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btzielinski

Suit for Upaid Contributions for which benefits were never paid

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Hi,

I'm new to the board and I have a bit of an odd question. I'm dealing with an employer that was a party to a CBA in the past and part of the CBA required contributions for health and welfare to a multi employer trust. The Union unilaterally decertified some years ago, which prompted the Trust to perform an audit. In performing the audit, the trust determined that health and welfare benefits were owed on certain individuals. However, those individuals expressly opted to not receive the health and welfare from the Trust, because they could not afford their employee portion. As a result, these employees received health benefits through the employers non-CBA health insurance plan used for non-union employees. The Trust indicated that employees could refuse benefits, but they needed to file a form to do so. Obviously, these forms were never made available to the employees, nor did the employees know about this form. However, the employees expressly refused the Trust benefits to the employer, and did not want money withheld from their checks for contributions to the trust. The trust is seeking past due contributions from October 2010 through October 2017. The trust admits that no health and welfare benefits were paid to these employees, and it is clear that the trust will never (nor can it ever) provide health and welfare benefits to these individuals pursuant to its own Trust agreement. Anyone aware of any cases where a trust is seeking contributions for unpaid health and welfare benefits where the Trust never paid for the benefits in the first place? I will also note that the trust was not a self insurer in this instance. Pursuant to the CBA, the Trust was to purchase health and welfare insurance for the employees. It was not utilizing a pooled account. Let me know if anyone has any thoughts. Thank you.

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I am not sure I fully understand the circumstances but is the CBA the only document obligating the employer to make these specific contributions to the H&W fund?  Did the employer sign a participation or other agreement with the fund whereby the employer agreed to make contributions for these benefits?  If not, the only contract is between the employer and the now-decertified union, of which the H&W fund is presumably not a party.  I cannot see how the fund can enforce it unless there is another agreement between the fund and the employer.

You probably want to get benefits counsel involved.

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I agree with Chaz in that you may need counsel.  What does interest me is the issue of the forms used for employee waivers, which were never made available.  It is possible that the plan was structured so that all eligible employees would be required to participate unless they submitted the waiver.  If this were true, it does not matter if the employees say they refused coverage, they needed to do so via the waiver form.  It does not matter that the employee did not want to participate, nor that no benefits were ever paid out on these individuals.  

If this were me I would want to also view the plan documents and any administrative documents.  Good luck.

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It's very common for a CBA to require contributions to a trust for all individuals who are performing bargaining unit work. The HW fund is a third party beneficiary of the CBA and entitled to collect all of the monies that should have been paid. 

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On 3/15/2020 at 11:17 AM, mal said:

It's very common for a CBA to require contributions to a trust for all individuals who are performing bargaining unit work. The HW fund is a third party beneficiary of the CBA and entitled to collect all of the monies that should have been paid. 

I repeat my suggestion to get benefits counsel involved.

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