abide by the terms of the plan document, in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  

The suit was brought on behalf of a class of all full-time regular employees of Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Washington, working at Marysville, Renton, Bellevue, Aberdeen, Tacoma, Olympia or Bremerton, Washington, who are members of Teamsters Union Locals No. 38, 117, 174, 252, 313 and 589, and who are or were on strike at any point in time from August 23, 2010, to the present. The class consists of approximately 500 employees. 

The plaintiffs are asking that Coca-Cola immediately pay the full benefits owed them under the plan, plus interest and attorneys’ fees and costs.