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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 118762
Experience:  20+ Years of Employment Law Experience
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Before divestiture my coworker, Donna, worked &T. Through

Customer Question

Before divestiture my coworker, Donna, worked for AT&T. Through divestiture she (like many) was transferred to what became Telcordia Technologies. Then She went to Lucent. She signed the contract that said when she met five years of service with Lucent, her time would be bridged. Lucent downsized and she was let go during her fourth year. Lucent denied her pension and because she didn't reach five years, not only was she not bridged, but they said she didn't earn any pension. She's been left "high and dry." She's 64 and has nothing. She's had a very hard time with getting decent paying jobs because she was an "older" employee. What is she supposed to do? She'll have a poor social security check and NO pension. It's wrong. IT'S SO WRONG! Can she sue? Please tell me she could win. Thank you, ***** Retiree
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
It is very unfair and very wrong, but I am afraid that it is not illegal and that is the problem. Under ERISA, these pensions are governed by the terms of her plan description. So Lucent could cut her out of any pension through Lucent and could deny her the bridge. However, what none of the companies could do is refuse to turn over any money she personally put into any of the pension plans, either ATT, Telcordia or Lucent. So, if she put money into any of those pension plans, she is entitled, if not vested in any of the plans, to recover any money she put into those plans and if they will not return that money then she indeed can sue for recovery.
She cannot force Lucent to give her a pension and bridge her other plans, since they had the right to set the 5 year requirement, but she certainly can pursue the other pensions if she was vested or at least a return of any money she put in the plans if she was not vested.