Rail Car Maker Ordered to Rehire Workers to get Pension Benefits

January 14, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Chicago-based rail car manufacturer has asked a federal judge in Pennsylvania to delay implementing his order that the company reinstate more than 100 workers laid off last year so they can receive pension benefits set forth under a union contract.

In documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania,FreightCar America asked U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson to stay the order issued last week until the manufacturer can take the dispute to an appellate court.

Gibson found that the laid-off workers had put forward strong enough evidence in support of their claims the company laid them off to avoid paying the pension benefits to which they were entitled under a union contract expiring in May 2008. FreightCar America contended it laid off the employees as part of its plan to close its Johnstown, Pennsylvania facility in a cost-cutting move.

After certifying the employee lawsuit as a class action, Gibson instructed the company to immediately rehire the workers so they can properly qualify for the pension benefits. Under the labor pact, steelworkers    at the plant qualify for certain pension benefits after five years of service and for special pension benefits after 20 years.

FreightCar America announced in December that it could not reach a new contract with the Johnstown workers and would close the plant.

Gibson ordered plaintiffs’ attorneys to file a written response to the employer’s request for a stay of his order by January 25.

Gibson’s order is  here .