Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc.

PETITIONER: Alessi
RESPONDENT: Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc.
LOCATION: New York State Thruway

DOCKET NO.: 79-1943
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 504 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 04, 1981
DECIDED: May 18, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Laurence Reich - on behalf of Respondent in 80-193
Marc C. Gettis - on behalf of Petitioners in 80-193
Theodore Sachs - on behalf of Appellants in 79-1943
Warren J. Casey - on behalf of Appellees in 79-1943

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 04, 1981 in Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Alessi v. Raybestos and the consolidated case.

Mr. Sachs, I think you may proceed when you are ready.

Theodore Sachs:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This matter involves consolidated matters arising from the 3rd Circuit on appeal from and certiorari to the 3rd Circuit.

I'm of counsel in the Alessi v. Raybestos matter, and with the Court's permission I'll address the 203(a) issue of ERISA and Mr. Gettis will then address the preemption question.

The 3rd Circuit decided in this matter that notwithstanding the very broad nonforfeitability guarantees in Section 203(a) of the Pension Reform Act with respect to normal retirement benefits, that a workmen's compensation offset provision in a retirement plan did not violate that statute.

The decision and analysis of the 3rd Circuit has been disagreed with by at least one other circuit, the 6th, and by at least seven district courts.

And I will respectfully suggest that the 3rd Circuit paid excessive attention to form and indeed to the form of a regulation whose nature the intended beneficiary, the IRS, does not agree with.

The fact of the matter in this situation is that normal retirement benefits earned over the life careers, working careers of the affected individuals, have indeed been forfeited, and that is seen very directly by looking at the facts.

William H. Rehnquist:

Let me ask you a question, if I may.

This ERISA statute does give authority to the Treasury Department to issue regulations, does it not?

Theodore Sachs:

Yes, Your Honor, it does.

William H. Rehnquist:

It is not just a question of administering an act?

Theodore Sachs:

No, that is correct.

There is certain administrative authority with respect to Treasury; there is certain administrative authority with respect to the Department of Labor.

But there is none of the kind of administrative or rule making authority which the 3rd Circuit conceived to be applicable and which the Internal Revenue Service renounces.

The Internal Revenue Service does not claim legislative rule making authority which the 3rd Circuit found.

Treasury purports to find that authority in an interpretive basis.

But the interpretive basis, we submit, is contrary to the statute in question and indeed the argument made by the Government brief here is contrary to the argument which it made below.

There is a diametrical change in position.

If I may, the specific facts will highlight how the statutory provision directly works.

Each of these employees had put in, in the case of Raybestos, more than 30 years when they retired in '72 and '73.

They earned normal retirement benefits.

I emphasize there was no disability pension question here; they earned normal retirement benefits.

Each had reached age 65.

Similarly, in the case of the General Motors plan.

Each had reached normal retirement age of 65 and had rendered a number of years of service almost as much.

They in fact began to receive 100 percent of the normal retirement benefits under the plan.

They did so for several years, and then a funny thing happened.

They made an application for partial permanent disability under the New Jersey Workers Compensation Statute and they were awarded that.