The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAND
three disabled metal lathers, challenge a recent amendment to the Metal Lathers Local 46 Pension Fund ("Plan")
which requires that an applicant for a disability pension earn two pension credits immediately prior to the onset of the disability. Jurisdiction is predicated on § 502(f) of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(f), and § 302(e) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 186(e). Both parties move for summary judgment. For the reasons hereinafter stated, Buddine's and Vaughan's motion for summary judgment is granted. Defendants' motion for summary judgment against Fraser is granted.
The factual pattern of these three actions is similar.
All three plaintiffs worked in the metal lather trade for a substantial number of years; their retirement pensions have vested. Due to an economic decline in the industry, they were laid off in 1975. Subsequent to the layoff, they became totally disabled.
The plaintiffs individually applied for disability pensions. The Trustees of the Pension Plan denied their applications for failure to comply with a 1977 amendment to the Plan: an applicant for a disability pension must have earned two pension credits immediately preceding the calendar quarter in which he became totally disabled.
The application of this amendment to the individual plaintiffs, however, raises different factual issues. For this reason, we detail the employment history of the three plaintiffs. Buddine: James Buddine has worked as a lather from October, 1960 until September, 1975 when he was laid off. In February, 1976 he again obtained employment as a lather and worked sporadically through October, 1976. While he was unemployed, he received unemployment compensation benefits.
In September, 1977 he applied for Social Security disability benefits. On November 25, 1977 Buddine received a Social Security Award Certificate which stated that he was disabled as of April, 1977.
On October 6, 1977, Buddine filed an application for a disability pension with the Plan. At the February 27, 1978 meeting, the Trustees determined that Buddine did not qualify for a disability pension because he did not earn two quarters of pension credit in the two calendar quarters immediately preceding his receipt of unemployment compensation benefits. Buddine did not appeal this decision.
Fraser: William Fraser was engaged in covered employment as a lather from 1957 until 1975.
In May, 1975 he was laid off and from that time until August, 1976 he received unemployment compensation benefits. In March, 1977 he suffered a heart attack. For the next twenty-six weeks, he received New York State disability benefits.
In April, 1975 Fraser applied for Social Security disability benefits and first received benefits in September, 1977. The Social Security Administration dated his disability from April 1, 1977.
Fraser filed an application for a disability pension with the Plan on May 2, 1977. His application was denied by the Trustees on August 29, 1977. Although Fraser was advised of his right to appeal and initially indicated an intention to do so, he did not perfect his appeal.
Vaughan: Thomas Vaughan worked as a lather from 1945 until 1975. In August, 1975 he was laid off. He received unemployment compensation benefits from December, 1975 until September, 1976.
Vaughan applied for Social Security Benefits in October, 1976. In April, 1977 the Social Security Administration determined that he was permanently disabled and dated his disability from September, 1977.
Vaughan filed an application for a disability pension with the Plan in May, 1977. The Trustees determined that he was not eligible for a disability pension because he had not earned two pension credits in the two calendar quarters immediately preceding his receipt of unemployment compensation benefits. Vaughan appealed the decision. Although the Trustees adhered to their decision that he was not eligible for a disability pension, they told him that he was entitled to an early retirement pension which he is now receiving.
The Plan, created in 1950, is a joint trust fund established pursuant to § 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 186. The Plan is administered by a Board of Trustees whose members are designated by Local 46 and by the various employers who are parties to collective bargaining agreement with Local 46. ...