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Rhode Island Decision Victory for Retirees

by Patricia Guadalupe  |  January 17, 2012

Retirees who once worked for the public school system in the City of Pawtucket, R.I., can continue to count on the health benefits they were promised, thanks to a recent court decision that overruled the city’s decision to arbitrarily change what was in the contract.

As stipulated in the retirees’ contract, the City of Pawtucket had been paying their medical benefits until they became eligible for Medicare, but in 2007 the city started sending invoices for a premium co-share. Union activists cried foul.

AFSCME Local 132 (Council 94) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the retirees, arguing that a promise is a promise.

In her decision, Judge Taft-Carter said the contract provided a “vested benefit” which could not be changed during retirement. “The Court has determined that plaintiffs’ rights have vested, and thus they cannot be altered by the defendants without plaintiffs’ consent,” she wrote.

“The court’s decision represents a significant victory for retirees by affirming that employers cannot unilaterally cut retirement benefits,” said Council 94 Pres. J. Michael Downey. “We look forward to having the court determine the appropriate remedy for these retirees.”

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