Vol. 21 No. 4- Pers Retired Annuitants: Interim Positions V. Extra Help

PERS RETIRED ANNUITANTS: Interim Positions v. Extra Help
February 14, 2006

Questions have arisen regarding the manner and duration in which retired annuitants from the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) can work for PERS agencies after retirements. It is important to note that the PERS system does not permit an individual who has retired to be employed thereafter by a PERS agency.

Government Code § 21220(a) states that, “A person who has been retired under this system, for service or for disability, may not be employed in any capacity thereafter by the State, the University, a school employer, or a contracting agency, . . . unless he or she has first been reinstated from retirement pursuant to this chapter, or unless the employment, without reinstatement is authorized by this article.” (Emphasis added)

Government Code § 21221 sets forth the manner in which employment may be secured without any penalties. Specifically § 21221(h) states that, “Upon appointment by the governing body of a contracting agency to a position deemed by the

governing body to be of a limited duration and requiring specialized skills or during an emergency to prevent stoppage of public business,” a retired person can serve without reinstatement from retirement or without loss or interruption of benefits. Section 21221(h) limits the temporary employment to a maximum of 960 hours in a fiscal year. A one time extension of the employment may be requested by the governing body and can be for a duration no longer than an additional 960 hours in another fiscal year. Generally, these appointments are used for “interim” high level positions pending recruitment of a permanent appointment to fill the vacancy.

An example of an appointment under Government Code § 21221(h) would involve a retired chief of police continuing to work as the interim chief pending recruitment efforts by the City to fill thevacant chief’s position. The retired police chief can serve in that capacity for no more than a 960 hour period during the fiscal year and, upon request by the governing body and approval by PERS, can have an additional 960 hour extension granted until the position is filled. During this time, the person filling the interim high level position can be compensated at whatever rate is agreed upon between the retired annuitant and the governing body, regardless of what the permanent employee will ultimately receive.

Government Code § 21224 permits the temporary employment of a retired member of PERS either during an emergency in order to prevent stoppage of the public’s business or because the retired employee has skills needed in performing work for that agency. The temporary employment is limited to a maximum of 960 hours in any fiscal year, and the rate of pay must be comparable to that paid to another employee doing similar duties. These appointments are not “interim” positions filling a vacancy, but rather are considered to be “temporary extra help.” These individuals are employed in addition to others performing similar tasks. Unlike the interim appointee, who can only fill that vacancy for one 960 hour period, plus one 960 hour extension, the extra help appointment can be renewed annually.

The State or public agency may temporarily appoint the retired member for 960 hours in any fiscal year, as long as the retired member does not collect unemployment insurance compensation for the period of time when he or she is not being employed by the PERS agency.

It is imperative that these “extra help” appointments be classified as “temporary” and not be classified as “permanent part time employees.” If the individual’s classification is permanent part time employee, then he or she will not be considered complying with the PERS requirements as set forth in the Government Code, and will potentially face reinstatement from retirement or loss or interruption of benefits. Examples of the extra help appointments could be a retired deputy sheriff who works no more than 960 hours in a fiscal year as a correctional officer, or a retired police officer who works as temporary extra help as a front desk officer, or a retired law enforcement officer who works as temporary extra help to conduct background investigations. In each of those cases, the position is not considered a high level position, is not filling a vacancy, but is extra, additional, temporary staffing.

As always, we urge that before you proceed you confer with, and receive guidance from, your department’s legal adviser. If you wish to discuss this matter in greater detail, please feel free to contact me by telephone at 714-446-1400 or by e-mail at mjm@jones-mayer.com.