Corrections officers working for Suffolk County, Massachusetts are eligible to receive holiday pay, a fitness bonus, a uniform allowance, longevity pay, and an educational differential in addition to their normal salary. When Robert O’Brien suffered disabling injuries in the course of his employment, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts had to decide which of these payments were properly included in the pension contribution.
Owing largely to a string of earlier decisions, the Court easily found that holiday pay and the fitness bonus did not qualify as “regular compensation” upon which pension calculations could be based. The Court did believe, though, that the educational differential and longevity pay could qualify as “regular compensation.” The chief issue in the case was whether the uniform allowance should be included in the pension calculations.
The Court found that the uniform allowance should not be included in an employee’s pension, reasoning that “the retiree’s uniform allowance does not amount to ‘recurring payments for an employee services.’ The uniform allowance is not a form of payment, or other compensation, for the services rendered by the employee; rather, it is a benefit offered by the public employer as a matter of convenience so that its employees will be attired in standard and identifiable clothing on the job, especially in light of the potentially dangerous setting in which the employees work. The uniform is a tool required to be used by employees in the Sheriff’s Office.”
O’Brien v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, 2010 WL 537098 (Mass. App. Ct. 2010).
This article appears in the May 2010 issue