Categories:  Faculty, Staff, University

Workers may have option to ‘unretire’ after court delays pension law

Dollar symbolsUniversity employees now have more time to weigh their retirement options after a judge last week halted implementation of the state’s new pension law.

Sangamon County judge John Belz on May 14 postponed the scheduled June 1 effective date for the pension law until courts can hear constitutional challenges.

Employees who filed retirement paperwork because of the pension law may have the option to rescind their retirement.

“The ruling preserves the current pension system as we know it, and provides some assurance for employees who were considering retirement before June 30, 2014, to avoid losing benefits they had already earned,” University President Robert Easter wrote in a campus email.

“I hope that faculty and staff who were weighing retirement will now decide to stay on and share their talents to benefit the university, our students and our state.”

Employees who signed retirement paperwork but have changed their mind should first talk to their supervisor. If their department approves the change in plans, employees should then contact the State Universities Retirement System, said Maureen Parks, associate vice president for human resources.

Employees who have retired or are retiring this month must submit a signed letter to SURS stating their intent to rescind their retirement by July 1. June retirees must submit a letter by Aug. 1.

“Some people were probably retiring because they were concerned about the pension changes and how it was going to affect them personally,” Parks said. “And if they want to unretire, they will want to follow the SURS steps.”

If employees have already received annuities, they must either repay the amount or suspend it, depending on how long they’ve been retired, Parks said. Employees should contact SURS at 800-275-7877 to discuss their options.

The new pension law prompted some employees to consider retiring earlier than they had planned, said Brenda Russell, president of the UIC State Universities Annuitants Association chapter. The law would reduce cost-of-living adjustments, increases the retirement age for some employees and cap pensionable earnings.

“It’s just as if the law didn’t happen, for now,” Russell said. “This was an avoidable catastrophe. People have been put through six months of agony, and that didn’t need to happen.”

About 1,400 SURS members across the state filed applications to retire in May or June — double the number of retirements from last May and June. More than 400 employees at all three U of I campuses notified SURS of their intent to retire in May or June.

“Even if at some point next year the law is implemented, it can’t be retroactive to June 1,” Russell said. “If employees are better off working, they should stay working.”

• Editor’s Note: An SUAA briefing from May 15 tells SURS members that the judicial stay means the law could not be retroactive. It reads: “The Sangamon County Court entered an injunction staying PA 98-599 until further order of Court. That stay will ultimately mean that the Act cannot retroactively change your pension rights so long as you retire during the stay. Let us also be clear that the stay might never be lifted. This stay was the result of motions filed by SUAA and the We Are One Illinois Coalition.”