The WPPA Wins Case Involving Retiree Health Insurance Benefits

After an extensive briefing schedule and oral arguments, the WPPA is pleased to announce that it recently received a favorable decision for a member in West Bend regarding retiree health insurance benefits.

The grievant, Detective Randy Kessler, was employed by the City of West Bend in its Police Department. Detective Kessler left the Department on September 23, 2005 because of a duty-related injury, which qualified him for duty-disability insurance under Wis. Stats. § 40.65. Duty-disability benefits under Wis. Stats. § 40.65 does not provide health insurance benefits.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, bargaining unit retirees who meet certain conditions qualify for retiree health insurance benefits. One such contractual condition qualifying for such retiree health insurance benefits is: at least fifty (50) years of age; accrual of at least 1500 hours of sick time at some time during employment with the City; and at least twenty (20) years of service with the Department at the time of retirement. It was stipulated that Detective Kessler met these conditions.

The City denied the grievant benefits provided under the CBA asserting that the grievant is not a “retiree” because the on-duty injuries that caused the grievant’s separation from employment also qualified him for duty-disability benefits under Wis. Stats. § 40.65, thus, the City claimed, making the grievant ineligible for contractual retiree health benefits. The City admited that had Detective Kessler incurred the exact same injury and left employment under the exact same circumstances, but not received duty-disability benefits under Wis. Stats. § 40.65, he would have been eligible to receive benefits provided for under the CBA.

The matter was arbitrated before Stanley Michelstetter. Michelstetter ‘s award agreed with the position of the WPPA and Detective Kessler. Subsequently, the City of West Bend moved to vacate the award under Wisconsin Statute in Circuit Court. Briefs and oral arguments were made before Judge Tom R. Wolfgram. Judge Wolfgram denied the City’s motion to Vacate and the City had indicated that it will not appeal. Consequently, Detective Kessler’s is eligible for retiree health benefits.

Anyone interested in additional information is welcome to contact WPPA executive director Jim Palmer, either by e-mail at palmer@wppa.com, or by telephone at 800.362.8838.

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