State System Information for Hiring an Annuitant

The definition of an annuitant for these purposes is an individual that is collecting a monthly annuity from one of the three approved retirement plans of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (SERS, PSERS, or the Alternative Retirement Plan).

The directive currently applicable to annuitants receiving a monthly annuity from the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) is the Commonwealth's Management Directive 515.20 Reemployment of Commonwealth Annuitants. This Management Directive is utilized as guidance by the State System and is posted on the State System website. This directive is applicable to all agencies, boards, councils, and commissions under the Governor's jurisdiction and outlines provisions as documented in the State Employees' Retirement Code. These same provisions are currently applied to State System ARP Annuitants (TIAA-CREF, Fidelity Investments, VALIC) for consistency.

515.20 Management Directive Applicable to SERS and ARP Annuitants

"An annuitant may be returned to State service for a period not to exceed 95 days in any calendar year the approval of the Governor that an emergency exists shall be required before an annuitant may be returned to State service." The law refers to an emergency as "serious impairment of service to the public."

Approval of the Governor shall be deemed to have been secured if the reemployment is approved by the deputy secretary for Human Resources and Management, Office of Administration. Reemployment with the State System has been approved by the associate vice chancellor for System Human Resources. Completion of a Request for Annuitant Rehire form must submitted and approved prior to the rehire of SERS or ARP annuitant.

It is the responsibility of the chief Human Resource officer or a higher position of each university to determine that a bona fide emergency exists which has the potential to seriously impair services to the public and to verify that an annuitant is the only person available to help alleviate the situation when requesting an annuitant to be rehired. If there is no bona fide emergency and an annuitant returns to employment, their monthly annuity paid by SERS shall cease when they return to state service.

It is SERS' policy to review whether a Commonwealth agency properly exercised its discretion in hiring an annuitant under the emergency return to service provisions. If SERS determines that the emergency appointment is invalid, the consequences for annuitants will be the cessation of their retirement benefits as of the date of return, retroactive repayment of retirement benefits paid during the period the annuitants rendered service after the return to service, and the payment of contributions and interest.

Provisions Applicable to PSERS Annuitants

The provisions applicable to annuitants receiving a monthly annuity from the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) are different than SERS. The "emergency" provisions of Act 2004-63 permits a public school retiree (annuitant) to return to service without loss of annuity for no more than the number of days the emergency exists per school year, provided such employment has met the criteria of emergency service.

Employment of PSERS Retirees must meet one of the following:

  1. Employment due to emergency or shortage of school personnel
  2. Employment in extracurricular position under a separate contract
  3. Return to public school in a position in which they are eligible for and enroll in SERS or ARP retirement plan

Failure to meet one of the above criteria results in suspension of monthly annuity of PSERS retiree.

  1. Employment Due to Emergency or Shortage of School Personnel

An emergency is defined as when, in the judgment of the employer, an emergency creates an increase in the workload which creates a serious impairment of service to the public or in the event of a shortage of appropriate staff. PSERS assumes that the employer will make a "good faith" effort to avoid or alleviate the emergency or shortage with non-retired personnel. PSERS also reserves the right to review individual employment arrangements for compliance with the Retirement Code. The employer should be able to demonstrate that other alternatives were sought before a PSERS retiree is hired under the emergency rule. The employer should also be prepared to submit documentation to PSERS which include information on the nature of the emergency and the recruitment efforts an employer undertook to fill the position with a non-retiree. It should also include how the position was advertised, the total number of applicants, and the number of non-retirees who applied. An employer may not justify employing a retiree by stating they are the most experienced candidate available.

Completion of a Request for Annuitant Rehire form must be submitted and approved prior to the rehire of a PSERS annuitant under these circumstances.

There are additional rules that apply to Pennsylvania's 22 community colleges, Penn State University, or state-owned universities (applicable to the State System) collectively referred to as "Colleges".

  1. Employment in an Extracurricular Position

A retiree may be employed under separate contract by any Pennsylvania public school in an extracurricular position performed primarily outside regular instructional hours and not part of the mandated educational curriculum. Administrative positions for extracurricular activities (for example, athletic director) are included. This type of employment does not require emergency or shortage of personnel but does require a separate written contract.

Special considerations for colleges - Teaching of non-credited courses may be considered extracurricular positions because non-credited courses are not part of a mandated curriculum required for a degree. Because colleges do not have regular instructional hours, the requirement that extracurricular work be done primarily outside of regular instructional hours does not apply.

If a retiree returns to school service that does not qualify under the "emergency" or "extracurricular" provisions, the retiree must advise their employer of the prior service and should also send a letter to PSERS including the return to service date, so that the pension may be stopped before an overpayment occurs.

  1. Return to Public School in a Position in which they are Eligible for and Enroll in SERS or ARP Retirement Plan

Generally, a college employee may select a retirement plan from among three choices: PSERS, SERS, or other approved retirement plan such as the State System's ARP plan. PSERS monthly annuity benefits are not affected if a PSERS retiree is eligible and becomes a member of SERS or the ARP. A multiple service retiree (one who is receiving a retirement benefit based on combined SERS and PSERS service) may not choose SERS as their retirement plan and continue to receive their PSERS monthly annuity. The eligibility criteria for the retirement plan is a permanent employee or a temporary full-time or part-time faculty member working at least 50 percent of full-time for one full academic year.

Additional requirements that must be met when a PSERS participant retires from service and is re-employed by a college (State System):

  1. There can be no prearranged agreement for a return to service with any college; and
  2. Employment from all full-time and part-time employers must be terminated, and there generally must be a 90-day break in service to qualify as a termination; and
  3. Eligible for and enroll in SERS or the ARP

Any PSERS retiree returning to employment at a Pennsylvania public school that includes State System universities should notify the employer (the State System) that he or she is a PSERS retiree. PSERS retirees are counseled on the provisions to return to work, and information can be found on the PSERS website and is regularly communicated in newsletters sent to PSERS retirees.