Employee Benefits-Seventh Circuit Rules That Payments For Service On The Carpenter’s Executive Board Are Not Salary For Purposes Of Calculating His Pension Benefit Under The Carpenter’s Pension Fund.

In  Rabinek v. United Bhd. Of Carpenters Pension Fund, No. 15-1717 (7th Cir. 2016), the situation was as follows. William Rabinak had worked full-time as a business representative for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. By virtue of his position, he also served on the Council’s Executive Board. Rabinak received quarterly payments of $2,500 for his service on the Board. The Council made these quarterly payments in checks separate from those for Rabinak’s weekly salary.

When he retired, Rabinak qualified for a pension benefit from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Pension Fund (the “Fund”). However, when he received the calculation of his pension benefit, he thought something was off. The annual salaries listed did not appear to take into account the $2,500 quarterly payments for serving on the Executive Board. Rabinak appealed and maintained that those payments should have been taken into account in the calculation. The Fund’s appeals committee denied his appeal.

Upon reviewing the case, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) said the following. Controlled as we are by a standard of review that asks only whether the defendant’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, we affirm the denial by the Fund’s appeals committee. The Fund’s definition of compensation includes only “salary,” and the $2,500 quarterly payments for Board service were paid separately from Rabinak’s weekly salary payments and coded differently as well. The conclusion that the payments at issue were not salary payments under this particular Fund was not arbitrary and capricious.