The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 26, 2011
Court: Better pension benefits can't be retroactive

Enhanced retirement benefits can't be applied retroactively for state workers represented by the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, a state appeals court has ruled.

The decision by three justices in Sacramento's 3rd District Court involves a dispute over the terms of a 2002 contract between the union and the state Department of Personnel Administration that raised the retirement formula for about half of the union's 7,400 or so members from 2 percent at age 55 (the so-called "miscellaneous" employee formula) to the state "safety" employee pension plan that allows 2.5 percent at age 55.

The union maintained that the contract called for the safety formula's retroactive application to former miscellaneous employees' first day of service. The administration countered that the upgraded benefit should apply only for service on July 1, 2004, and later.

An arbitrator in 2008 sided with the union and a Sacramento Superior Court judge confirmed the arbitration award.

But the appellate court decision by Justices George Nicholson, Kathleen Butz and Arthur Scotland agreed with the administration's contention that the contract couldn't be retroactively enforced because the impact of that policy wasn't sufficiently analyzed:

The MOU presented to the Legislature did not contain language that the change to safety member status would apply retroactively to convert prior miscellaneous member status to safety member status; (the legislation) was "silent" as to whether the benefit would apply retroactively to prior service; and the Legislature was not provided with a fiscal analysis of retroactive application of the agreement.

Union spokesman Kasey Clark said that CSLEA hasn't decided whether to appeal the 7-year-old case. Last month the union thought it had a contract that included pension and pay concessions, only to see it yanked off the table by the Schwarzenegger administration at the last minute.

"We understand this isn't a good time for courts to be reviewing pension enhancement cases," Clark said this afternoon. "Obviously, a contract like this wouldn't be negotiated right now."

Here's the court's decision, which was published today:

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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