Lucent Severance Pay Suit Survives Challenge

June 17, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge has rebuffed efforts by Lucent Technologies to throw out a lawsuit by three former workers who claimed they were let go to save the company the cost of their severance pay.

>US District Judge James Knoll Gardner of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that that the employees’ case was strong enough to move forward.

>The three plaintiffs – Harry Leszczuk, William Reynolds, and Harold Weaver – alleged in their lawsuit that Lucent fired them from its Reading, Pennsylvania facility in October 2001 so the company could save almost $200,000 in severance benefits due the employees under Lucent’s Force Management Plan (FMP). The FMP provides benefits to workers discharged as part of a downsizing and is covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Gardner said.

>According to Gardner’s opinion, two months after the workers were told that the Reading facility was being shuttered, they were informed they were being fired for not working 40 hours per week. The company then denied their claim for FMP benefits and the employees filed the federal court suit.  

>To support his contention that the case still presented open questions worthy of further litigation, Gardner noted that Lucent fired the employees for cause shortly after it told them that their jobs would be terminated as part of the closing of the Reading facility.

>Gardner also noted that the employees alleged they worked less than 40 hours per week at the Reading facility because they often worked at other Lucent facilities and that Lucent had long-standing knowledge of this fact. In addition, the court noted that Lucent fired the employees without even discussing with them its concern over the employees’ alleged failure to work 40 hours per week.

>The opinion in Leszczuk v. Lucent Technologies Inc., E.D. Pa., No. 03-CV-05766, 6/10/05 is  here .

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