Continental Airlines alleged that nine pilots and their spouses obtained “sham” divorces for the purpose of withdrawing pension funds early. Today, US District Judge Gray H. Miller rejected Continental’s argument that it was required to sue the pilots and the families to protect pension fund assets, finding that “the very people for whom the funds are safeguarded are the people who have withdrawn the funds.”

Attorneys Steven J. Mitby and Joseph Y. Ahmad of Ahmad Zavitsanos & Anaipakos, P.C., in Houston, represent five of the nine pilots Continental sued.
Mr. Mitby stated, “The court’s decision is a complete victory for the pilots and their families. The judge rightly held that ERISA, the federal statute governing pensions, does not authorize corporate human resources departments to second-guess the validity of a lawful family court divorce judgments.”

In addition to seeking reinstatement and back pay to which they are entitled, the pilots have countersued for allegedly illegal invasions of privacy by Continental administrators, including humiliating and intrusive questioning about their domestic arrangements, medical conditions, intimate relationships, and financial circumstances.

Mr. Ahmad stated, “Because Continental terminated the pilots based on false accusations and without justification, we have filed counterclaims for wrongful termination on behalf of our clients against Continental. These claims are unaffected by today’s ruling and the pilots and their families intend to pursue these claims vigorously.”