Two named plaintiffs have filed suit against the AT&T Pension Benefit Plan and AT&T Services, Inc. The lawsuit claims the parties unlawfully refused to provide retroactive pension benefits to former management employees eligible for early retirement payments upon turning 55 years old.
The plaintiffs are former employees of AT&T who were members of the company’s pension benefits plan. Unbeknownst to them, the suit says, AT&T reportedly adopted a “Special Update” to its plan in April 1997 allowing former or current management employees to receive unreduced benefit payments upon turning 55 years old rather than 65. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs didn’t learn of the update until they were 63 and 59 years old, respectively, and happened to inquire about their benefit payments.
The plaintiffs argue that upon learning of and applying for early retirement benefits, they were improperly denied retroactive payments they should have received since turning 55, benefits the suit says added up to $229,108.29 and $87,381.84, respectively, plus interest. In its denial, AT&T allegedly argued that it had amended the plan in 2016 to require that members submit a written application in order to receive entitlement to early retirement benefits. The lawsuit, however, claims this stipulation, which AT&T supposedly included without explanation, was added “just days” before the plaintiffs submitted their applications and violates the 1997 Special Update and ERISA’s anti-cutback rule.