More than six years after a trucking company stopped paying for employee benefits, a federal judge has awarded $743,243 to the employees’ union trust funds.
WJL Equities Corp., Eastchester, and company president Danielle Buenaventura had agreed in 2013 to pay $400,292 to Teamsters Union Local 282 employee benefits plans for unpaid contributions going back to 2011.
A year later, the company stopped making payments. Union trustees sued in 2015 to enforce the agreement and collect the payments.
Now, under rulings by federal judge Nelson S. Roman, WJL must pay $600,373 and Buenaventura must pay $743,243, including delinquent payments, interest and damages, for breaching the 2013 deal.
WJL is a trucking and hauling company formed by Buenaventura in 1997, with offices in Eastchester and operations in the Bronx. Under a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters, the company was required to contribute to union funds for employee pensions, welfare, annuities, job training, and vacation and sick leave.
WJL began to miss payments in November 2011 and, by mid-2013, owed $458,176. The union trustees settled for $400,292, to be paid over 34 months. Buenaventura personally guaranteed to pay the full $458,176 if WJL defaulted on its payments.
WJL paid $155,519, according to the trustees’ complaint, then stopped paying in 2014. The trustees claimed that WJL had shifted assets to new companies to avoid its obligations.
William Loughheed, New Rochelle, formed CNB Contracting Corp., Pleasantville, about a month before payments stopped. Buenaventura, also of New Rochelle, formed WJL Construction Corp. in December 2015.
WJL Equities and the new companies share common management and ownership, the trustees’ complaint states. They conduct the same business, operate out of the same Bronx location, use the same employees and share trucks and equipment. The new companies did not contribute to the trust funds.
“WJL Equities, WJL Construction and CNB have operated in such a manner,” the trustees’ attorney, Jonathan M. Bardavid, White Plains, argued, “that they constitute a single employer.”
Judge Roman’s June 12 opinion does not address the relationship between the three companies. He granted summary judgment on July 3 for the trust funds and against WJL Equities and Buenaventura.
WJL Equities agreed to make payments, he ruled, and the terms of the 2013 settlement were “clear and unambiguous.” The ruling added, “As guarantor, Buenaventura personally obligated herself to repay all monies originally due and owing, should WJL default in its payment obligations.”
Payments made by WJL or Buenaventura shall also be credited to each other, so the union stands to collect a total of $743,243.