In Dispute Over Retirement Requirements, New York State Supreme Court
Judge’s Decision Says Collective Bargaining Agreement’s ‘Years of Service’ Language Is ‘Ambiguous’ and Open to Multiple Interpretations

Read the complete decision

New York, New York June 30, 2004 - In response to an Article 78 lawsuit filed by The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, on behalf of New York City Correction Officer, David McGarrigle, against the City of New York , State Supreme Court Justice Rosalyn Richter has ruled that the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), must re-calculate Officer McGarrigle’s pension benefit, prospectively and retroactively, so as to include the calculation of “final average salary”, the longevity payments earned by him upon his completion of five and ten years of correction service.

In 2001, after having served as a Correction Officer for nineteen years and three months, Mr. McGarrigle purchased nine months of prior military service rendered from November 1974 through August 1975. On August of 2001, Mr. McGarrigle retired from the Department of Correction with the requisite twenty years of service, nine months of which constituted “bought back” prior military service. However, in calculating Mr. McGarrigle’s “wages earned”, for the purpose of determining his “final average salary”, NYCERS did not include the longevity payments earned by Mr. McGarrigle upon reaching his fifth and tenth years of correction service. In his lawsuit, Mr. McGarrigle challenged NYCERS’ decision to exclude the longevity payments, and contended that NYCERS’ determination violated the provisions under Retirement and Social Security Law as well as the Pension Impairment Clause of the New York State Constitution. NYCERS argued that the non-pensionability of the longevity increments was mandated by the collective bargaining agreement between the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, Mr. McGarrigle’s union, and the City of New York.

According to Mr. McGarrigle’s attorney, Mercedes Maldonaldo, of Koehler & Isaacs LLP, “The central issue at hand in this case was whether the language in the collective bargaining agreement could diminish a Correction Officer’s right to have military service credit and other types of credited service count towards the years of service required for pensionabilty of longevity earnings. The judge confirmed that a Correction Officer can in fact use credited service such as military service without forfeiting the pensionabilty of their longevity earnings. This decision may have widespread implications among other uniformed unions who have similar language in their collective bargaining agreements.”

“This decision is a victory for all New York City Correction Officers,” said Norman Seabrook, president of the 9,000 member Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. “The City has tried unsuccessfully to manipulate the language in our collective bargaining agreement to reduce our officers’ pension benefits. This union will continue to look after our members’ financial interests.”

The city now has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.