43 F.3d 941 (4th Cir. 1995)
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Angie Bell-Smith; Bobbie Sanders; Inez Griffin,
DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
January 12, 1995
Argued Nov. 1, 1994.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
ARGUED: John Bowman McLeod, William David Conner, Haynsworth, Marion, McKay & Guerard, Greenville, SC, for appellants. C. David Vaughan, Vaughan & Murphy, Atlanta, GA, for appellee. ON BRIEF: L. Grey Geddie, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Greenville, SC, for appellee.
Before HALL and MICHAEL, Circuit Judges, and PHILLIPS, Senior Circuit Judge.
Affirmed by published opinion. Judge MICHAEL wrote the opinion, in which Judge HALL and Senior Judge PHILLIPS joined.
MICHAEL, Circuit Judge:
This is a case brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 1001 et seq., against Digital Equipment Corporation (Digital) by a large group of its former employees who seek severance pay under Digital's 1991 Severance Pay and Benefits Plan (Plan). In 1992 Digital sold the plant where the employees worked, but the plant's operations were not disrupted by the sale. The employees either retained their same jobs or received severance pay from the buyer which was reimbursed by Digital under the purchase agreement.
The Plan's purpose is to provide severance pay to Digital employees who are terminated in workforce reductions undertaken by Digital. The former Digital employees here argued that they were eligible for benefits under a clause in the Plan which says an "employee of Digital shall be eligible to become a Participant in the Plan if his or her employment with Digital is terminated ... as a result of the closing of a Digital plant...."
Digital's U.S. Employee Benefits Claim Appeal Committee (Committee) denied benefits, and the district court upheld that decision. The central issue is whether the Committee abused its discretion in concluding that, under the facts of this case, there was no "closing" of a Digital plant. Finding no error, we affirm.
Digital is an international supplier of networked computer systems, software, and services. In 1988 Digital had approximately 125,000 employees worldwide and, as of that year, had never laid off a single employee. Beginning in 1989, however, bad economic times forced Digital to reduce its workforce, both here and abroad. In connection with its downsizing efforts, Digital adopted the Plan in 1991.
The Plan, which is self-administered, was established "to provide severance pay and other benefits to certain employees described in...