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Case Name Jensen v. Solvay America, Inc. EE-WY-0008
Docket / Court 2:06-cv-273 ( D. Wyo. )
State/Territory Wyoming
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Case Summary
On November 15, 2006, current and former employees of Solvay Chemicals, Inc. filed this lawsuit on behalf of themselves and similarly-situated others in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. The plaintiffs sued Solvay America, Inc., Solvay Chemicals, Inc., and Solvay America ... read more >
On November 15, 2006, current and former employees of Solvay Chemicals, Inc. filed this lawsuit on behalf of themselves and similarly-situated others in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. The plaintiffs sued Solvay America, Inc., Solvay Chemicals, Inc., and Solvay America Companies Pension Plan under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, monetary damages, and attorneys fees. The plaintiffs also sought class action certification for all other similarly-situated employees who participated in the Solvay America Companies Pension Plan. 2007 WL 1791268 (D.Wyo. 2007).

The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants violated the ERISA and the ADEA by converting the Solvay America Comapanies Pension Plan from a final average pay formula to a cash balance formula. They claimed that this amendment froze the retirement benefits of older, longer-service employees and offered lower rates of benefit accrual at older ages. Further, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants failed to provide adequate notice of these changes.

The plaintiffs made six specific claims for relief:

First, they claimed that the defendants exhibited age discrimination in when they implemented a pension benefit freeze. The defendants transitioned to a cash balance formula and in so doing froze the retirement benefits of the plaintiffs, which meant that it would take years for the cash balance accounts of older, longer-service employees to move ahead of the value of the benefits they had earned before the changes.

Second, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants' conditional payment of annual rates of benefit accrual violated ERISA's 133.33 percent accrual requirements.

Third, the defendants' conditional receipt of additional annual accruals violated ERISA's nonforfeitability rules. ERISA mandates that rights to any accrued benefits be unconditional, but under the pension plan at issue in this case, participants were forced to forgo valuable early retirement subsidies.

Fourth, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants offered reduced rates of benefit accrual based on age. Under the cash balance pension plan, future interest credits are greater for younger participants due to compounding hypothetical interest credits until retirement, and thus younger employees accrue more retirement benefits.

Fifth, the defendants provided inadequate notice of reductions under ERISA § 204(h), and sixth, the defendants provided an inadequate summary of material modifications.

On October 18, 2007, the Court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' ERISA claims based on the plaintiffs' failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Court found that the plaintiffs' ERISA claims were for the enforcement of statutory rights and thus were not subject to exhaustion requirements. 520 F.Supp.2d 1356

On February 8, 2008, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification, certifying all six ERISA class claims defined in the plaintiffs' class action complaint. The Court also approved the plaintiffs' ADEA claims. On May 30, 2008, the parties filed a joint motion to amend/correct the order to clarify the ADEA Collective Action Definition and mailing list for the individuals who satisfy the criteria of the modified ADEA Collective Action definition. This motion was granted in June 2008.

On June 19, 2009, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs filed their own motion for partial summary judgment. On August 3, 2009, Judge Johnson granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on claim five (the claim for inadequate ERISA section 204(h) Notice of reductions). 2009 WL 8710932. On August 12, 2009, the plaintiffs filed a motion to alter/amend the August 3rd judgment, but their motion was denied by Judge Johnson so they appealed this decision. In a September 7, 2010 opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's judgment with respect to the plaintiffs’ ADEA claim and with respect to all of their ERISA claims except the claim based on the failure of the section 204(h) notice to describe the calculation of early-retirement benefits. The Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the ERISA claim. 625 F.3d 641.

The case was reopened and a trial set for July 11, 2011 before Judge Johnson.

The defendants again filed a motion for summary judgment which Judge Johnson granted in part and denied in part on May 24, 2011. The Court found no genuine issue of material fact that Solvay provided most of the participants most of the required information so the Court granted summary judgment as to this issue in Solvay's favor. However, the Court did find a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Solvay's failure was intentional and if unintentional, whether Solvay failed to promptly notice after discovering the failure, therefore, summary judgment as to those issues was denied. 788 F.Supp.2d 1278.

After the July 11, 2011 trial, the defendants filed a motion for judgment on partial findings. On October 11, 2011, Judge Johnson ordered that the plaintiffs would not recover from the defendants and that the defendants would recover their costs pursuant to federal rules of civil procedure P.52 and U.S.D.C.L.R. 54.2 from the plaintiffs. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal as to the Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law as to this judgment, as well as to the bill of costs filed by the defendants. After the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court on July 2, 2013 (721 F.3d 1180), the plaintiffs filed for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court which denied certiorari on February 24, 2014.

The case is closed.

Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 11/15/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Discrimination-area
Pay / Benefits
Discrimination-basis
Age discrimination
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001
Defendant(s) Slovay Chemicals, Inc.
Plaintiff Description Current or former employees of subsidiaries of Solvay America, Inc. who were age 40 or more as of February 8, 2008, participated in the Solvay America Companies Pension Plan before January 1, 2005, and have been subject to the “Retirement Account Balance Formula” on or after January 1, 2005.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Confession of Judgment
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Microsoft Gender Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit
Date: Oct. 14, 2016
By: Outten & Golden
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Age Discrimination Class Action seeks Fair Employment for Older PwC Applicants
http://www.pwcagecase.com/
Date: Apr. 27, 2016
By: Outten & Golden
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Smith Barney Gender Discrimination
https://www.lieffcabraser.com/employment/smith-barney/
Date: August 2008
By: Outten & Golden
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Date: Mar. 1, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law Faculty)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
Date: Apr. 1, 2001
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School Faculty)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:06-cv-00273-ABJ (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/12/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
EE-WY-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/15/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Erisa Claims Based on Plaintiffs' Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies [ECF# 72] (520 F.Supp.2d 1356) (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/18/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Class Certification and Collective Action [ECF# 77] (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Agreed Order Modifying the February 8, 2008 Order on Class Certification and Collective Action [ECF# 79] (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/07/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Protective Order and Confidentiality Agreement for Sensitive Personal Information [ECF# 87] (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/26/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/03/2009
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Claim V [ECF# 135] (2009 WL 8710932) (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/03/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming [Ct. of App. ECF# 1018490738] (625 F.3d 641)
EE-WY-0008-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/07/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Mandate [ECF# 149] (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 165] (788 F.Supp.2d 1278) (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/24/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law as to Final Judgment [ECF# 216] (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Judgment [ECF# 217] (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming [Ct. of App. ECF# 227-1] (721 F.3d 1180)
EE-WY-0008-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/02/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Re: Wade Jensen and Donald D. Goff, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated v. Solvay Chemicals, Inc., et al. [ECF# 229] (134 S.Ct. 1280)
EE-WY-0008-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/24/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Beaman, William C. (D. Wyo.) [Magistrate]
EE-WY-0008-0005
Gorsuch, Neil M. (Tenth Circuit, SCOTUS)
EE-WY-0008-0013
Harris, Scott Sutherland Court not on record
EE-WY-0008-0011
Hartz, Harris L. (Tenth Circuit)
EE-WY-0008-0008
Johnson, Alan Bond (D. Wyo.)
EE-WY-0008-0001 | EE-WY-0008-0003 | EE-WY-0008-0004 | EE-WY-0008-0006 | EE-WY-0008-0007 | EE-WY-0008-0009 | EE-WY-0008-0010 | EE-WY-0008-0012 | EE-WY-0008-0014 | EE-WY-0008-0015 | EE-WY-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bruce, Stephen (District of Columbia)
EE-WY-0008-0003 | EE-WY-0008-0005 | EE-WY-0008-9000
Honaker, Richard H. (Wyoming)
EE-WY-0008-0005 | EE-WY-0008-9000
Pienta, Allison C. (District of Columbia)
EE-WY-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hammett, J. Richard (Texas)
EE-WY-0008-0005 | EE-WY-0008-9000
Hickey, Paul J. (Wyoming)
EE-WY-0008-0005 | EE-WY-0008-9000
Nelson, Scott M. (Texas)
EE-WY-0008-0005 | EE-WY-0008-9000
Pearson, O'Kelley H. (Wyoming)
EE-WY-0008-9000
Tsang-Kao, Charlene (Texas)
EE-WY-0008-9000

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