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Perry v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

July 15, 2015

HENRY PERRY, Plaintiff,

For HENRY PERRY, Plaintiff: Denise Marie Clark, CLARK LAW GROUP, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, Defendant: Jason Herbert Ehrenberg, Michael A. Tilghman, LEAD ATTORNEYS, BAILEY & EHRENBERG PLLC, Washington, DC; Jeffrey B. Cohen, LEAD ATTORNEY, BAILEY & EHRENBERG, PLLC, Washington, DC.

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Plaintiff Henry Perry filed this lawsuit against his former employer, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (" " IBT" ) challenging the denial of certain retirement benefits. Perry seeks relief under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (" ERISA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 1001 et seq. Perry also seeks payment of earned but unused vacation time under the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law, D.C. Code Ann. § § 32-101 et seq. (" DCWPCL" ).

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on March 21, 2014 against three defendants, including IBT. After Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on May 16, 2014,[1] naming IBT as the only defendant. IBT filed another motion to dismiss, on which the court heard argument on March 13, 2015. Statements at that hearing suggested that the case could be narrowed or resolved through discussion between the parties, and the court ordered such a discussion. (Minute Order, Mar. 13, 2015). The parties were unable to resolve the dispute, though Plaintiff reported that the discussions " clarified facts" such that he now sought a different remedy. (Pl. Status Report, ECF No. 17). Plaintiff sought leave to file a sur-reply addressing these clarified facts. ( Id. ). The court instead denied, without prejudice and subject to renewal, the then-pending motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint and authorized the filing of a Second Amended Complaint. (Minute Order, Mar. 19, 2015). Defendant's renewed motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint is now before the court and, for the reasons discussed below, is GRANTED.


Perry became an IBT employee in 1995. (2d Am. Compl. ¶ 14). Until 2012, he received " all benefits available" from the Local Union 667 in Memphis, Tennessee, which also paid his wages. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 15, 18). From 1998 to 2010 he held leadership positions in the local union, including serving as its President for 10 years. ( Id. ¶ 17). In 2005 Perry was appointed by IBT's General President to serve the remainder of the term of an International Trustee, replacing a Trustee who had retired. ( Id. ¶ 19). Perry held that position until his retirement on March 21, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 39).[2]

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In November 2011, Plaintiff applied for pension and retirement health benefits and was told by John Slatery, Director of Benefit Trust Administration, that he was ineligible for retirement health benefits because his time of service was short by six days. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 40-41). Slatery directed Perry to discuss with IBT's Secretary-Treasurer the possibility of securing employment for six days to " bridge his time," ( id. ¶ ¶ 42-45) a practice which Plaintiff alleges the IBT " consistently" permitted. ( Id. ¶ 34). Plaintiff was assured he would be permitted to work for six additional days, but was later informed that his retiree health benefits application was denied. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 42-44). Perry sent a letter " appealing the denial" on April 6, 2012 and requested an " explanation of the reason for the denial." ( Id. ¶ 44). According to an August 1, 2012 letter sent by Perry to Slatery, Perry confirmed in a telephone conversation on April 9, 2012 that the intent of the April 6 letter was " to appeal the denial and receive a written explanation of why he was not eligible for retiree health benefits and why he was not being giving [sic] the opportunity to be bridged to age 65 for coverage." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 45-46, 57). During this call, Slatery told Perry he would forward the appeal to the Health and Welfare Board of the IBT Benefit Trust. ( Id. ¶ 47). On April 11, 2012 the IBT sent Plaintiff a letter informing Plaintiff that his application for retirement benefits had been denied. ( Id. ¶ 49). The April 11 letter indicated " that Plaintiff could appeal to the Administrative Committee" but did not " contain the requisite ERISA documents or detail Plaintiff's rights as required under 29 C.F.R. § 2560.503-1(h)(2)(ii)." [3] ( Id. ¶ 50-51). Although the letter did not include detailed information about the appeals process, it did refer to the Teamster Benefit Trust's Guide to Your Benefits, specifically to excerpts setting forth the length of service requirements for lifetime retirement coverage. (Def. Ex. 3).

Plaintiff sent a letter on August 1, 2012 to John Slatery confirming the April 9 telephone call and specifically " confirming that he was informed by [sic] Mr. Slatery was going to forward his appeal to the Administrative Committee." ( Id. ¶ 57). Approximately one year later, on June 17, 2013, counsel for Perry requested " any and all documentation and policies and determinations related to the award of bridge time to union members to enable them to qualify for retiree benefits" from the IBT and explicitly indicated that Perry was not filing an appeal. ( Id. ¶ 63). In response, the IBT sent counsel for Perry copies of the April 6 and August 1 letters

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but did not send " any information reflecting the deliberations of Plaintiff's appeal request, or any documents reflecting the required ERISA information as set forth in the regulations governing claim administration under Section 503." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 65-66).

The Second Amended Complaint asserts two counts. Count I seeks equitable relief and appears to point to two separate bases for that relief. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 67-77). First, Plaintiff argues that IBT breached its obligations under ERISA to disclose certain plan documents and procedures, which interfered with his ability to seek review of the denial of his benefits. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 70-72). Second, Plaintiff seeks reformation of the plan to make Plaintiff eligible for benefits if he served for at least as much time as any individual who received retirement benefits, regardless of whether that individual ...

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