Important Legal Case for Retirees

Retiree Wins Fight for Health Benefits

With the end of her current contract looming, as well as corresponding changes in retiree health benefi ts, an upstate principal decided it was time to retire and take advantage of the benefi ts offered in the current contract. The member’s current contract, which ended June 30, 2010, offered 100 percent individual health insurance coverage during the course of retirement for those retiring during the 2009-2010 school year. The new contract, effective July 1, 2010, states that those retiring during the 2010-2011 or 2011- 2012 school year would receive health coverage at a lesser rate of 84 percent for individual or dependent coverage.

Despite the contract language, the district, in a number of communications to both the member and unit president, stated its intent to change healthcare contributions for all retirees based on the new contract, requiring the higher rate of contribution. SAANYS General Counsel Art Scheuermann assisted the
member in fi ling a grievance that eventually went to arbitration. The arbitrator, in the decision, concluded that the district did indeed intend to violate the member’s contractual rights by requiring her to pay the 16 percent per the new contract, rather than honoring her current contract. The arbitrator stated,
“… absent language that the district’s obligation would or could be unilaterally modifi ed during the course of the retirement of an individual who retired during the 2009- 2010 school year, the retiring individual, such as grievant, is entitled to 100 percent individual coverage for the length of his or her retirement. It is clear that the district’s interpretation of the agreement … unequivocally signal the district’s intent not to honor grievant’s contractual rights.Therefore, the arbitrator finds that the association has sustained its burden of establishing a contractual violation.”

Should you feel that there is an intent or current action to violate your contractual rights, do not hesitate to contact the SAANYS Legal Department.