the Agreement does not violate § 204(g) of ERISA.
E. Creation and Availability of SPD's
Plaintiffs claim that Allsteel violated § 104(b) of ERISA by failing to furnish an SPD apprising plaintiffs of changes to the Plan, as required under the statute. Specifically, plaintiffs contend that "an SPD would have notified all plaintiffs of All-Steel's contorted interpretation of the Plan." Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment at p. 11. This claim, however, must fail.
The record evidence indicates that Allsteel issued at least one SPD for the Plan. See Cosgrove Affidavit, Exh. 4.
In that SPD, Allsteel describes what constitutes an employee's Normal Retirement Date. Importantly, however, the changes to the Plan at issue here -- Supplement A and Exhibit F -- do not purport to change the definition of the term "retire" or "Retirement Date." Any updated SPD, then, would not have discussed or further explained the meaning of the terms which have caused plaintiffs' alleged injury. Accordingly, it is irrelevant, here, whether or not Allsteel complied with § 104(b) of ERISA.
What remains is plaintiffs' claim that Allsteel violated § 502 of ERISA by failing to comply with a request for information. Under § 502, any administrator who fails to comply within 30 days with a request for information to which the employee is entitled may, in the court's discretion, be liable to such participant. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c). In May, 1991, plaintiff Meredith submitted a written request for an SPD. He did not receive an answer within 30 days, and on October 8, 1991 he again submitted a written request for an SPD. On November 1, 1991 Allsteel sent Meredith the requested information.
While Allsteel's behavior clearly violated § 502, it does not necessarily warrant discretionary sanction unless there was bad faith or prejudice to the plaintiffs. See, e.g., Lesman v. Ransburg Corporation, 719 F. Supp. 619, 622 (W.D. Mich 1989) ("courts may properly consider detrimental reliance or prejudice before imposing penalties under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c)."). See also Kreutzer v. A.O. Smith Corp., 951 F.2d 739 (7th Cir. 1991) (In case where company technically violated 29 U.S.C. § 1022(a)(1), no recovery warranted unless company acted in bad faith or otherwise prejudiced their employees.) Cosgrove, in his sworn affidavit, explains that Meredith's initial request was inadvertently placed in his personnel file and was not discovered until April, 1992 when the company began reviewing documents for this lawsuit. Plaintiffs, for their part, do not contest this explanation.
Accordingly, there is no issue of fact as to whether Allsteel acted in bad faith. Summary judgment, therefore, is appropriate on this claim.
F. Violation of the Labor-Management Relations Act
In Count IV of their complaint, plaintiffs claim that Allsteel breached the Agreement between the company and the Union. Plaintiffs go on to state that by breaching the Agreement, Allsteel violated § 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act. Because § 301 confers jurisdiction over suits between labor and management for violations of agreements between the two groups, it is unclear how any breach of the Agreement could "violate" § 301. See 29 U.S.C. § 185. Accordingly, we read Count IV to be an alternative means for challenging Allsteel's interpretation of the language in Exhibit F.
Since Allsteel's breach of the Agreement raises the same issues as those raised in Count II, summary judgment is equally appropriate for Count IV.
For the foregoing reasons we deny plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and grant defendants' motion for summary judgment in its entirety. It is so ordered.
MARVIN E. ASPEN
United States District Judge