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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Representing the 25th District of New York

Slaughter Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Workers’ Retirement Benefits from Corporate Restructurings

May 19, 2017
Press Release
Would protect hundreds of thousands of retirees in New York State & millions nationwide

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) today introduced the Employee Benefits Protection Act to help ensure retirees receive the benefits they have earned and depend on. This legislation would make it more difficult for companies to use the restructuring process to reduce or terminate benefits for current and future retirees. Slaughter’s legislation would protect hundreds of thousands of retirees in New York State and millions more across the country. The legislation was introduced along with Republican Congressman Walter Jones (NC-03).

“Retirees should not be forced to live in fear that the benefits promised to them in exchange for decades of work could be ripped away at a moment’s notice,” Slaughter said. “Benefits that were once guaranteed have been increasingly eroded as more and more companies use corporate restructurings to avoid paying retirees what they’ve earned. Workers dedicate their careers to serving companies and this legislation will help ensure they get the pensions and health benefits they deserve.” 

Not too long ago, employees and their employers worked together to build successful businesses with the understanding that workers’ benefits would not be forgotten after they retire. However, workers and the retirement benefits they have earned are often viewed as disposable objects by some corporations, which increasingly use mergers, spin-offs, bankruptcies, and joint ventures to avoid paying retirement benefits. Courts have even ruled that companies can legally shed these benefits and leave retirees to fend for themselves with little warning.

Slaughter’s Employee Benefits Protection Act would give employees and retirees new safeguards to protect their benefits. The legislation would require employers to notify employees about any changes to their vesting rights for health care benefits and whether terms of an employment contract allow for unilateral changes or termination in the future. The bill also creates a legal presumption that benefits are fully vested when an employee retires or completes 20 years of service, barring clear and convincing evidence that they were notified prior to entering into their employment contract. 

This legislation is the latest in a series of steps by Slaughter to protect workers. In January, Slaughter, ranking member of the House Rules Committee, partnered with Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), ranking member of the Education and Workforce Committee, to secure a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation examining how restructurings by large corporations impact American workers’ pensions and health benefits.

They asked GAO to examine key questions, including trends in corporate restructuring over the last twenty years, their effects on pension and health benefits, and what lessons members of Congress could learn as they work to protect the benefits that American workers have earned. A copy of the GAO request is available online here.