Liberty Mutual faces a proposed class action over what a retiree alleges is an unlawful about-face with regard to retirement medical benefits promised to those who worked for Safeco Insurance before the company was acquired by Liberty.
The 17-page complaint claims that while hundreds of former employees such as the plaintiff were promised a valuable set of retirement medical benefits in exchange for their years of service, Liberty Mutual reneged once it was time for those who formerly worked for Safeco, which was acquired by Liberty around 2008, to retire or apply for benefits.
“Liberty now takes the position that the prior years of service with Safeco should never have been counted and that they will not be counted,” the lawsuit alleges, claiming the defendants’ reversal has robbed roughly 700 current and former employees of millions in retirement medical benefits.
According to the suit, defendants Liberty Mutual Retirement Benefit Plan, Liberty Mutual Medical Plan, Liberty Mutual Retirement Benefit Plan Retirement Board, Liberty Mutual Group Inc. and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company assured proposed class members that the hire date used for calculating retirement benefits would be their original hire date at Safeco. Per the complaint, the plaintiff, at the time of his retirement, had worked more than 38 years for Safeco/Liberty Mutual, meaning he was assured by the defendants that his 38+ years of service would be the basis for calculating his retirement medical benefits.
When the time came for the plaintiff and others to retire, however, Liberty Mutual changed its position, the suit says. The plaintiff claims the defendants turned a deaf ear to his objections and appeals and even “refused to fairly respond” to requests for retirement plan information. Further, the lawsuit says Liberty Mutual, for about 10 years, never suggested former Safeco employees would be excluded from retirement benefits until after the plaintiff first claimed benefits or objected to not receiving credit for his years at the company prior to its acquisition by Liberty Mutual.
As the suit tells it, only in 2019, after the plaintiff reminded Liberty Mutual of its prior assurances, did the insurer attempt to modify its summary plan descriptions (SPDs) to exclude Safeco employees from being grandfathered in.
“In other words, in 2019, and because of [the plaintiff’s] claim and input, Liberty Mutual realized and essentially admitted that it had been promising prior service credit for Safeco years to its employees,” the lawsuit says. “It then attempted to change its SPDs and/or the Plan after [the plaintiff] spoke up. At no point before changing these SPDs in 2019 did Liberty Mutual ever say in its plan or in the SPDs that Safeco years would be excluded for the purpose of calculating medical benefits.
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