Sysco Beats Pension Benefit Appeal, Bias Claims in 3rd Cir.

Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...

By Carmen Castro-Pagan

Dec. 9 — Sysco Food Services of Metro New York LLC convinced a federal appeals court not to revive a lawsuit accusing the company of failing to provide pension plan documents and discriminating against a black worker who had recently retired ( Galman v. Sysco Food Servs. of Metro N.Y. LLC , 2016 BL 408541, 3d Cir., No. 16-1744, unpublished 12/8/16 ).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Dec. 8 affirmed a district court decision that dismissed the retiree’s lawsuit for failure to state a claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Daniel Galman Jr. failed to allege that Sysco was required under federal law to provide the documents, a three-judge panel held. Galman also didn’t allege sufficient facts to support his discrimination claim under New Jersey law, the court said.

Other subsidiaries of Sysco Corp., the world’s largest high-volume food distributor, also face lawsuits related to the pension benefits they offer to workers. Last month, a court in Indianapolis declined to dismiss a lawsuit by a Teamsters local seeking ratification of a joint grievance committee’s decision ordering the company to offer early retirement benefits to union members.

Galman asked Sysco to provide him the numbers used in calculation of his pension, how the lump-sum amount had been arrived at and information about a 6 percent penalty that he believed had been assessed against his account. After retiring he learned that two white employees had received “much larger lump-sum retirement payments than he did.”

He sued Sysco seeking penalties under ERISA and alleging discriminatory treatment under state law.

Galman never identified an ERISA section that required Sysco to provide him with the specific information he requested, the appeals court said.

The mere fact that Galman received a smaller retirement payment than other employees wasn’t enough to infer that he suffered discrimination, the court said. His complaint said nothing about the employees’ retirement contribution levels, annuity elections or age at retirement, all of which could account for the alleged disparity. Moreover, he didn’t include any evidence about ill will or discrimination.

The fact that white employees were honored in a company newsletter, while Galman wasn’t, didn’t show discrimination either, the court said.

Judge Thomas L. Ambro issued the unpublished opinion, which was joined by Judges Patty Shwartz and Julio M. Fuentes.

Luretha M. Stribling represents Galman. Reed Smith LLP represents Sysco.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at ccastro-pagan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Pension & Benefits Daily