Judge Cuts Union Free from Lawsuit

April 9, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge has dismissed the Communications Workers of America and two of its officials from a lawsuit brought by nine former Verizon Communications workers who claimed the union should have kept them better informed about the company's early-retirement plan.

US District Judge Lawrence McKenna of the Southern District of New York said the former workers’ claims weren’t sufficient to sue under ERISA.

The plaintiffs took early-retirement offers in 1998, which included a letter granting 30 days in which the employees could change their minds about retiring early.

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According to court papers, Verizon extended the reconsideration period to July 1998. However, the employees complained that the union never told them of the additional time.

The nine workers took their dispute to court in 1998 after the union and Verizon hammered out a new contract increasing retirement benefits. The defendants had breached their fiduciary duty under ERISA, the workers charged.

McKenna ruled that the union and its officials didn’t control Verizon’s early-retirement program so they couldn’t be considered ERISA fiduciaries.

The case is Romano v. Verizon Communications Inc., SDNY.