- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) - Former Weyerhaeuser Co. employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in hopes of regaining retirement benefits.

Four employees filed the case in federal court in Eugene, Oregon, on Wednesday, arguing that Weyerhaeuser failed to keep its promise of lifetime health care coverage for salaried employees, The Daily News of Longview reported (http://bit.ly/1OgJQic ).

“I retired in 1991 and received health care benefits for me and my wife for 24 years before it was cut off,” said Jim Kepner, one of the plaintiffs, in a statement. “It was a complete shock and betrayal of Weyerhaeuser’s commitment to me when I was hired to see what was promised as a lifetime benefit completely eliminated,”

The case would affect between 4,000 to 5,000 retirees and spouses nationwide.

The Federal Way-based forestry company has said it did not make any legally binding promises to workers. Weyerhaeuser has 21 days to file a response to the complaint.

To cut medical costs, Weyerhaeuser ended a post-Medicare health care account for all former salaried employees who retired after 1990 in January 2015. The account paid for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs, vision and dental expenses not covered by Medicare. At the time, the company estimated the change would save it $70 million over the employees’ lifetimes.

Retirees said they were told both verbally and in writing that they were told they would receive medical benefits for life, a perk that attracted them away from hourly union jobs.

“That benefit was part of the compensation package that these retirees accepted when they started their careers with Weyerhaeuser and passed on other opportunities in exchange for Weyerhaeuser’s promise of a secure retirement that included lifetime health care benefits,” said plaintiff’s attorney Michael Haglund in a statement.

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Information from: The Daily News, http://www.tdn.com

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