Most recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard argument and deceided the case of Hemsey v. Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, A-15 September 2008 Term, on Certification from the Appellate Division, 393 NJ Super 254 (App. Div. 2007).

Hemsey was hired as a police officer by the City of Trenton in 1973.  In 1998, he retired and began receiving retirement benefits from PFRS.  Most of his employment with the city was spent as a police dispatcher.  In the same year that he retired, Hemsey entered into a consulting contract with the City of Trenton in which he worked directly under the Department’s commanding officer and evaluated and worked with police and fire communication center personnel.  In 1999, Hemsey was appointed to the position of Director of Communications.  This was a newly created civilian position of employment.

Thereafter, PFRS requested information from the City regarding Hemsey’e employment and called Hemsey before the board to answer questions regarding the same.  In October 2002, PFRS informed Hemsey that he was required to re-enroll in the reitement system due to the fact that the functions he was performing as a retiree were essentially the same duties that he was performing prior to retirement.  As a result of the ruling, Hemsey’s retirement benefits were cancelled  retroactively to January 1, 1999.  Hemsey appealed and the case was sent to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case. 

The OAL concluded that the retirement benefits were properly cancelled, with  the Appellate Division affirming the decision.  However, the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey reversed the Appellate Division and held that the retirement benefits were improperly cancelled because there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the duties of the two positions were the same and the position of civilian director of communications started six (6) months after Hemsey retired from employment with the police department. 

New Jersey law dictates that an individual who retires and then accepts employment in a PFRS covered position will lose retirement benefits and be required to re-enroll in PFRS, N.J.S.A. 43:16A-3.1.  Hemsey successfully argued that his new position of employment did not meet the statutory requirements that mandated re-enrollment in PFRS.  After a review of all of the credible evidence including testimony and the consulting contract itself, the Supreme Court agreed with Hemsey.

To simplify this case for retirees collecting a PFRS pension and still performing duties in a law enforcement capacity, you must be very careful that your new duties are not substantially the same or similar to the duties for which you are collecting the pension.  Furthermore, the duties associated with the new position of employment must not meet the statutory definition of a PFRS covered position.  Each case is different and will be evaluated on a case by case basis with a thorough evaluation of the facts.  Its always advisable to research and evaluate the facts before you accept re-employment.  It is much easier to draft an employment agreement that falls outside the statutory requirements of PFRS than to have your pension benefits cancelled, whereby you are left with no choice but to appeal the issue before the Office of Administrative Law. 

 

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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog (www.njpublicsafetyofficers.com) approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.