Mid-America Pension Rights Project: A Working-Class Program that Works to Solve Your Pension Problems

By Sandra Wisnewski, Director of the Mid-America Pension Rights Project at Elder Law of Michigan

You cannot have your pension at this time because your current job is similar employment! Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, this is a common restriction that some pensioners face when they leave a long-term job position.

Employment restrictions are very common within multi-employer (skilled trades) pension plans and are legal. These restrictions effect pensioners who have made their trade a lifetime career, but who still need a job after they leave, in order to support themselves. After spending most of their life performing a skill, it is very difficult to find a good paying job outside that lifetime learned skill.

For example, imagine being a member of the Teamsters union (truck driver) for over 30 years, having no other expertise, and then leaving the truck driving business at 55 years old. Does this mean in order to receive your pension, if you decide to continue working, you can’t take a job as a bus driver, taxi driver, or any job that requires you to drive any type of motorized vehicle? The typical attorney response: it depends.

It is likely, if a teamster decides to take a job as a greeter at Walmart, this is not considered similar employment. But if the teamster takes a job unloading trucks at Walmart, this may require a legal analysis. It all comes down to the definition of the term, similar employment.  For the definition, attorneys look to plan documents and case law. Courts have defined similar employment within several court cases, supplying factors to be considered. These factors are used to compare the old job to the new job, taking into consideration the job description, job title, training, and the day to day performed tasks. Ultimately, similar employment is determined by the plan or a judge.

Recently, the Mid-America Pension Rights Project (MAPRP) successfully represented two separate clients. These clients both received a letter from their former union indicating that they could not collect their pension at this time because they were working in similar employment. The MAPRP appealed the union’s determinations and won. Without the MAPRP’s intervention, both clients would have been left with two options, continue working without collecting their pension or retire completely.

The Mid-America Pension Rights Project assists clients with pension and 401(k) issues. There are no age or income restrictions, and there is never a charge for the services. The Pension Project works to find answers and solutions to your pension-related problem.

Since the program began in 1998, the Pension Project has assisted over 14,000 clients and has recovered over 71 million dollars in pension benefits. The Pension Project assists clients that either worked in or are currently living in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. For more information, visit www.mid-americapensions.org.

 If you need help with or information about your pension or 401(k) benefit, please call the Mid-America Pension Rights Project at 866-735-7737 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.

The information in this article is general and not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. In any legal matter you should always consider consulting with an attorney for specific advice.

Sandra Wisnewski is an Attorney and the Director of Client Assistance with Elder Law of Michigan. Sandra has been a staff member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since 2010. As Director of Client Assistance, Sandra manages the day to day operations of the hotline and the pension department and helps clients who call for legal assistance.