Jerry Sandusky, the now infamous former assistant coach for Penn State’s football team, has requested the reinstatement of his pension from Pennsylvania’s State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS). Sandusky is currently in prison serving a 30 to 60 year sentence for child molestation. At the time of his conviction his pension payments were terminated. Sandusky wants the payments to resume, and for them to be sent to his wife as his beneficiary.
Employment History & The Questions
Sandusky’s employment and pension history is rather complicated, and it will take some time for the Pennsylvania’s public pension agency to make its determination. Sandusky began working for Penn State in 1969 and retired 1999, which means he had acquired 30 years of employment, which most likely satisfied the “years worked” requirement for pension eligibility. But he then returned to work for one last season at the end of 1999. After he left Penn State, he worked as a consultant for the charity he created.
In Washington, there are guidelines as to when you can return to work and how many hours you can work after filing for retirement benefits, and it is likely Pennsylvania has similar requirements. It is unclear as to whether this is an issue in Sandusky’s case. However, Sandusky also had considerable connections between Penn State and his charity, which raised questions on whether he was actually an “employee” of Penn State when he was convicted. The agency is looking to see what the university paid Sandusky after his retirement in making their decision.
The reason the agency is looking into his employment status at the time of his conviction is due to the reason that Pennsylvania has a pension forfeiture law. Under the forfeiture law, committing certain crimes in relation to one’s employment, generally crimes that breach public trust, can lead to loss of one’s pension. The agency in charge of pensions decided that Sandusky’s conviction met the forfeiture requirements, which stopped the payments and terminated his wife’s beneficiary rights to receive the payments while he was in prison. According to Sandusky’s lawyer, Sandusky’s contract was not renegotiated after the forfeiture law was enacted so even if he was an employee, he claims he wasn’t, the law does not apply to his contract. This case is a clear illustration of how complicated retirement benefits and pensions can become.
Washington has no state pension forfeiture law addressing criminal acts. This technically means that state run pension plans are not forfeited if a pensioner commits and is convicted of criminal acts during employment. However, the pension plans themselves may contain clauses that can have similar effects. Employee benefits and retirement plans can be vital to an employee, but may also be quite confusing.
If you have questions or believe you are entitled to benefits you have not received, HKM employment attorneys can help.