Independent Contractor Allowed to Fight for Benefits

June 29, 2005 ( - A federal judge has kept alive the lawsuit filed by a former employee of Credit Suisse First Boston against the company claiming that he is due pension benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) even though he was labeled as an independent contractor.

US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Credit Suisse First Boston’s request to dismiss on the basis that plaintiff Martin Nahoun was not a plan participant and therefore ineligible to pursue a claim for benefits under ERISA, BNA reported. “Nahoun alleges that he was treated as an employee rather than an independent contractor and enumerates more than a dozen reasons in support of this conclusion,” Kaplan said.

The court said that Nahoun was a vice president for Credit Suisse from 1982 to 1995.   He was rehired by the company in 1997 as a vice president/project manager and given the title of independent contractor.   After his termination in 2004, Nahoun requested pension benefits for his service from 1997 to 2004.   The company denied his request.

Kaplan rejected the company’s claims that, under ERISA, to be a plan participant an individual must be both a common law employee and actually eligible to receive plan benefits. The company had also argued that Nahoun was not an employee within the meaning of the plan, and thus not a plan participant, because he was treated “on the books and records” as an independent contractor rather than as an employee.

The ruling was in the case of Nahoun v. Employees’ Pension Plan of Credit Suisse First Boston, S.D.N.Y., No. 04 Civ. 9221 (LAK), 6/22/05.

-Rebecca Moore

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