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Donald Rahm; Mark Lajuenesse, Philip Pacifico; Joseph P. Gross; Lawrence v. J. Hall

March 25, 2011

DONALD RAHM; MARK LAJUENESSE, PHILIP PACIFICO; JOSEPH P. GROSS; LAWRENCE SPRARAGEN; AND SIMEON HUNDSEN, AS TRUSTEES OF THE I.B.E.W., LOCAL 236 PENSION FUND, I.B.E.W., LOCAL 236 HEALTH AND BENEFIT FUND AND I.B.E.W., LOCAL 236 ANNUITY FUND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
J. HALL, LTD., DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is a Motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 11) filed on behalf of Donald Rahm, Mark Lajuenesse, Philip Pacifico, Joseph P. Gross, Lawrence Sparagen, and Simeon Hunsden (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), acting in their capacity as trustees of certain labor-management benefit funds. Plaintiffs bring their action for monetary and injunctive relief under Sections 502 and 515 of the Employee and Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132; 29 U.S.C. § 1145, alleging that J. Hall, Ltd. ("Defendant") failed to make required contributions to the funds. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1).

Plaintiffs' instant Motion seeks a declaration that Defendant is obligated to contribute to the benefit funds on behalf of Defendant's non-union employees who performed electrical work for the period from January 1, 2003 to the present; monetary judgment against Defendant in specified sums for contributions allegedly owed to the funds, plus interest, on behalf of those employees; and auditing fees. See Rahm Aff. (Dkt. No. 11-4) at 17-18. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are the trustees of the I.B.E.W., Local 236 Pension Fund, I.B.E.W., Local 236 Health and Benefit Fund, and I.B.E.W., Local 236 Annuity Fund (collectively, the "Funds"). Pls.' Statement of Material Facts ("Pls.' SOMF") (Dkt. No. 11-3) ¶ 1, 4.*fn1 The Funds are jointly administered employee labor-management trust funds established and maintained pursuant to collective bargaining agreements and Trust agreements (collectively, the "Agreements") between I.B.E.W. Local 236 ("the Union") and employers in the electrical construction industry in accordance with 29 U.S.C. § 186(c)(5). Compl. ¶¶ 6, 10; Pls.' SOMF ¶ 5.

Defendant J. Hall, Ltd. is a contractor based in Ravena, New York, that performs electrical, instrumentation, labor, and other types of work throughout the capital district area for residential and commercial customers. Answer (Dkt. No. 5) ¶ 9. It is owned by President/Secretary, Jerome R. Hall, and his wife. Hall Aff. (Dkt. No. 17-7) ¶¶ 1, 4. The company employs thirteen individuals, three of whom are members of the Union. Id. ¶ 16. On October 13, 1999, Jerome Hall, on behalf of Defendant, signed a letter of assent ("Letter of Assent") to be bound by CBAs with the Union. 1999 Letter of Assent (Dkt. No. 11-4, Ex. A); see also Pls.' SOMF ¶ 8.

Under the Agreements, employers contribute to the Funds on behalf of eligible participants and beneficiaries. Pls.' SOMF ¶ 8. The beneficiaries receive pension, health and benefit, and annuity benefits through the Funds. Compl. ¶ 6. The Agreements obligate Defendant to submit monthly payroll reports ("Reports") detailing those employees for whom contributions are required. Pls.' SOMF ¶ 10. The Agreements also grant Plaintiffs the right to inspect Defendant's books and records when pertinent to the administration of the Funds. Id. ¶ 13.

Defendant filed monthly Reports on which it listed its three union employees, the number of hours they worked, and the wages they earned; the Reports indicate that Defendant calculated and made payments to the Funds on these three employees' behalf.*fn2 Id. ¶ 11; Def.s' SOMF Resp. ¶¶ 11, 9. Non-union employees Kelly Stone and Michael Brown were among Defendant's employees who were not listed in the Reports. Pls.' SOMF ¶¶ 15, 19; Def.'s SOMF Resp. ¶¶ 15, 19. Plaintiffs, acting through their auditor, Joseph W. McCarthy of Joseph W. McCarthy & Associates, requested to conduct an audit of Defendant's books and records; Defendant responded that they could access only the payroll records for its union member employees. Pls.' SOMF ¶ 12.

On June 12, 2007, Plaintiffs brought this action on behalf of the Funds and their beneficiaries seeking a full and complete audit of Defendant's books and records to determine whether Defendant had made its required contributions to the Funds and, pending the results of that audit, seeking monetary judgment in the amount determined necessary for Defendant to comply with its obligations. See generally Compl. Defendant denies that the Letter of Assent or the relevant collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") require it to make contributions to the Funds on behalf of non-union employees. Answer ¶¶ 10, 11, 31; see also Def.'s SOMF Resp. ¶ 8.

The case at bar focuses on the interpretation of the rights and responsibilities engendered by Article VI of the CBA (Dkt. No. 17-8, Ex. A). That Article addresses fringe benefits, delineates to whom such benefits are to be paid, and sets forth the amount of contribution that is to be contributed to each of three funds: the Health and Welfare Fund, the Pension Fund, and the Annuity Fund. Specifically, the language in dispute is found in CBA Article VI, Sections 6.02, 6.03, and 6.04, and is set forth below:

Section 6.02-Health and Welfare Fund:

The Employer shall contribute five dollars and thirty cents ($5.30) per hour for each electrical worker employed by him in the jurisdiction of the Local Union into the Welfare Fund of such Local. . . .

Section 6.03-Pension Fund: The Employer shall contribute three dollars and twenty five cents ($3.25) per hour for each journeyman/wireman and third through sixth Period apprentice employed by him in the jurisdiction of the Local Union into the Pension Fund of such Local. . . .

Section 6.04-Annuity Fund: Effective March 1, 1999 the Employer shall contribute one dollar ($1.00) per hour for each Journeyman Wireman and Third ...


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