Supreme Court Issues Decision in Retiree Part-Time Case

Ruling does not change the current application of the statutory definition of ‘part-time’

Feb 23, 2015
  • Legal

For Immediate Release: September 30, 2014
Contact: Marty Karlon, Public Information Officer, (603) 410-3594; [email protected]

CONCORD, N.H. – A decision issued today (September 30, 2014) by the New Hampshire Supreme Court does not change the statutory definition of part-time employment for New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS, the retirement system) retirees working for NHRS participating employers.

The case, Anderson v. NH Retirement System, challenged the constitutionality of a 2012 legislative enactment governing part-time employment of NHRS retirees. The plaintiff, Group II police retiree Scott Anderson, claimed that his constitutional right to work after retirement for multiple employers was violated when the Legislature amended RSA 100-A:1, XXXIV in 2012 to clarify that the hourly limit on “part-time” employment enacted in 2011 was per retiree, not per employer.

The Supreme Court did not take up the constitutional issue, but instead ruled that when the Legislature enacted RSA 100-A:1, XXXIV in 2011 – prior to Anderson’s retirement – it intended the part-time limit to be per retiree, not per employer, therefore Anderson had no right, vested or otherwise, to claim he could work up to 32 hours per week for multiple employers.

The case, which initially included four Group II political subdivision retirees as plaintiffs, was filed in Merrimack County Superior Court in 2012. Although the retirement system was named as a defendant, the State of New Hampshire was added as a respondent and the attorney general’s office defended the statute’s constitutionality. The state’s request for summary judgment was granted in August 2013 by Judge Richard McNamara, who found that the plaintiffs did not have an unmistakably clear contractual right to work a certain number of part-time hours in retirement. His decision was appealed to the state Supreme Court in September 2013 by Anderson. Oral arguments were held May 15.

Legislation enacted in 2011 and revised in 2012 defines "part-time" employment for NHRS retirees in receipt of a pension who are working for an NHRS participating employer:

RSA 100-A:1, XXXIV. “Part-time,” for purposes of employment of a retired member of the New Hampshire retirement system but excepting per diem court security officers and court bailiffs, means employment during a calendar year by one or more employers of the retired member which shall not exceed 32 hours in each normal calendar week. Employment in some instances may exceed 32 hours in any normal calendar week provided that in such case, the part-time employment of the retired member shall not exceed 1,300 hours in a calendar year, so long as such part-time employment does not occur outside of a 5-consecutive-month period in any 12-month period. (Chapter 0194, Laws of 2012)

The Supreme Court decision did not address an additional question posed by Anderson regarding whether a retiree is restored to active membership under RSA 100-A:7 upon exceeding the part-time limits in RSA 100-A:1, essentially sending that question back to the Legislature. The decision closed with the following sentence: “We invite the legislature to clarify its intent.”

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About NHRS

NHRS provides retirement, disability, and death benefits to its eligible members and their beneficiaries. The State of New Hampshire and more than 470 local government employers participate in NHRS for their employees, teachers, firefighters, and police officers. NHRS has approximately 49,000 active members and 30,000 pension recipients. NHRS administers a defined benefit plan qualified as a tax-exempt entity under sections 401(a) and 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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