California Judges Sue Over Pensions

In addition to wage and hour claims that involve violations over the course of employment, former employees may have rights to recover for lost pensions.

In a recent case, a group of judges has filed a lawsuit over California’s pension system, known as Calpers, as well as the state of California for doubling contribution requirements. According to Courthouse News, the current state pay grade entitles the six California Superior Judges to more than $181,000 per year. A lawsuit filed on December 23, 2014 alleges the pension contributions should be lowered by $13,000 a year.
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Six California Superior Court Judges who were elected in 2012 claim that a new pension reform law that when into effect in 2013, raised contributions to 15 percent of their salary from 8 percent. The new law was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. According to the judges, the original 8 percent contribution agreement was set when they were elected, and the contributions cannot be adjusted. Representatives from the California Public Employees Retirement System (Calpers), have stated publicly that the lawsuit is too recent to comment on. The agency is considered America’s biggest public pension fund and manages assets upwards of $300 billion.

According to the plaintiffs, the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act was unfairly and retroactively applied to judges who were elected prior to the enactment of the law in 2013. The judges assert that the new law effectively gave judges a worse deal in violation of the state constitution as well as the new law. The new law took effect in January of 2013, after the judges had entered the Judges Retirement System II (JRSII), but the new law, enforced by the judicial council and the controller changed the terms of their membership without consent.

Effectively the law increases the judges’ salary withholdings and permitted reductions to salaries during the terms of office. The lawsuit alleges this is in violation of the state constitution. Ultimately the new law diminishes the pension benefits that each judge is allowed to collect in retirement.

This isn’t the first lawsuit involving pension funds and California judges. In January of 2014, a former California appeals court judge filed a class action on behalf of 1,600 judges in the state. According to the lawsuit, California judges are entitled to pension increases and back pay because their salaries were frozen for five years and did not rise in accordance with increases applied to all other state workers under California law. This lawsuit could result in a $97 million reduction in pension liability that had been collected from lower salaries of other employees.

Judges in the most recent lawsuit and in January’s class action have sued both the California pension system as well as John Chiang, the California state controller. According to representatives, Chiang was named in the lawsuits because his office is responsible for processing pension payments, even though the controller has no role in calculating the amount of pension payments to judges.

Public and private employees in California have the right to protect their wages and benefits. If your rights were violated by a law or private action, our Orange County employment attorneys can effectively protect your rights. We are experienced in employment disputes related ot wage and hour claims as well as other state and federal labor law violations.

Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 714-937-2020.

More Blog Entries:

California Employment Law: New new Donor Protection Act, December 7, 2013 Orange County Employment Lawyer Blog

California’s Top Employment Law Mistakes, Oct. 26, 2013, Orange County Employment Lawyer Blog