The Association of U S West Retirees



Retirees slam Qwest filing
The group says the firm is threatening to end life-insurance benefits for all if a class-action lawsuit succeeds.
By Kimberly S. Johnson
Denver Post
Thursday, July 10, 2008

Qwest retirees are voicing concern over comments made in a brief filed by Qwest last week in a case surrounding their life-insurance benefits.

The company said in the legal filing that should the retirees group succeed in its proposed class-action lawsuit, it could potentially wipe out life-insurance benefits for all retirees, a statement that the retirees group views as a threat.

The Association of U S West Retirees filed a lawsuit against Qwest in 2006 in U.S. District Court in Denver over a reduction in life-insurance benefits.  The plan originally guaranteed a minimum of $20,000 to survivors of those who retired before 1996 and a minimum of $30,000 to survivors of those who retired thereafter.  Qwest has lowered the benefit to $10,000.

With only seven plaintiffs originally named in the suit, the retirees group is looking to make it a class-action lawsuit.

But in a brief filed by Qwest opposing the class-action request, the company said that should the retirees prevail, it "would need to consider terminating the life plan benefits for eligible retirees altogether in an effort to recoup the amounts it would have saved."

For Nelson Phelps, executive director of the retirees association, and attorney Curtis Kennedy, the statement is an "open threat" from Qwest.

"It's real shocking to me a corporation would be this crass . . . so open and blatant in its threats," said Phelps.  "I think what they're trying to do is scare us."

Qwest spokeswoman Diane Reberger said the company opposes the plaintiffs' desire to turn the lawsuit into a class-action one.

"Qwest offers great retiree benefits," she said.  "The purpose of the filing was to lay out Qwest's argument for why we believe class-action certification is inappropriate for this case."

Kennedy is planning to file papers in response to the Qwest brief early next week.

Kimberly S. Johnson: 303-954-1088 or