Government / Politics

San Benito County ordered to give retired employees 100% paid health insurance

Court rules employees established an ‘implied contract.’ County will decide whether to proceed with an appeal on Feb. 23.

Editor’s Note: Retired county employees Mandy Rose and Margie Riopel reached out to BenitoLink about the recent ruling in their lawsuit against San Benito County. A public letter about the lawsuit written by Rose and Riopel can be read here.

After a years-long legal battle, San Benito County has been ordered to provide 100% medical benefits to two retired employees. The county filed a notice of appeal in December. 

San Benito County Public Information Officer David Westrick told BenitoLink the Board of Supervisors will make a decision whether to proceed with the appeal at a Feb. 23 meeting. He also said the county has spent $530,564.18 on three contracts worth $669,500, which supervisors approved for outside legal services in this case. 

According to court records, Judge Robert O’Farrell ruled in favor of Normandy Rose and Margie Riopel, who sued the county in 2017, because they “entered into an implied contract wherein respondent agreed to provide petitioners with a vested right to receive the same health insurance premium contributions as respondent provides its active, unrepresented employees.”

The court ruled that the county must reimburse Rose $1,845 and Riopel $6,061 for premiums they have paid through last November.

Rose worked for the county as the director of Integrated Waste Management between 1999 and 2015. Riopel served in various positions between 1986 and 2012.

While the trial was held last February, a judgment was given in September and amended in December. 

Last February, about a dozen retired employees submitted a petition to the San Benito County Board of Supervisors demanding full healthcare coverage. Over 70 retired employees signed the petition and asked the county to reimburse all out-of-pocket costs accrued since 2015, when the county stopped paying 100% of the benefits. 

At a Feb. 18, 2020 supervisors meeting, retired employee Katherine Shaw argued that no retiree who was hired before 2010 should have to pay for health care. 

Other related BenitoLink articles:

San Benito County faces lawsuits on Highway nodes, retiree health plans

Retired employees submit petition to supervisors demanding full health coverage

Supervisors approve $150k to hire law firm to fight lawsuit by two retired employees


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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.