Supreme Court Declines Review of Benefits Interference Case

November 27, 2007 ( - The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a case concerning whether an employer interfered with an employee's retirement plan benefits rights when it gave the employee the choice between retiring or being terminated.

According to a news report from BNA, t he petition to the high court asked it to decide if it is a violation of Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) for an employer to mislead an employee into forgoing future pension benefits by way of omission by offering the option of retiring early to avoid threatened employment termination for disciplinary reasons.

In June, the 6 th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling granting summary judgment to Marathon Ashland Petroleum, LLC, in the case, BNA said. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio found that Patrick Zbuka had not proved that the firm had violated Section 510 by intentionally interfering with his right to accrue pension benefits.

According to the news report, in 2004, after Zbuka caused numerous workplace incidents over a three and a half year period, his union representative negotiated with supervisors who agreed to allow Zbuka to take an early retirement instead of being fired. Zbuka opted to retire, but filed a lawsuit against Marathon Ashland alleging it intentionally interfered with his right to a full pension in 13 years and it led him to believe he would lose his benefits if he did not elect to retire.

Zbuka argued that Marathon’s human resources officials breached their fiduciary duty by not fully informing him of his pension rights, the news report said. The district court dismissed Zbuka’s lawsuit, saying he had not presented evidence demonstrating that Marathon Ashland had the specific intent to interfere with his right to a full pension.