Advocates for Labor and Progressive Institutions

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Supreme Court to Consider Enforceability of Employer’s Promise to Retirees for Health Care

November 2014

Bredhoff & Kaiser represents the respondents in the Supreme Court case M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, which addresses the issue of how courts determine whether an employer’s promise to provide health benefits to its retirees is enforceable after expiration of the collective bargaining agreement that contains the promise.

To support its position that it can charge retirees for their benefits now that the contracts under which they retired have expired, M&G Polymers has asked the Supreme Court to impose special rules requiring express language to make health benefit promises effective beyond a contract’s term. In contrast, the respondents (the United Steelworkers and workers who retired from bargaining-unit jobs at M&G Polymers in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, over the period from 1991 to 2005) argue that traditional principles of contract interpretation suffice to interpret these contracts, and that such principles support the lower courts’ judgment that M&G promised that its retirees’ health benefits would be vested throughout their retirement. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an oral argument on November 10, 2014. Penny Clark, a member of Bredhoff & Kaiser, will argue the case for the respondents.