Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. Independent Fruit and Produce Co.

919 F.2d 1343 (1990)

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Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. Independent Fruit and Produce Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
919 F.2d 1343 (1990)

Facts

Independent Fruit and Produce Company and other employer members of the St. Louis Fruit and Produce Association (employers) (defendants) sold fresh produce to local grocers. Each employer negotiated a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) with a local union. The CBAs provided for employers to make contributions to Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund (fund) (plaintiff) on behalf of their regular employees. The CBAs provided that employers would not pay benefits costs for casual employees, sometimes called casuals. The CBAs prior to 1982 stated that casual employees were to be hired as needed, were not eligible for benefits, could not work more than 80 hours per month, were to be used as replacements for regular employees, and could not increase the existing number of working employees. The CBAs after 1982 removed the provisions about maximum hours for casuals and not increasing the number of working employees. The fund understood casuals to be employees who worked sporadically or intermittently as needed. However, the fund discovered that some of the casuals working for the employers were being assigned regular employee schedules. The fund filed suit in federal district court against the employers, seeking delinquent contributions for the improperly classified casual employees under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The district court ruled in favor of the employers, finding that the CBAs defined casual employee as whomever the employer designated as casual and that no misunderstanding existed between the employers, the union, or the employees regarding the definition of casual employee. Trial evidence showed that the employers commonly hired their employees as casuals, had them work full-time hours, and made some casual employees regulars when vacancies opened. Casuals also knew their status upon hiring. The fund appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Beam, J.)

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