New Hampshire Supreme Court Upholds Benefit Changes


The New Hampshire Supreme Court has upheld several changes key to the state’s pension reforms passed since 2011.

At issue were the definitions of a cost-of-living adjustment and “earned compensation”.

State lawmakers altered the definitions of those terms as part of pension reforms, and the court has now upheld the new definitions.

The court ruling, coupled with a related ruling by the court last month, has big implications for New Hampshire pensions.

The biggest is that public worker pensions aren’t contractually protected from being altered – regardless of whether that alteration comes from raising employee contributions or outright benefit changes.

More from the Associated Press:

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has upheld some legislative reforms to the state retirement system, a month after upholding key provisions.

The court on Friday upheld changes to the definitions of “earned compensation” and Cost of Living Adjustments. It ruled the changes didn’t retroactively reduce pension benefits earned before a law was passed, and that employees don’t have a contractual guarantee that the terms of the plans will never change.

The ruling addressed a lawsuit by the American Federation of Teachers.

State Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro said the decision clarifies the Legislature may adjust future pension benefits to safeguard the system.

The New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition made up of teachers, police and firefighters, said it “unfortunately allows public employers to renege on their promise of security in retirement.”

The state Supreme Court ruled last month that employee contributions to the pension system can legally be increased, even for vested workers.


Photo by Joe Gratz via Flickr CC License

New Hampshire Supreme Court Rules State Can Increase Employee Pension Contributions


The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled this week that the state can increase public employees’ pension contributions – even for vested workers.

Since the increased contribution rate wouldn’t lead to higher benefits for employees, unions had argued the state had violated its contract with workers.

A lower court agreed with the labor groups last year – but the Supreme Court this week overturned the lower court’s decision.

More details from Governing:

The state Supreme Court has sided with lawmakers who revamped the state retirement system in 2011, requiring public employees to increase their retirement contributions.

A Merrimack County Superior Court decision last year said lawmakers could not increase contributions for those vested in the system, contending it would essentially violate a contract between the employers and the retirement system.

The ruling said the new law would increase contributions but not change benefits, so it would violate the contract for vested employees, who are those having 10 years or more contributing to the system.

However, the Supreme Court said the law cited by the lower court in making its decision does not retroactively affect employee contribution rates.

“The narrow question before us is whether, by enacting RSA 100-A:16, I(a), the Legislature unmistakably intended to establish NHRS member contribution rates as a contractual right that cannot be modified. We hold that it did not,” wrote Chief Justice Linda Dalianis for all five justices.

The Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling and sent the case back to superior court.

NH Retirement Security Coalition – an association of labor groups – weighed in on the ruling:

“The NH Retirement Security Coalition has long contended that promises made to our member employees should be enforced because our members uphold their promises each and every day that they go to work. The court’s decision today unfortunately allows public employers to renege on their promise of security in retirement. While this decision is disappointing, our members will continue to provide high quality service to the state and its cities, towns, and school districts,” the coalition said in a statement. “We are deeply concerned about the long term impact of this decision on the people of New Hampshire. We are carefully reviewing this decision in detail with our attorneys and members of the Coalition and we will offer further in-depth comment as soon as we are able to do so.”

Sen. Jeb Bradley, the architect of the 2011 law around which the case was centered, said he was “encouraged” by the court’s decision:

“I’m encouraged that the Supreme Court has upheld the right and duty of the Legislature to amend and improve the New Hampshire Retirement System. Unless we can address the $5 billion unfunded liability in our state pension system, both taxpayers and workers would be left with a huge financial burden,” Bradley said in a statement. “This decision affirms the Legislature’s ability to make the changes we’ll need to preserve the New Hampshire Retirement System, protect taxpayers, and maintain employee jobs.”

Senate Bill 3 increased employee contribution rates, required non-vested employees to work longer and changed the way their benefits are calculated.


Photo by Joe Gratz via Flickr CC License

New Hampshire Supreme Court Limits “Double-Dipping”


A New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling Tuesday limited “double-dipping” – the term used when a public worker retires and later rejoins the public sector and earns a pension and a salary at the same time – but didn’t restrict it entirely.

Reported by SeaCoast Online:

The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a decision Tuesday ruling that state pensioners cannot work more than 32 hours a week at a public job while collecting their state pensions.

The decision upholds current state law, but leaves an unanswered question about retirees who work public jobs for more than 32 hours a week and less than full time, said Marty Karlon, spokesman for the New Hampshire Retirement System.

The case was brought to the state’s highest court on appeal by Scott Anderson, a retired Plaistow police officer, who worked post-retirement jobs for the towns of Plaistow, Atkinson and Hampstead. Anderson argued that state law allowed him to work up to 32 hours a week for a municipality, while collecting his pension, so he believed that meant he could work up to 32 hours a week for each of the three towns.

Anderson previously lost his case in the Merrimack County Superior Court and appealed to the Supreme Court.

The retired police officer argued that because pre-2012 law referred to post-retirement work for “an employer,” instead of “one or more employers,” it allowed state pensioners to work for up to 32 hours a week for multiple employers. Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision notes that the Legislature intended the singular “an employer” to include the plural “one or more employers.”

“Thus, contrary to Anderson’s contentions on appeal, when he retired in 2011, he had no right, vested or otherwise, to work up to 32 hours per week or 1,300 hours per year for more than one NHRS employer,” Monday’s Supreme Court decision states.

Double-dipping has been an issue in New York and New Jersey as recently as last month.