Many Oregon AFSCME retirees
are among those that the latest PERS Coalition lawsuit seeks to protect.
On Jan. 17, the PERS
Coalition filed a class action complaint in Multnomah County Circuit Court on
behalf of Tier 1 PERS members who retired between April 1, 2000 and April 1,
2004, commonly referred to as the “window period.”
“The class action complaint
alleges that the withholding of cost-of-living adjustments for the years 2003
to 2006 from these Tier 1 PERS members constitutes both a breach of their PERS
contract and a violation of the Oregon wage and hour laws, in light of the
Oregon Supreme Court's decision in the Strunk case,” said Aruna Masih, the top assistant counsel to
PERS Coalition attorney Greg Hartman.
In addition, Masih says the
complaint alleges that the PERS Board's intent to pursue collection actions
against such retirees for alleged overpayment of 1999 earnings would also
constitute a breach of their PERS contract, would be without probable cause and
would cause irreparable harm.
Hartman’s firm is optimistic
this case can be resolved by summary judgment. It is, says Masih, a simple
factual case that gives Hartman the opportunity to request that the judge grant
an injunction through summary judgment, which is akin to taking a shortcut through
the legal system’s lengthy timelines.
“We can request summary
judgment anytime 20 days after the suit has been filed, which means we could
enter that request in early February,” says Masih. “Once the request is made,
we can expect a decision on the request within three months — which is not long
for the legal system, as we’ve come to understand with our PERS cases. Our
request for summary judgment would specifically ask the trial judge to halt the
process that PERS has commenced to collect alleged overpayments by retirees.
Again, we believe Strunk made
clear they cannot do that.”
The judge could refuse to
grant summary judgment and allow the case to take its full course; that, of
course, would add several months to the process.