Understanding Public Employee Retirement Issues for California’s Public Employers

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Public sector pensions are increasingly in the spotlight. News stories, magazine articles, court cases, and even ballot initiatives, all discussing the state of public sector pensions – Are they too lucrative? Are they sustainable? Are defined benefits a good idea? All questions that are being debated in the court of public opinion, especially as public agencies struggle with increasing deficits and decreasing revenues. How to address these increasing costs can be a workbook in and itself. However, before an agency can look at making changes to benefits, it needs to understand the dynamics of a pension system and some of the unique legal issues involving pension benefits.

This workbook discusses the basics of participating in pension plans administered by the California Public Employees' Retirement System ("PERS" or "CalPERS") and pension systems established under the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 ("CERL" or "'37 Act"). Included are discussions on who can participate in these pension plans, how benefits are calculated, disability retirements, and terminating pension benefits.

Although this workbook discusses some of the most common issues that come up when discussing pension issues, it is not intended as a comprehensive treatise in this area. Given the complex nature of pension laws and the unique nature of individual benefits and systems, agencies should consult with legal counsel before making any changes to benefits or benefit-administration.

Topics Include:

  • Membership
    • CalPERS Membership
    • ’37 Act System Membership
    • Types of Membership
  • Determining Pension Benefits
    • Retirement Formulas
    • Final Compensation
    • Service Credit
    • Reciprocity
    • Optional Benefits
    • Restrictions On Out-Of-Class Appointments For CalPERS Contracting Agencies
  • Contributions To Pension Plans
    • Contributions For CalPERS Members And Employers
    • Contributions for ’37 Act Members and Employers
    • Supplemental Retirement Plans
  • Service Retirement
    • Minimum Requirements
    • Mandatory Retirement
  • Disability Retirement
    • Eligibility
    • Does the Member Qualify?
    • Applying for Disability
    • A Word on Labor Code Section 4850 and Industrial Disability Retirement of Safety Members
    • After the Application is Accepted or Denied
    • Procedures for Handling Local Safety Disability Retirement Applications: A Primer for CalPERS Agencies
    • Involuntary Disability Retirement
    • Involuntary Discontinuance of Disability Retirement Benefits
  • Employment After Retirement
    • Reduced Worktime for Partial Service Retirement – CalPERS Local Agencies
    • Reinstatement After Retirement
    • Employment Without Reinstatement
  • Early Retirement Incentives
    • ADEA and FEHA Compliant Incentives
    • Preparing Enforceable ADEA Waivers in Connection with an Early Retirement Incentive
    • “Golden Handshake” for CalPERS Agencies
    • “Golden Handshake” for ’37 Act Employers
  • Modification of Pensions and Other Retirement Benefits
    • General Principles of Vesting
    • Caps And Limits On Post-Employment Benefits
    • Terminating Pensions with CalPERS or CERL
  • Retiree Medical And Other Post-Employment Benefits
    • General Principles of Retiree Medical Benefits
    • PEMHCA Participants
    • Accounting For OPEBs & Pre-Funding

This document is provided as a benefit to Liebert Library subscribers and cannot be shared outside of their organization. The information contained within is a template only and is not designed to address the specific and unique issues, internal rules, practices, and/or governing documents that might be in place at your organization. You should always consult with legal counsel prior to implementation of any documents.

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