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Employer Required To Pay Retiree’s Medicare Supplement Premium

James Gallagher was employed as a police officer by the Town of Fairfield, Connecticut until October 9, 1986. On that date, the Fairfield Police and Fire Retirement Board approved his request for disability retirement benefits. Gallagher’s disability retirement at age 35 was the result of a serious injury he sustained during the course of his employment. On the date of his retirement, Gallagher was a member of the Fairfield…

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Officer Loses Pension On Conviction For Fraud

Joseph Deignan was a police officer with the Town of Watertown, Massachusetts. Under a Massachusetts statute, members of the state retirement system lose their pensions “after final conviction of a criminal offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position.” Under a series of cases, Massachusetts courts have ruled that for pension forfeiture to occur, there must be a direct link between the criminal offense and…

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DROP Benefits Can Be Prospectively Reduced

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System (DROP) provides comprehensive retirement, death, and disability benefits for some 9,300 Dallas police officers, firefighters, pensioners, and qualified survivors. Officers and firefighters automatically become System members when they enter the training academy. While in active service, they and the City of Dallas contribute to their accounts. A member reaching retirement age can leave active service and begin drawing a monthly annuity based…

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California Supreme Court Ducks (For Now) Major Retirement Question But Allows End To ‘Air Time’

Employers and unions across California had been waiting anxiously for the California Supreme Court’s decision in a case involving Cal Fire Local 2881 of the IAFF. The Court was expected to address two issues – the “California Rule” and “air time.” The most important of the two issues was the continued viability of what has long been known as the California Rule. Under the California Rule, retirement benefits for…

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Not Unconstitutional To Deny Ex-Spouses Survivor Pensions

Gary and Karen Gausman were married in October 1991. After 22 years of marriage, Gary, an Erie, Pennsylvania police officer, filed for divorce from Karen. Gary and Karen subsequently entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), in which they agreed to equally share the marital portion of Gary’s pension by deferred distribution via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO. The MSA further provided that “Karen shall be entitled…

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Sergeant Forfeits Retirement Upon Conviction Of Internet Sex Crime

In 2005, Brian O’Hare, a sergeant with the Massachusetts State Police, began communicating online with an individual whom he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. O’Hare used a family computer while off duty to communicate with the “youth,” who in fact was an undercover FBI agent. In February 2006, O’Hare was arrested by the FBI after arriving at a prearranged meeting place to meet the youth for sexual purposes….

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Emergency Manager Can Unilaterally Amend Pension Formula

Michigan is one of several states with “emergency financial manager” laws. Under the Michigan statute, an emergency manager has broad powers, essentially replaces a mayor and city council, and even has the authority to invalidate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). AFSCME Local 3317 represent sergeants, lieutenants, and captains in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. AFSCME was party to a collective bargaining agreement with Wayne County that was set to expire…

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Emergency Manager Can Alter Retiree Medical Benefits

Michigan is one of a few states with an “Emergency Financial Manager” law. Under the law, known as the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act, when the finances of a Michigan municipality or public school system are in jeopardy, the governor has the ability to appoint an emergency manager. A Michigan emergency manager has sweeping authority, and assumes many of the powers historically thought reserved for city councils, mayors,…

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Employer Must Bargain Before Changing Past Practice Of Reimbursing For Medicare B Premiums

The Albany Police Officer’s Union represents police officers and some other employees working for the City of Albany, New York. Since the late 1980s, the City consistently reimbursed the Union’s active members for their Medicare Part B monthly premiums upon their retirement. In October 2008, the City sent a notice to all retirees of various changes to the City’s offered health plans. With regard to Medicare Part B reimbursements,…

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Longevity/Performance Pay Need Not Be Included In California Retirement Calculations

The Memorandum of Understanding between the County of Monterey, California and the Monterey County Deputy Sheriffs Association includes a longevity performance stipend that employees who achieved 20 years of service and a satisfactory or outstanding performance evaluation could receive an additional stipend of up to eight percent. CalPERS provides pension fund retirement services for employees of the County and the Sheriff’s Department. The County has never reported the longevity…

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Dallas DROP Plan Not Constitutionally Protected

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System provides comprehensive retirement, death, and disability benefits for approximately 9,300 Dallas police officers, firefighters, pensioners, and beneficiaries. Individuals automatically become members of the Pension System upon commencing training at a Dallas police or firefighter academy. Upon retirement, a member of the Pension System becomes a “pensioner,” which is defined in the Pension Plan as “a former member of the pension system who…

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Houston Required To Comply With Firefighters’ Retirement Plan

The pensions for retired Houston, Texas firefighters are administered by the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund. The Fund was created by a Texas statute, and is administered by a board of trustees. The role of the Board is to receive, manage, and disburse the Fund, hear and determine applications for benefits. The Act also prescribes standards regarding eligibility for retirement, disability, and death benefits and the amount of…

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Baltimore County Required To Pay $1.6 Million To Retirees For Health Benefits

In accordance with its charter, Baltimore County engages in collective bargaining with the exclusive representatives of various categories of its employees. Among those categories of employees are police officers below a certain rank, who are represented by Lodge 4 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The negotiations result in an agreement that is called a “memorandum of understanding.” Under the County Charter, disputes with the representatives of certain…

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Retired Corrections Officers Gain Right To Carry Concealed Weapons

Four retired corrections officers sued the District of Columbia, alleging the District deprived them of their federal right under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) to carry a concealed weapon. The LEOSA creates that right, notwithstanding contrary state or local law, for active and retired “qualified law enforcement officers” who meet certain requirements. Those requirements include that the officer receive firearms training within the twelve months prior to…

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Court Changes California’s Law On Pension Reductions

In an immediately controversial decision, the California Court of Appeals has upheld measures taken by the Marin County retirement board to reduce the pension benefits of existing employees. Because the Court’s decision appears to fundamentally alter constitutional protections given pensions, it seems likely that the impacted employees will petition the California Supreme Court to weigh in. For years, the County’s pension board has included standby pay, administrative response pay,…

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Detective Not Required To Have Surgery

Patrizia Prew, who held the rank of detective after more than 15 years of service in the Providence Police Department, injured her right hand and wrist as she attempted to detain a juvenile following a disturbance outside his school. Thereafter, her status was “injured on duty,” and her doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic carpal tunnel syndrome. Her physician recommended surgery, but, due to a fear of surgical complications, Prew…

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Wording Of Retiree Medical Benefits Clause May Be Critical

Litigation over the level of retiree medical benefits granted by a variety of labor contracts illustrates the care that needs to be taken with the crafting of contract language governing post-retirement medical insurance. The litigation involved the City of Sea Isle, New Jersey, which had labor agreements with an FOP lodge (covering rank-and-file officers), a PBA local (covering supervisors), and the Communications Workers of America (covering other City employees)….

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New Jersey Allowed To Freeze Pension COLAs

For many years, public sector retirees in New Jersey received cost of living adjustments to their pensions. The COLAs were thought to be protected by a New Jersey statute making pension benefits non-forfeitable. As part of Governor Chris Christie’s pension reform efforts, the New Jersey Legislature in 2011 suspended future COLAs, freezing the cost-of-living adjustment at the 2011 level for current and future qualifying retirees. A group of retirees…

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Arbitrator Can Consider Unfunded Pension Obligation In Deciding Sick Leave Issue

Local 49 of the International Association of Fire Fighters represents firefighters working for the City of Bloomington, Illinois. Since 1992, the parties’ various collective bargaining agreements included a sick leave “buy-back” provision, pursuant to which the City would compensate retiring firefighters for unused sick leave time. The 2009 to 2012 contract allowed Union members to receive payment from the City for 100% of their unused sick leave, up to…

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No Retirement Credit During Unpaid Suspension

Sean Weaver, a liquor control officer for the Pennsylvania State Police, was a member of Pennsylvania’s State Employees’ Retirement System. Weaver was terminated in November 1997 based on bad conduct at a licensed facility while off duty. He filed a grievance that proceeded to arbitration. After a hearing, an arbitrator issued an award in 2001 sustaining the grievance in part, and denying it in part. His discharge was modified…

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Union Stipend Included In Pension Calculations

Bruce Edwards, Joseph Sarkis, and Joseph Kovel were all Pennsylvania state troopers and members of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association. In 2008, an arbitration decision produced a new union leave clause in the Association’s contract with the State. The clause reads: “Upon written request by PSTA, Union officers shall be released from duty. Union officers released from duty pursuant to State law shall be paid by the Commonwealth at…

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Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Pension Reform Legislation

The State of Illinois has five public employee retirement systems, all of which provide traditional defined benefit plans under which members earn specific benefits based on their years of service, income and age. All of the pension plans are subject to the pension protection clause of the Illinois state constitution, which provides: “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school…

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Pension COLA Changes Cannot Be Applied To Prior Service

In 2013, Oregon’s Legislature, facing rapidly escalating costs for the Public Employees Retirement System, enacted two bills aimed at reducing those costs. The most important of the changes brought about by the legislation dealt with a cost of living increase to pensions. COLA adjustments first became law in Oregon in 1971, and required adjustments to pensions based on changes in the Portland Consumer Price Index. The 2013 bills converted…

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California Court Strikes Down Most Pension Reductions

Since 1996, retired employees of the City and County of San Francisco have been eligible to receive a supplemental cost of living allowance (COLA) as part of their pension benefits when the retirement fund’s earnings from the previous year exceeded projected earnings. On November 8, 2011, City voters passed Proposition C, an initiative measure that, among other things, amended the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco…

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California Court Strikes Down Most Pension Reductions

Since 1996, retired employees of the City and County of San Francisco have been eligible to receive a supplemental cost of living allowance (COLA) as part of their pension benefits when the retirement fund’s earnings from the previous year exceeded projected earnings. On November 8, 2011, City voters passed Proposition C, an initiative measure that, among other things, amended the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco…

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