In Carr v. Anheuser Busch Co., No. 12–1224, 2012 WL 6685323 (8th Cir. Dec. 21, 2012), the Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment dismissing an ERISA Section 502(a)(1)(B) claim for severance benefits, finding that the plaintiff was terminated for misconduct, thereby disqualifying him from receiving benefits under the terms of the plan. Plaintiff was terminated for attempting to take audio equipment from his office building. Although plaintiff was confronted by a security guard after unscrewing stereo speakers from an office wall, he claimed that he was merely moving them from one office to another—not taking them from the building. Following termination, the plan administrator denied plaintiff’s claim for severance benefits because of his “willful misconduct.” The plan contained Firestone language bestowing discretionary authority on the plan administrator, and the court reviewed the benefit denial under the arbitrary and capricious standard of review. In doing so, the court rejected plaintiff’s claims of procedural irregularities during the administrative exhaustion process. Although the court found that the district court erred in considering an after-the-fact affidavit from the plan administrator explaining its decision because this material was outside the administrative record, the evidence in the administrative record regarding plaintiff’s violation of company policy was found sufficient to conclude that the benefit denial was reasonable under terms of the plan.
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