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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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