An Illinois appeals court has refueled a retired Chicago bus driver’s suit against the Chicago Transit Authority’s retirement and health care plans, saying a Cook County judge was wrong to rule the retiree’s benefits were determined by a union contract that took effect the day after the man retired.
The Dec. 20 decision was written by Justice Margaret McBride, with concurrence from Justices Jesse Reyes and Robert Gordon, of the Illinois First District Appellate Court in Chicago. The decision reinstated a suit brought in 2014 by Eric Hampton against the CTA, the Retirement Plan for CTA Employees and the CTA Retiree Health Care Trust.
Hampton drove a CTA bus for 28 years, before retiring Jan. 1, 2007. In 2009, his health care premiums began to be deducted from his retirement annuity payments, per a collective bargaining agreement that took effect Jan. 1, 2007, and a 2008 Public Act that allowed the deductions.
Hampton sued the CTA, the plan and trust in July 2014 in Cook County Circuit Court, contending his retirement benefits were governed by the 2004 agreement, which expired Dec. 31, 2006. However, defendants said benefits were controlled by the 2007 agreement, which ran Jan. 1, 2007 to Dec. 31, 2011.
In 2017, Circuit Judge John Allegretti dismissed the suit, saying the 2007 contract applied, because Hampton’s retirement date was Jan. 1, 2007 when the new contract was in force.
Hampton appealed, arguing that as of Jan. 1, 2007, he was a retiree and no longer a union member, with his retirement benefits having accrued under the 2004 contract. Further, he maintained the 2007 contract did not exist as of Jan. 1, 2007, because it was ratified in 2009, then made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2007.
Justice McBride accepted Hampton’s arguments.
“Nothing in the record suggests that plaintiff was receiving regular and stated compensation on January 1, 2007, but the record does suggest plaintiff began receiving his retirement allowance that first day of January. As of 12:00 a.m. on January 1, 2007, plaintiff was retired,” McBride concluded.
McBride said that because Hampton was retired on the first of January, he was no longer represented by the union during the negotiations that resulted in the 2007 contract. As a consequence, Hampton was not bound to that contract. As further indication Hampton was under the 2004 agreement, he received benefits under this contract until October 2009, McBride noted.
Also, the definition of employee, as laid out in the agreements, did not include Hampton, as he was no longer receiving regular pay on the Jan. 1 in question, McBride pointed out.
However, McBride determined Hampton did not have a case against the CTA, because the CTA was not involved with his retirement benefits. Rather, the retirement plan authorizes deductions from his benefit payments and the health care trust administers his health care benefits, with the CTA having no role.
The appellate ruling reinstated Hampton’s suit against the plan and trust, but dropped the CTA.
Hampton is represented by Chicago lawyer Margaret Lundahl.
The CTA retirement plan has been defended by the Chicago firm of Burke, Warren & MacKay.
The CTA health care trust has been defended by the Chicago firm of Freeborn & Peters.
The CTA has been defended by in-house counsel.