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ADAMS v. KOPPERS CO.

May 9, 1988

Walter Adams, Joseph Majkut, George Muska, and Charles Strimlan, Plaintiffs,
v.
Koppers Company, Inc. a Pennsylvania Corporation, and The Retirement Plan of Koppers Company, Inc. and Subsidiaries for Salaried Employees, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MENCER

 HON. GLENN E. MENCER, United States District Judge.

 The plaintiffs, former employees of the Koppers Company, Inc., have filed suit against the defendants, alleging violations of various provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1000 et seq. The Retirement Plan of Koppers Company, Inc. and Subsidiaries for Salaried Employees (Plan) filed a Motion to Dismiss, which is presently before this court.

 1. Facts

 The plaintiffs were all employed by Koppers Company, Inc. (Koppers) and were participants in the Plan. Each of the plaintiffs sustained a break in service during the course of his employment with Koppers, and each lost pension credit for his tenure before that break. Although some Koppers employees were allowed to "heal" breaks in service under provisions added to the Plan in 1985, the plaintiffs never had such an opportunity. After returning to service, each of the plaintiffs had attempted to repay his previously withdrawn pension contributions and, thus, heal the break. Koppers allegedly did not allow the plaintiffs to repay those contributions and obtain credit for the pre-break service. When the plaintiffs requested written explanations for the decision, the defendants refused.

 2. Legal Analysis

 ERISA contains numerous sections intended to govern the manner in which plan administrators or employers administer employee benefit plans. Violations of certain provisions create a civil cause of action under 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (§ 1132). ERISA also contains a provision, 29 U.S.C. § 1140 (§ 1140), designed to prevent an employer from circumventing the safeguards of ERISA through various employment decisions. Violations of § 1140 also create a civil cause of action under § 1132.

 A. 29 U.S.C. § 1140

 The plaintiffs have asserted against the Plan violations of both the substantive provisions of ERISA and the circumvention section. The Plan proffers two arguments in favor of its Motion to Dismiss, one for each type of violation asserted by the plaintiffs. We will first consider the Plan's contention that it is not a proper party under § 1140.

 Section 510 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1140 reads in part:

 
It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge, fine, suspend, expel, discipline, or discriminate against a participant or beneficiary for exercising any right . . . for the purpose of interfering with the attainment of any right to which such participant may become entitled under the plan . . . . (emphasis added)

 The plaintiffs argue that, although a literal interpretation of the ERISA definition of "person" does not include a plan, courts have construed the language broadly. The plaintiffs urge us to interpret § 1140 to allow for actions against the plan.

 In support of their contention, the plaintiffs cite five cases. None of these cases, however, directly addresses the issue of § 1140 actions against plans, or even arguably supports the plaintiffs' contentions. In Gavalik v. Continental Can Co., 812 F.2d 834 (3d Cir. 1987), neither the plan nor the plan administrators were named defendants. In Lucash v. Strick Corp., 602 F. Supp. 430 (E.D. Pa. 1984), the plan was a named defendant, but the court only discussed § 1140 in the context of federal preemption of state law. In Greenblatt v. Budd Co., 666 F. Supp. 735 (E.D. Pa. 1987), and Ferguson v. Freedom Forge Corp., 604 F. Supp. 1157 (W.D. Pa. 1985), the courts denied summary judgment against the plan administrators, holding that the ...


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