The Boeing Co. has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a class action filed by several unions that disputed whether employees who lost their jobs following the 2005 sale of a Kansas commercial aircraft facility were entitled to retirement benefits. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace and other unions alleged that Boeing violated the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by claiming that the employees were not eligible for tens of millions of dollars in early retirement medical benefits and pensions because the workers were terminated, not laid off.
The benefits allowed the employees to retire at 55 and receive the medical benefits and pensions as a “bridge” until they were eligible for Medicare. But Boeing claimed that because workers were terminated, their collective bargaining agreements did not entitle them to the benefits following the sale of its Wichita, Kansas, center to Spirit AeroSystems Inc.
If the settlement is approved, Boeing would only be responsible for providing the $90 million. The responsibility for allocating the settlement money, i.e., who would be eligible for receiving money from the settlement fund, falls to the claims administrator.
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