Labor Law -- 2015

M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett   (U.S. Supreme Court)

Retiree health-care benefits

On July 24, 2014, the NAM filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reverse a Sixth Circuit decision ruling that retiree health-care benefits, resulting from silence in collective bargaining agreements, are presumed to be indefinite. This decision undermines Congress’ intent regarding employee retirement health benefits and disrupts judicial precedent in other circuits. NAM’s brief clarified that when Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), it in no way intended retiree health care benefits to be indefinite. Furthermore, other federal circuits have effectuated Congress’ intent by requiring clear and express language in order for retiree health benefits to be provided indefinitely. Accordingly, the NAM encouraged the Supreme Court to adopt a clear and express rule affirming ERISA and precluding a presumption of indefinite health-care benefits.

On January 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court rendered its opinion in this case holding that to determine whether retiree health-care benefits survive the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement, courts should apply ordinary contract principles. Those principles do not include the Sixth Circuit’s inference that parties to collective bargaining would intend retiree benefits to vest for life.

Related Documents:
NAM brief  (July 24, 2014)


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