The Association of U S West Retirees



Retiree lawsuit on insurance in wings for Qwest
The first '07 death of a former employee is likely to bring about legal action over benefit caps.
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

As soon as the first Qwest/US West retiree passes away this year, the Denver- based phone company will be hit with a lawsuit from the Association of US West Retirees, the group's executive director Nelson Phelps said Monday.

The suit will fight changes in life-insurance benefits that went into effect this month, Phelps said.

"We have several people who are in hospice care, and they're going to pass away," he said.  "It's a sad thing.  We're waiting for them to pass away, and ... their spouse has already agreed to be part of the lawsuit."

Qwest, which acquired US West in 2000, capped life-insurance coverage for management retirees at $10,000 beginning this year.  Previously, the benefit was equivalent to one year's annual salary.  Nonmanagement retirees had their life- insurance benefits capped in 2006.

Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said the decision to cap the benefits was "difficult."

"It's not one we took lightly," he said, adding that Qwest provides benefits for 180,000 people, which includes current and former employees and their families.

Toevs said there are about 40,000 Qwest/US West retirees nationwide.

The retirees association estimates that there are about 7,000 in Colorado.

Association attorney Curtis Kennedy, who has won many court battles on behalf of former phone-company employees, said he's awaiting word that the spouse of a Qwest retiree is ready to go through the process before he files the lawsuit.

"It'll happen," he said.

The association expects to file a class- action suit in federal court in Denver, Phelps said.

Phelps also said retirees will have "a rather aggressive and vocal presence at the Qwest annual meeting in May."

"We're not going to be as business-like and polite as we have been in the past," he said.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or avuong@