BENEFITS: Too Slick with The Pink Slips

BENEFITS: Too Slick with The Pink Slips

The strategy was crafty but cruel. When Continental Can was trying to cut costs in its plants during the late 1970s, the company employed a secret computer program called BELL, a reverse acronym for Let's Limit Employee Benefits. Managers used the program to target and lay off employees just weeks or months before they were vested in the company pension plan. In that way, the company aimed to avoid millions of dollars in pension payments.

It was a costly mistake. The United Steel Workers of America filed a class- action suit in 1982 under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Federal...

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