Staffing Agency Worker Not Entitled to Benefits

February 2, 2006 ( - The US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has ruled that a woman who worked for a company for 11 years, but was paid by a staffing agency, is not entitled to the company's retirement plan benefits.

BNA reports that the court granted summary judgment in favor of ConocoPhillips Co., noting that the Phillips Petroleum Co. retirement plans defined an eligible employee as one who was on the company’s direct payroll or who was loaned out by the company to perform services for other entities, and therefore the woman was not eligible.

The employee worked at Phillips Petroleum from 1979 until her retirement in 2004.   She was employed and paid by a staffing agency from 1979 to 1990 when she accepted a fulltime position with the company.

She was paid retirement benefits for her service from 1990 to 2004, but she made a claim for retroactive benefits from the plan for her service from 1979 to 1990.   When her claim was denied and administrative appeals failed, she sued for benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

In granting summary judgment in favor of the company, the judge said the company’s decision to exclude lease employees from its plans was legally correct.

The case is Broussard v. ConocoPhillips Co., W.D. La., No. 2:04 CV 1986, 1/24/06.