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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Mixed Bag On Disclosure Of Retiree Home Addresses

Kenneth Fultz submitted a request to the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System for the names and home addresses of retired law enforcement officers or judges, the names and addresses of individuals residing with the retirees, and the names and addresses of the beneficiaries of non-law enforcement retirees who were over the age of 60. In addition, Fultz specifically asked for the first names of law enforcement retirees. The System…

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Retroactive Application Of California’s New Pension Limitations

Responding to problems with underfunding of pension systems, the California Legislature passed the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act. The Act, which was effective January 1, 2013, limited the defined benefit formulas available to new members of public safety retirement plans. There are various options available under the Act, but the maximum benefit possible is 2.0% at age 50, 2.5% at age 55, and 2.7% at age 57. The…

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In Absence Of Binding Promise, No Protection For Post-Retirement Insurance

In December 1974, the Douglas County, Nebraska Board of Commissioners passed a resolution which allowed employees of the County who retired between the ages of 55 and 65 to participate in the County’s health insurance plan until attaining age 65. The resolution did not specify the amount of premiums to be charged annually or promise that the amount would be the same as that charged to active employees. Since…

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No Constitutional Ban On Raising Pension Contributions For Firefighters

Since 1939, the City of Gadsden, Alabama has provided its firefighters with a pension program as part of their compensation. Firefighters initially belonged to a local program, the Policemen’s and Firemen’s Retirement Fund (PFRF). In 2002, concerns about the PFRF’s solvency led Gadsden to negotiate a new arrangement with these employees: the City, it was agreed, would terminate the local fund and move all of its assets, liabilities, and…

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Legally Separated Spouse Entitled To Insurance Benefits

Gregory Malisos retired in 2008 after a 24-year career as a police officer with the Town of Windham, New Hampshire. When he retired, Malisos continued his and his wife’s health insurance coverage through the Town’s participation in the Local Government Center’s Health Trust insurance plan. As part of his retirement, Malisos’s “spouse” was entitled to the medical subsidy “until death or remarriage.” A year after he retired, Malisos and…

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Required Retirement Contributions After Contract Expiration Do Not Violate ‘Contracts Clause’

In 2010, at the suggestion of newly-elected Governor Chris Christie, the New Jersey Legislature enacted a number of reductions to the retirement benefits provided firefighters and law enforcement officers. One of the changes altered the definition of “final compensation” used in calculating retirement benefits for persons who became members of the Police and Fireman’s Retirement System after the law’s effective date. Instead of defining “final compensation” for such new…

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Detroit Pensions Not Protected By Constitution In Bankruptcy

The fallout from the economic collapse in late 2007 continues. The recent filing by the City of Detroit for bankruptcy protection is the largest public sector bankruptcy petition ever filed. Looming in the background was Michigan’s Public Law 436, which granted the City consent to seek bankruptcy protection from pension obligations. At risk were the pensions of every City employee and retiree. Detroit estimated its debt to be $18…

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No Violation To Freeze Pension When Retired Firefighter Elected To City Council

John Loscombe retired from the Scranton, Pennsylvania Fire Department in May 2011, and began receiving a pension check. Later, Loscombe was first appointed and then elected to the Scranton City Council. The City suspended Loscombe’s pension payments on the basis of a City Code provision providing that “when any fireman is pensioned and thereafter enters the service of the City in any capacity with compensation the pension of such…

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How The ‘World Trade Center Presumption’ Works

In the wake of the World Trade Center disaster, the City of New York amended its administrative code to create what is known as the “WTC presumption.” Under the Code, there is a presumption that “any condition or impairment of health caused by a qualifying WTC condition shall be presumptive evidence that it was incurred in the performance and discharge of duty and the natural and proximate result of…

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