JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Some former Singing River Health System employees involved in a class action lawsuit against the hospital over their underfunded retirement plan are speaking to WLOX for the first time about why they made the decision.
The suit was filed earlier this month. There are 11 counts against the health system, including Fraud and Breach of Contract.
Susan Creel, Regina Cobb and Phyllis Denmark are all former employees of Singing River Health System. They are frustrated and fearful over the failed pension plan they counted on for retirement.
"I had talked with several people when I separated from Singing River and they assured me that our retirement was in good standing," said Creel.
"I had a lady who came in to where I was working for the HR team and I asked her, was my retirement safe? She said, 'Oh yes, leave it there,'" Cobb said.
The plan is now underfunded by more than $100 million because while the employees were putting in their share, the health system stopped paying into it after 2009. So, the women have filed a class-action lawsuit against the health system and its trustees. Dustin Thomas is one of the attorneys.
"We are accusing them of fraud and that is what it is. Sometimes you have to wake up in the morning and say, 'I did it and now I have to fix it.' That is the position I hope they find themselves in now. It didn't appear they would do that, so we decided to do everything to we could to make them," said Thomas.
The women said the lawsuit was the right thing to do, especially after dedicating so much time to their jobs only to be disappointed.
"We were robbed by the system," Denmark said.
"I worked at Singing River in good times and bad. When they didn't have money to pay the staff, and they asked us to take time off without pay," said Creel.
The former employees said they know the pension battle won't be an easy fight, but feel they're standing up for the dozens of retirees and employees who are now living in financial fear.
"We can't stand back and wait anymore," Cobb.
"There are lots of our retirees who are not able to work anymore. It is not going to happen for them and they cannot recoup what has happened. Somebody, somewhere did a huge injustice to all of us."
A court decree is currently in place guaranteeing retirees' pension checks for the next two months. As part of the stay order, Singing River Health System cannot dissolve the pension, and the health system is prohibited from destroying any retirement fund related documents.