No. 91-07 AG Alpha No. PE EB AGASM - October 15, 1991

This opinion responds to the awarding of Public Employees Retirement Association (hereafter, "PERA") retirement service credit.

Summary
Full-time classified employment for purpose of calculation PERA service credit is 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year; an employee who works 20 hours per week gets one-half year of service credit for each calendar year worked.


FORMAL
OPINION

of

GALE A. NORTON
Attorney General

No. 91-7

AG Alpha No. PE EB AGASM

October 15, 1991

Shirley O. Harris
Executive Director
Department of Personnel
1313 Sherman Street
Denver, Colorado 80203

RE: Computing Service Credit for PERA Retirement Benefits

Dear Ms. Harris:

This opinion responds to your July 5, 1991 inquiry about awarding Public Employees Retirement Association (hereafter, "PERA") retirement service credit. You have noted an apparent conflict between the definition of "full-time" employment set forth in the State Personnel Rules and that set forth in the PERA Rules. This "apparent conflict" has led to confusion regarding service credit awards to classified State employees who work 20 hours per week for the full calendar year.

 

QUESTIONS PRESENTED AND CONCLUSIONS

 

  1. Do two conflicting definitions of "full-time employment" exist -- one for Personnel System purposes and one for calculating PERA service credit?

     

    No.

     

  2. How much service credit for retirement should be awarded to a classified employee who works in a 20-hour per week position for a full calendar year?

     

    One-half year service credit.

 

ANALYSIS

 

  1. PERA was created to provide certain benefits and programs for its members. See Sections 24-51-101 through 24-51-1401, C.R.S. (1988 & 1990 Supp.). Certain benefits become "vested" upon the accumulation of five years service credit. See Section 24-51-101(51), C.R.S. (1988). Service credit is earned as prescribed by Section 24-51-501, C.R.S. (1988), and according to subsection (2) of that statute, "{o}ne year of service credit is earned for one year of full-time employment, at full salary...." (Emphasis added).

    The issue here concerns how to determine what "full-time employment" means. State Personnel Rule 9-3-5 designates as full-time only those employees "in full-time positions scheduled to work 2080 hours for a full year." See 4 CCR 801-1, at 100 (4-86) PERA Rule 5.10(A)(2) states, however, that "an employee who works all the hours available for a position may be considered a full-time employee if the position requires an average of at least 80 hours per month, for at least eight months per year" (emphasis added). See 8 CCR 1502-1, at 23 (8-91).

    Initially, it should be noted that the above-cited rules are not inconsistent. The language of the PERA provision is permissive in nature and must be read in conjunction with PERA Rule 5.10(A)(1), which states "the employer shall determine the work pattern or pay rate required for the position to be considered full-time" (emphasis added). See 8 CCR 1502-1, at 23 (8-91). The State of Colorado is but one of a number of employers whose employees are eligible for PERA membership. See Sections 24-51-201(2), C.R.S. (1988) (PERA comprised of four divisions: state division; school division; municipal division; and judicial division); Section 24-51-309, C.R.S. (1988) (any political subdivision of state, or agency thereof, may apply for PERA affiliation). The State has, through its fiscal rules, determined that "full-time State employees" are those who work a minimum of forty (40) hours (including holiday and leave time) within the established workweek of 168 consecutive hours. See State Fiscal Rules Sections 1.11, 1.21, 1.41, found at 1 CCR 101-2, at 2, 5, 10 (5-89). This determination is binding upon the Personnel Department, see Section 24-30-202(13)(a), C.R.S. (1988) (controller's fiscal rules "shall be binding upon the several departments ... of the State and upon their officers and employees")(emphasis added), and is reflected in Personnel Rule 9-3-5. It is only PERA employers who are not State agencies bound by the State Fiscal Rules who "may" consider another definition of full-time employment under PERA Rule 5.10(A)(2).

    In sum, consistent with PERA Rule 5.10(A), and as required by State Fiscal Rules 1.21 & 1.41, Personnel Rule 9-3-5 appropriately indicates that only employment for 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, including vacation and holidays, qualifies as full-time State employment for purposes of awarding full service credit towards PERA retirement under Section 24-51-501(2), C.R.S. (1988).

     

  2. Even though state employees who work 20 hours a week for the entire calendar year do not qualify for an award of a full year's worth of service credit, they are entitled to "partial" service credit. "Earned service credit for less than full-time employment for which less than full salary is received, shall be determined by the ratio of actual time worked to full time or the ratio of actual salary received to full salary." Section 24-51-501(3), C.R.S. (1988). Using this formula, individuals working, in effect, half-time would be entitled to one half year of service credit for every calendar year they work for the state.

 

SUMMARY

Full-time classified employment for purpose of calculation PERA service credit is 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year; an employee who works 20 hours per week gets one-half year of service credit for each calendar year worked.

Sincerely,

GALE A. NORTON
Attorney General

GAN:13735:wp

AG Alpha No. PE EB AGASM
AG File No. OHR9104325.ASM

EMPLOYEES, PUBLIC
RETIREMENT SYSTEMS
EMPLOYMENT

Section 24-30-202(13)(a), C.R.S. (1988)
Section 24-51-101 through 24-51-1401, C.R.S. (1988 & 1990 Supp).
Section 24-51-309, C.R.S. (1988)
Section 24-51-501, C.R.S. (1988)
Section 24-51-501(2), C.R.S. 1988
Section 24-51-501(3), C.R.S. (1988)

1 CCR 101-2, at 2, 5, 10 (5-89)
4 CCR 801-1, at 100 (4-86)
8 CCR 1502-1, at 23 (8-91)

PERSONAL, DEPT. OF

Full-time classified employment for purpose of calculation PERA service credit is 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year; an employee who works 20 hours per week gets one-half year of service credit for each calendar year worked.

Connect

Find Colorado State Attorney General on TwitterFind Colorado State Attorney General on FacebookColorado State Attorney General RSS feed