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Searls v. Sandia Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

September 25, 2014

NANCY SEARLS and CRAIG SEARLS, Plaintiffs,
v.
SANDIA CORPORATION and JANE FARRIS, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Nancy Searls, Craig Searls, Plaintiffs: Michael MacKager York, LEAD ATTORNEY, Wehner & York PC, Reston, VA.

For Sandia Corporation, Jane Farris, Defendants: Michael Angelo Tilghman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

James C. Cacheris, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Sandia Corporation (" Sandia" ) and Defendant Jane Farris' (" Farris" ) (collectively " Defendants" ) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs, Ms. Nancy Searls and Mr. Craig Searls' (collectively " Plaintiffs" ), First Amended Complaint, [Dkt. 20], and Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Jury Demand, [Dkt. 23]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss in part, and grant the Motion to Strike the Jury Demand.

I. Background[1]

This case arises from Plaintiffs' prior employment with Sandia, which first began on April 13, 1981. (Am. Compl. [Dkt. 18] ¶ ¶ 9, 10.) In October of 1997, Sandia offered Plaintiffs a Special Leave of Absence (" SLOA" ) for a period of two years, to work for the Central Intelligence Agency (" CIA" ) " as full-time employees while maintaining their connection to Sandia." (Id. ¶ 11.) Under the SLOA, Plaintiffs employment at Sandia would be inactive, but Plaintiffs would continue to earn time of service credit with Sandia for purposes of future pension benefit calculations, so long as Plaintiffs returned to Sandia after the SLOA expired. (Id. ¶ ¶ 11-12; see also id., Ex. C [Dkt. 18-3] at 2-5.)[2] Plaintiffs allege that this rare[3] pension benefit was conditioned on their return to full-time employment at Sandia, so that Sandia could benefit from " the Plaintiffs' considerable experience working as federal employees in areas critical to Sandia's operations." (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 11, 13.) After the initial SLOA period began in October of 1997, Sandia renewed the SLOA agreement with Plaintiffs three times, in October of 1999, October of 2001, and October of 2003. (Id. ¶ 15.) After eight years of SLOA full-time employment with the CIA, Plaintiffs returned to employment with Sandia on October 10, 2005. (Id. ¶ 16.)

In November of 2006, Plaintiffs retired from employment with Sandia.[4] (Id. ¶ ¶ 17, 21.) Immediately thereafter, Plaintiffs started receiving monthly pension payments from Sandia, which initially " reflected the inclusion of the Searls' federal service in their computed benefit" for the eight years of SLOA. (Id. ¶ 18.) Almost six years after the pension benefit payments began, on April 26, 2012, Plaintiffs received a letter from Defendant Jane Farris, Sandia's Senior Manager of the Pension Fund & Savings Plans, and were advised that after " a review of the pension treatment of employees who had been on SLOA," their monthly pension payments would be decreased pursuant to the " non-duplication" provision in Sandia's Retirement Income Plan (the " Plan" ). (Id. ¶ ¶ 19-21, Ex. A [Dkt. 18-1] at 2, 5.)

Sandia's pension payments to Ms. Nancy Searls were immediately decreased by 31 percent, and pension payments to Mr.

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Craig Searls would be reduced once he retired from the federal government. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 20-21.) Plaintiffs sought timely review of Sandia's decision through Sandia's internal employee benefit appeals system. (Id. ¶ 22.) On November 21, 2012, Sandia's Employment Benefit Committee (" EBC" ) denied Plaintiffs' initial appeal, (id. ¶ 23.), and on May 22, 2013, Sandia's Employee Benefits Claim Review Committee (" EBCRC" ) issued Sandia's ...


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