WPPA Wins Case on Definition of “New Hire” for Purposes of Mandatory Pension Contributions

January 31, 2013

On the heels of two circuit court victories which overturned decisions issued by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC), the WPPA’s in-house legal staff has achieved yet another triumph. In this critical case, the WPPA challenged a city’s application of new collective bargaining laws which mandate newly hired police officers to pay more for their pensions. The decision is already impacting police officers all across the state.

In 2011, a number of changes were enacted to the state’s collective bargaining laws for police officers. Among them was the requirement that officers hired after July 1, 2011 pay a mandatory contribution to their pension. The law made clear, however, that the law only applied to officers “who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that contains provisions inconsistent [with it] on the day on which the agreement expires or is terminated, extended modified, or renewed…”

Despite entering into a 2010-2012 collective bargaining agreement with its police officers prior to the enactment of this new law, the City of Brookfield asserted in 2011 that (1) the contract didn’t apply to officers hired after it began, and (2) even if the contract did include officers hired after the contract began, the law required them to pay a mandatory pension contribution, regardless of whether the contract provided otherwise. For many years, the Brookfield police officers had agreed to contracts that included little or no pay increases in exchange for the City’s agreement to pay their pension contributions, and their 2010-2012 contract was no different. The WPPA immediately contested the City’s position and filed a grievance.

In addition to deducting the pension contributions from its police officers’ paychecks, the City also asked the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) to affirm their interpretation of the new state law. After an outstanding effort on behalf of WPPA Staff Attorney Andrew Schauer and Business Agent John Dillon, the WERC ruled that the City of Brookfield was wrong and that the new bargaining law for police officers did not invalidate the obligation to pay the officers’ pension contributions that Brookfield had agreed to, regardless of when the officers’ were hired.. The WERC made clear that the law only applies to officers hired after their contractual obligation expires.

Brookfield has been forced to repay the officers and make them whole as a result of the WPPA’s victory. Additionally, this ruling have caused numerous local governments around the state to settle outstanding grievances over the issue and repay the officers from whom they improperly deducted pension contributions.

For more information about this case or any other in which the WPPA is fighting for Wisconsin’s law enforcement officers, please contact WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer at palmer@wppa.com, or check this page for updates on developments as they occur.

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