No Tears And No Hearts Breaking, No Remorse: Judge Throws Out Continental's Suit Against Divorced Pilots

We wrote this summer about Continental Airlines' decision to sue some of its pilots who, the company thought, had undergone bogus divorces in order to get some pension benefits.

The pilots were still in love, the airline essentially argued, and therefore shouldn't be getting the early pensions that come with divorce (and what kind of anti-marriage stance is that, Continental?)

A federal judge here ruled against the airline today, saying that no one knows what is in another's heart. Or something like that.

Steven Mitby, one of the Houston lawyers representing some of the pilots, was pleased.

"The Court's decision is a complete victory for the pilots and their families," he said. "The judge rightly held that ERISA, the federal statute governing pensions, does not authorize corporate human resources departments to second-guess the validity of lawful family court divorce judgments."

We've got a call in to Continental for their reaction to the ruling; the airline did tell the AP "This ruling did not address the propriety of Continental's termination of the pilots' employment. Continental and the plan administrative committee still believe that the domestic relations orders were improper and to the detriment of plan beneficiaries as a whole."

And here's the full statement from the airline:

While we are disappointed by this ruling based on a technical reading of the ERISA statute, we are heartened the court recognized that the facts show--and the pilots do not seem to contest--the pilots and their former spouses did not behave in a manner consistent with the breakup of a marriage. This ruling did not address the propriety of Continental's termination of the pilots' employment. Continental and the plan administrative committee still believe that the domestic relations orders were improper and to the detriment of plan beneficiaries as a whole. Continental is evaluating its appeal options.


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