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updated: 5/30/2014 7:54 AM

United agrees to $6.15M settlement with pilots

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Associated Press

Chicago-based United Airlines is paying $6.15 million to settle a lawsuit by pilots who claimed that the airline underpaid for contributions to their pension accounts while they were on military leave.

The settlement covers 1,160 pilots who took military leave between 2000 and 2010. A federal judge in Denver approved the agreement this month.

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James Tuten, who is still a United pilot, filed the lawsuit in June 2012 and accused the airline of violating a 1994 law designed to protect the employment rights of reservists and others who are called to active duty.

Tuten said that United based his pension contributions on pay for the minimum hours that he would have flown under the airline's contract with the pilots' union. He argued that the payments should have been based on the higher average number of hours that he flew for United before his leave. Lawyers for Tuten and other United pilots reached a settlement with the airline last year.

United agreed to create a fund of $6.15 million and change the way that it calculates pension contributions for pilots on military leave. The pilots' law firms will get 24.7 percent of the money, or about $1.5 million, plus about $250,000 to cover expenses. Tuten will get $15,000 for representing all the affected pilots.

The lawyers estimated that each pilot would get a payment greater than the amount that United underpaid into his pension account.

U.S. district court Judge William J. Martinez said that he found the settlement to be fair.

The airline, part of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc., did not immediately return a call for comment on Thursday.

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