Federal Judge Throws Out Wal-Mart Pension Suit

January 8, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge in Arkansas has thrown out a lawsuit that alleged Wal-Mart used its retirement plan as a weapon in its war against unionization efforts.

>US District Judge Robert Dawson said the case should be decided by the National Labor Relations Board, which is already hearing several related claims, the Morning News newspaper reported.

>The suit alleged that Wal-Mart violated federal pension laws by adding a union-exclusion clause to its employee benefit plans in 2001. The plaintiffs say the clause undermines their right to form a union.

>The amendment allegedly kept out certain union-represented workers from coverage under the company’s profit sharing, 401k, and health and welfare plans. Plaintiffs say the clause led them to believe that they’d lose their benefits if they joined a union.

>Dawson said that, while labeled as pension and retirement issues in the suit, they were in fact labor-relations issues.

>Plaintiffs had hoped to represent “hundreds of thousands” of Wal-Mart employees across the country if the case were granted class-action status.