South Carolina Workers Lose Appeal of Provision of Pension Reform Law

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Public workers in South Carolina have lost their appeal of a provision of the state’s 2005 pension reform law, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The employees were challenging a provision of the law that dealt with the pension contributions of workers who retire but later return to work for the state.

An explanation of the provision that was being challenged and what it means for workers, from Reuters:

A provision of the revised law requires retirees who later return to work to pay into the retirement system, making the same contributions as other employees but without accruing extra service credit for pension benefits, according to court documents.

Before the [pension] overhaul went into effect, retired public employees could return to work and earn up to $50,000 without giving up the right to receive retirement benefits and without having to make more contributions to the pension funds.

More on the lawsuit from Reuters:

Public employees filed the class action case in 2010, arguing that an element of the reform was unconstitutional because it essentially took their property.

Losing the case could have cost South Carolina at least $121 million, the amount of new contributions that working retirees had made under the revised law through June 2012, according to state financial filings last month.


In making its decision about sovereign immunity, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said it considered that any money to pay a judgment against the retirement system would have to come out of the state treasury.