U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Sixth Circuit rejects lifetime retiree benefits under collective bargaining agreement

January 27, 2009

The Sixth Circuit held that Caterpillar did not owe lifetime medical benefits to workers who retired after the collective bargaining agreement including those benefits had expired. The court clarified that the so-called ‘Yard-Man inference’ - that bargaining parties likely intend retiree benefits to continue as long as the beneficiary remains a retiree - only applies to cases where the plaintiffs had achieved retiree status before the employer changed retiree benefits.

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

January 16, 2008

NCLC urged the Sixth Circuit to reverse a decision inferring lifetime retiree benefits for employees who were actively working but retired after the collective bargaining agreement promising such benefits expired. In its brief, NCLC argued that if this decision is left in place, collective bargaining parties will be left with a judicial overlay on their agreements that is at odds with federal labor policies supporting unencumbered collective bargaining and the freedom to negotiate, interpret and apply their own agreements. The district court decision ignores the critical distinction between active employees, whose terms and conditions of employment are established and changed through mandatory collective bargaining, and retirees who may be the beneficiaries of a labor contract promise, but who are no longer represented by a union.

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