Unions Challenge State’s Retirement Law

     PROVIDENCE, R.I. (C.N.) – Public school teachers and other government workers who planned to retire this year say Rhode Island cheated them of promised benefits by adding 3 years to the retirement age for state employees. The workers’ unions say the state did this after its employees paid 9.5 percent of their yearly income into the state’s Retirement Fund for more than 10 years.

     In 2009, the increased its standard age for state employees’ retirement by 3 years, according to the Superior Court complaint.
     Chapter 68 of Public Law 2009 increased the time that vested employees – workers who have paid into the state Retirement Fund for 10 years or more – must remain in public employment to retire with full benefits. It also reduced the total maximum benefit achievable for some vested employees, required more years of service to achieve this reduced maximum, and eliminated the availability of retirement based solely on years of service.
     Teachers were joined in the complaint by professional engineers, social service workers, correction officers, and their unions, including the National Education Association, AFSCME and the SEIU.
     The unions claim the 2009 law violated employment contracts and the Rhode Island Constitution, and constituted taking of property without compensation.
     They seek injunctive relief.
     Lead counsel is Lynette Labinger with Roney & Labinger of Providence.

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