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Court rules on early retirement benefits case

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Employees who accept early retirement even in the worst economic times aren’t entitled to continued unemployment assistance, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

A 2-1 ruling came from the appellate court in C.G. LLC v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Devel., et al., 93A02-1004-EX-441, involving an economically battered auto parts company that instituted an early retirement plan for both working and non-working employees at factories in Indiana and nationwide.

The company began reducing its workforce and laying off workers in 2008 and instituted the voluntary termination program to those who’d worked in late 2008 and early 2009. Those who accepted resigned from CG and relinquished their recall and seniority rights. Additionally, some received variations of a package including lump some payout amounts, a vehicle voucher, and six months of continuing health insurance coverage.

Some of those workers had been actively working while others were previously laid off, and some still received benefits at the time the program was offered. After taking the early retirement offer, some employees were denied unemployment benefits when they later applied, and previously laid-off workers who’d been receiving benefits found their benefits were cut off.

They appealed to an administrative law judge who determined that employees who’d been on indefinite layoff when joining the early retirement program were still entitled to unemployment benefits, but those who were on temporary layoff or were actively working at the time could not receive benefits. Both sides appealed.

The review board rejected the ALJ’s distinction between actively working employees and those laid off for purposes of eligibility for benefits, determining that all lacked good cause to voluntarily leave when they took the early retirement and resigned. The board concluded that all of the employees remained eligible for unemployment benefits pursuant to Indiana Code 22-4-14-1(c).

But the Court of Appeals majority disagreed, reversing and remanding the case saying that workers shouldn’t be able to receive continued benefits. Senior Judge John Sharpnack and Judge Elaine Brown specifically decided that the workers didn’t have good cause to voluntarily leave their employment because there weren’t specific threats or plans of future plant closings or layoffs, despite the overall economic climate and uncertainty facing the auto industry.

The majority relied heavily on York v. Rev. Bd. of Ind. Employment Sec. Div., 425 N.E. 2d 707 (Ind. Ct. App. 1981) as helpful guidance in constituting Indiana Code 22-3-14-1(c), which specifically applies to those who elect to retire in connection with a layoff or plant closure and receive compensation for that. That court held that employees who left due to risk of possible future changes but not direct threat of layoff were not entitled to benefits.

Judge James Kirsch dissented, writing that he believes the majority decision to deny unemployment compensation benefits to these workers goes against legislative directive and ignores what many face in these economic times.

“The Great Recession has had a catastrophic effect on this country and this state. Few, if any, industries were harder hit than automotive manufacturing, and the thousands of workers affected are unemployed through no fault of their own,” the judge wrote. “To say that the workers who accepted EVTEP retired for personal reasons is to ignore economic reality. This economic reality was marked by layoffs and plant closings … those layoffs and plant closings drove the decision of the claimants in this case to accept EVTEP.”

Judge Kirsch wrote that he would defer to the board’s judgment and expertise in employment matters and affirm its decision in all respects.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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