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Desert States Employers & UFCW Pension Plan Reduction of Benefits ERISA Class Action

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Folder in File of Folders Marked "Pension"

Plaintiff Robert Koch makes two claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). According to the complaint in the class action he filed, (1) he should have been paid a retroactive benefit or an actuarial increase for retiring years later than the plan’s normal retirement age, and (2) he should not have had his benefits reduced under later amendments to the retirement plan. 

From 1971 to 2001, Koch worked in the meat departments of grocery store employers who had contracts with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99 and that had agreements with, and made contributions to, the pension plan of the Intermountain Retail Food Industry Pension Trust Fund. Around 2005, the pension plan accepted a transfer of assets and liabilities from Intermountain to the pension plan and took responsibility to pay benefits from the Intermountain Plan. 

Since 2001, Koch has worked in the meat department of a grocery that has an agreement with UFCW but does not participate in the plan. He turned 62, the normal retirement age for the plan, in 2013, but did not retire until 2016, when he was over 65.

The plan had promised that those who retired over the normal retirement age would receive either a retroactive benefit or an actuarial increase in benefit payments. However, the complaint claims that Koch did not receive either. 

Furthermore, the complaint alleges, in 2018, the plan told Koch that his work in the same industry, trade, and geographic area was considered by the plan to be prohibited employment, that he had therefore been overpaid in the benefits that he’d received, and that his benefits would be reduced in the future. 

Koch repaid the plan for the purported overpayments, the complaint said, but he also requested the additional benefits he should have been paid between retirement age and his actual retirement. The plan did reduce his benefits, the complaint claims, but did not respond to his request for the additional benefits. 

Koch now claims that his benefits should not have been reduced. He says no notice of the reduction of benefits was given. According to the complaint, the two amendments to the plan that required the reduction of benefits were a violation of ERISA. The complaint cites a 2004 case, Central Laborers Pension Fund v. Heinz, “which held that plan amendments expanding the scope of suspension of benefits provisions … violated ERISA…”

Two classes have been defined for this action.

  • Class 1 is all plan participants (and surviving spouses and beneficiaries) who did not start to receive benefits until after the plan’s normal retirement date and who did not receive an actuarial increase or retroactive benefit payment with interest for the delay.
  • Class 2 is all plan participants and surviving spouses and beneficiaries) who accrued benefits under the plan or predecessor plans before the adoption of the 1991 Intermountain Plan amendment or the 1998 Heinz Amendments.
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