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Byrnes v. Debolt Transfer Inc.

August 10, 1984

CHARLES M. BYRNES, JAMES M. BEROS, WILLIAM M. CHERILLA, WALTER CHRZAN, JOHN PUSKARICH, LESLIE BREMAN, JULIUS R. CASALI, JOHN W. FLANIGAN, JAMES H. HUTCHINSON, JR., AND JOSEPH E. ZAUCHA, TRUSTEES OF THE WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA TEAMSTERS AND EMPLOYERS PENSION FUND
v.
DEBOLT TRANSFER, INC.; W. F. HARDY, CHARLES M. BRYNES, WILLIAM M. CHERILLA, MICHAEL GARNDER, STEVE MISSONAK, JOSEPH P. SANTONE, JOHN W. FLANIGAN, JAMES H. HUTCHINSON, JR., JOHN O'CONNOR, AND JOSEPH E. ZAUCHA, TRUSTEES OF THE WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA TEAMSTERS AND MOTOR CARRIERS WELFARE FUND V. DEBOLT TRANSFER, INC. CHARLES M. BYRNES, ET AL., TRUSTEES OF THE WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA TEAMSTERS AND EMPLOYERS PENSION FUND, AND W. F. HARDY, ET AL., TRUSTEES OF THE WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA TEAMSTERS AND MOTOR CARRIERS WELFARE FUND, APPELLANTS IN NO. 83-5556, DEBOLT TRANSFER, INC., APPELLANT IN NO. 83-5557



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh; D.C. Docket Nos. 80-1524 and 80-1525.

Aldisert, Weis, and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Rosenn

Before: ALDISERT, WEIS, and ROSENN, Circuit Judges

Opinion OF THE COURT

ROSENN, Circuit Judge

Plaintiffs, Charles M. Byrnes, et al., trustees of the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Pension Fund, and W. F. Hardy, et al., trustees of the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Motor Carriers Fund (the Funds), appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. They contend that the court erred in rejecting their requests that it apply a six-year statute of limitations and that it toll the applicable statute of limitations. Defendant, DeBolt Transfer, Inc. (DeBolt), a freight carrier, cross-appeals from the same judgment in which the court found it liable to plaintiffs for the sum of approximately $185,000. We affirm in part and reverse in part, and remand to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

Beginning in 1973, DeBolt agreed in a series of collective bargaining and trust agreements to make regular contributions to the Funds on behalf of a wide range of employees.*fn1 The payments it subsequently made were by means of a self-reporting system: when the Funds sent it the monthly invoices, Debolt would adjust them, list the names of those individuals on whose behalf it contributed, and return the invoices to the Funds with the tendered payment.

In the middle of 1980, the Funds instituted an audit of DeBolt's records pursuant to the audit program authorized by the agreements. Based on both information uncovered by a preliminary audit and DeBolt's denial of access to employment records, the Funds' trustees brought suit on October 24, 1980, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq., and the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185 et seq., alleging that DeBolt had systematically failed to contribute on behalf of an entire range of individuals for whom the agreements provided that it contribute. On stipulated facts, the district court on June 30, 1983 entered summary judgment for plaintiffs with regard to each of the categories of employees for which they claimed defendant had wrongfully failed to contribute -- non-union owner-operators, fleet owners, owner-operators at the Neville Island operation, and individuals who had worked less than 1,000 hours. The district court also held, however, that any payment that should have been made prior to three years before the date on which the suit had been filed could not be recovered because of the three-year statute of limitations in the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 260.9a(g) (Purdon 1983). The district court also concluded that the undisputed facts did not justify tolling the statute of limitations. It entered summary judgments for the Pension Fund in the amount of $149,378.78 and for the Welfare Fund in the amount of $35,252.78. As noted above, each side appeals.

II.

A.

Defendant first contends that, under section 202 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1052, it need not have made contributions to the pension fund on behalf of employees until they worked 1,000 hours in a twelve month period.*fn2 The district court properly rejected this untenable argument.

The district court correctly noted that the 1,000 hour requirement has nothing to do with DeBolt's obligations in this case. That requirement merely establishes a statutory minimum after which pension rights begin to vest in employees. The requirement in no way purports to supersede the contracts entered into between the parties under which DeBolt agreed to contribute pursuant to the appropriate collective bargaining agreements on behalf of individuals who work beyond the thirty-day probationary period. See Talarico v. United Furniture Workers Pension Fund, 479 F. Supp. 1072, 1082 (D. Neb. 1979). Accordingly, the court properly granted summary judgment on the 1,000 hour issue.

B.

Defendant next contends that the district court erred in concluding that defendant's obligation to contribute under applicable collective bargaining agreements applied equally to union and non-union owner-operators. It claims that the agreements, as a matter of fact, do not extend to non-union drivers and, as a matter of law, may not extend to non-union drivers. We do not agree.

The district court properly found that, on their face, the collective bargaining agreements at issue here plainly contradict DeBolt's contention that it never incurred an obligation to contribute on behalf of non-union owner-operators. Article 40(2)(a) of the Eastern Conference Area Iron & Steel Rider defines employees under the agreements to be "any driver, chauffeur or driver-helper operating a truck, tractor . . . or any other vehicle. . . ." Article 40(2)(c) and Article 55(4) likewise state that "hired or leased equipment shall be operated by an employee of the certificated or permitted carrier." In sum, these provisions of the collective bargaining agreements negate DeBolt's contentions that it was obligated to contribute only on behalf of union employees. The defendants can point to no provision in any of the agreements that supports its claim that only union members were to receive the benefits of DeBolt's contributions.

The absence of any distinction in the agreements between union an non-union members can be easily explained: the law does not permit such a distinction. Section 8(a)(3) of the National Labor ...


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