Chapter 2: LEOFF Membership

Summary & Employer Responsibilities

LEOFF Membership - Summary

The information in this section is provided to help you determine an employee's eligibility for membership in the Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System (LEOFF).

The actual rules that govern membership are contained in state retirement law. [RCW 41.26]   [WAC 415.104] This handbook summarizes those rules in less legalistic terms. It is not a complete description of the law. If there are any conflicts between what is written here and state retirement law, the law will govern.

LEOFF Membership - Employer Responsibilities

As the employer, you have certain responsibilities for enrolling and reporting retirement system members. You will want to keep the following points in mind.

  • You are responsible for making the initial determination of an employee's eligibility for membership. The following pages explain the membership rules that currently apply. Review these pages carefully when making this determination.
  • You are responsible for reporting all eligible employees from the first day of eligibility. (See Chapters 7 and 8 for instructions on how to report eligible employees.)
  • You are responsible for maintaining documentation to support the determinations you make. Your documentation will help protect you in case questions arise about a decision you have made.
  • You are responsible for regularly reviewing the determinations you have made. Doing so will help ensure you are reporting correctly.

LEOFF Plan Rules

LEOFF Membership — Plan Rules

This section outlines current rules for membership in LEOFF Plan 1 and Plan 2. If you have questions about these rules, please call LEOFF Retirement Services.

Establishing LEOFF Membership — Law Enforcement Officers

All persons who meet the definition of "law enforcement officer" under RCW 41.26.030(18) are mandated into LEOFF membership (except for persons initially hired on or after August 1, 1971, and before July 1, 1979, who did not meet the minimum medical and health standards). Generally, "law enforcement officer" means any person who is commissioned and employed by an employer on a full time, fully compensated basis to enforce the criminal laws of the state of Washington. Whether a person qualifies as a law enforcement officer depends upon who the employer is and the nature of the position. This section contains the information you need to determine, in most cases, whether a person qualifies as a law enforcement officer under LEOFF.

Is the person employed by a LEOFF employer?

In order to qualify as a law enforcement officer, the person must first be employed by a LEOFF employer. The definition of "employer" for LEOFF varies between Plan 1 and Plan 2.

Plan 1 "Employer" for Plan 1 members includes any city, town, county, district or municipal corporation that employs any law enforcement officer. [RCW 41.26.030(14)(a)]

Plan 2 "Employer" for Plan 2 members includes any city, town, county, district or municipal corporation or any other general authority law enforcement agency. [RCW 41.26.030(14)(b)]

Note: A "general authority law enforcement agency" means an agency, department, or division of state or local government, whose primary function is to detect and apprehend persons violating traffic or criminal laws in general (other than the Washington state patrol). An example of a general authority law enforcement agency is the University of Washington police department.

"General law enforcement agency" does not include the state Departments of Natural Resources, Corrections, etc. They are considered "limited law enforcement agencies," because their jurisdiction is limited to particular subject areas rather than general enforcement of criminal laws. [RCW 41.26.030(17)]

Is the person commissioned, full time and fully compensated?

In order to qualify as a law enforcement officer, an employee of a LEOFF employer must be fully commissioned, full time and fully compensated.

  • "Commissioned" means employed as an officer of a general authority Washington law enforcement agency and empowered by that employer to enforce the criminal laws of the state of Washington.
  • A person is fully commissioned if he or she is empowered at any time to enforce the laws of the state of Washington generally, including full arrest powers. Some persons, such as jailers, have limited commissions. A person with a limited commission does not qualify as a law enforcement officer. Some typical limited commissions restrict powers to a certain time or place; e.g., when transporting prisoners. Other limited commissions may authorize only certain types of arrest-arrests based on outstanding warrants.

If you are unsure whether a person's commission is full or limited, contact LEOFF Retirement Services.

  • "Full time" means regularly scheduled to earn basic salary from an employer for a minimum of 160 hours each calendar month.

Note: An employee does not have to work 160 hours during a given month to be considered full time during that month, provided that the person is regularly scheduled to work 160 hours each month. [WAC 415-104-011]

  • —"Fully compensated" means the employee earns basic salary and benefits from an employer in an amount comparable to the salary received by other full time employees who hold the same or similar rank in a similar position. [WAC 415-104-011]

Law Enforcement Officer Positions

The following positions qualify as law enforcement officers if the person in the position is employed by a LEOFF employer, fully commissioned, full time and fully compensated:

  • city police officer;
  • town marshal or deputy marshal;
  • county sheriff;
  • deputy sheriffs who pass a civil service exam for deputy sheriff, possess all of the powers, and may perform any of the duties prescribed by law to be performed by the sheriff;
  • port district general authority law enforcement officer (effective January 1, 1994);
  • state university or college general authority law enforcement officer (effective January 1, 1994); or
  • a commissioned person employed as a public safety officer or director of public safety of a city or town (effective January 1, 1993).The population of the city or town must not have exceeded ten thousand at the time the person first became employed in this position.
  • — "Director of public safety" means a person who is employed on a commissioned full time, fully compensated basis to administer the programs and personnel of a public safety department. [WAC 415-104-011]
    — "Public safety officer" means a person who is employed on a commissioned full time, fully compensated basis by a city or town to perform both law enforcement and fire fighter duties. [WAC 415-104-011]

Unclassified positions authorized by RCW 41.14.070. These positions are:

  • Undersheriff
  • Chief Criminal Deputy
  • Chief Civil Deputy
  • Jail Superintendent
  • Inspector

A person in one of the positions listed in this section is a law enforcement officer regardless of rank or status as a probationary or permanent employee.

Establishing LEOFF Membership — Fire Fighters

All persons who meet the definition of "fire fighter" under RCW 41.26.030(16) are mandated into LEOFF membership (except for persons initially hired on or after August 1, 1971, and before July 1, 1979, who did not meet the minimum medical and health standards). Generally, fire fighter means any person who is serving on a full-time, fully compensated basis as a member of a fire department of an employer and who is serving in a position which requires passing a civil service examination for fire fighter. Supervisory fire fighter personnel qualify as fire fighters. Whether a person qualifies as a fire fighter depends upon who the employer is and the nature of the position. This section contains, in most cases, the information you need to determine whether a person qualifies as a fire fighter under LEOFF.

Is the person employed by a fire department of a LEOFF employer?

In order to qualify as a fire fighter the person must be employed by the fire department of a LEOFF employer. The definition of "employer" for LEOFF varies between Plan 1 and Plan 2.

Plan 1 "Employer" for Plan 1 members includes any city, town, county, district or municipal corporation that employs any fire fighter. [RCW 41.26.030(14)(a)]

Plan 2 "Employer" for Plan 2 members includes any city, town, county, district, municipal corporation or Washington State University. (A four-year institution of higher education that has a fully operational fire department as of January 1, 1996.) [RCW 41.26.030(14)(b)]

Is the person a full-time, fully compensated employee?

In order to qualify as a fire fighter, an employee of a LEOFF employer must be full-time and fully compensated as a uniformed fire fighter.

  • "Full-time" means regularly scheduled to earn basic salary from an employer for a minimum of 160 hours each calendar month.

Note: An employee does not have to work 160 hours during a month to be considered full-time during that month, provided that the person is regularly scheduled to work 160 hours each month. [WAC 415-104-011]

  • "Fully compensated" means the employee earns basic salary and benefits from an employer in an amount comparable to the salary received by other full-time employees who hold the same or similar rank in a similar position. Volunteer fire fighters or resident volunteer fire fighters are not fully compensated personnel and do not qualify for LEOFF membership.
    [WAC 415-104-011 and WAC 415-104-225 (2)(e)]

Is the person a uniformed fire fighter performing fire protection activities?

Whether a person qualifies as a fire fighter is primarily a function of the person's duties. The following information will help you analyze whether the person's duties qualify him or her as a fire fighter.

  • A person is a fire fighter if he or she is employed in a uniformed fire fighter position by an employer on a full-time, fully compensated basis, and as a consequence of employment, has the legal authority and responsibility to direct or perform fire protection activities that are required for and directly concerned with preventing, controlling and extinguishing fires. [WAC 415-104-225(2)]

—"Uniformed fire fighter position" means a position which may only be filled by uniformed personnel as that term is defined in RCW 41.56.030(13)(e) as in effect on July 1, 1995. A position only qualifies as a uniformed fire fighter if the employer has identified it as such for all purposes. An employer may designate a position as uniformed regardless of whether the employer is covered by public employees' collective bargaining under chapter 41.56.RCW. [WAC 415-04-025]

—"Fire protection activities" may include incidental functions such as housekeeping, equipment maintenance, grounds maintenance, fire safety inspections, lecturing, performing community fire drills and inspecting homes and schools for fire hazards. These activities qualify as fire protection activities only if the primary duty of the position is preventing, controlling or extinguishing fires. [WAC 415-104-225(2)(a)]

Example: A person employed by a fire district as a diesel mechanic, who has no authority or responsibility to fight fires, could not qualify as a fire fighter.

  • A person is a fire fighter if he or she qualifies as supervisory fire fighter personnel. [WAC 415-104-225(2)(b)]
  • If an employer requires fire fighters to pass a civil service examination, a person must be actively employed in a position that requires passing such an examination in order to qualify as a fire fighter unless he or she qualifies as supervisory fire fighter personnel. [WAC 415-104-225(2)(c)]

Note: A person may still qualify as a fire fighter if the fire department does not require passing a civil service exam for a fire fighting position.

  • A person is not a fire fighter if he or she is a volunteer fire fighter or resident volunteer fire fighter. [WAC 415-104-225(2)(e)]

Minimum Medical and Health Standards

A LEOFF member hired as a law enforcement officer or fire fighter on a full time, fully compensated basis may be required to meet minimum medical and health standards in order to regain membership in LEOFF Plan 1.

The employee is required to meet the minimum medical and health standards if he or she:

  • was first employed as a law enforcement officer or fire fighter after August 1, 1971, and before October 1, 1977 for LEOFF Plan 1, and on or after October 1, 1977, but before July 1, 1979 for LEOFF Plan 2; and
  • has been separated from service for more than six months for reasons other than a disability leave, a disability retirement, a service retirement or an authorized leave of absence.

If you hire a Plan 1 member who is required to pass the minimum medical and health standards, begin reporting the employee in Plan 1 on the monthly transmittal from the first day of employment. The enrollment in Plan 1 is provisional and depends upon the results of the medical examination.

You are responsible for having the employee examined by the physician or surgeon appointed by the local disability board and for covering the cost of this examination. If the employee has met the standards, send a copy of the examination report to LEOFF Retirement Services with a letter of certification. DRS will review the examination report and notify you if further action is needed.

If you have questions about the minimum medical and health standards, or whether an employee needs to meet these standards, contact LEOFF Retirement Services.

Less Than Full Time Law Enforcement Officers or Fire Fighters

An employee serving as a fire fighter or law enforcement officer on a less than full time and fully compensated basis is not permitted to enter LEOFF membership. The individual may be eligible for membership in PERS, provided the employer participates in PERS and the individual is employed in an eligible PERS position. (See "PERS Membership" in this chapter for details.)

Reemployed LEOFF Retirees

A LEOFF retiree who returns to full time, fully compensated employment as a law enforcement officer or fire fighter is required to return to LEOFF membership. When membership begins, the retiree's benefits are suspended. The retirement benefit will be recalculated when employment ends and the individual retires again.

A LEOFF Plan 1 retiree who returns to less than full time, fully compensated employment as a law enforcement officer or firefighter is not required to return to membership. He or she may continue to collect a retirement benefit while working. (See "Employing Retirees" in Chapter 5 for details.)

Effective July 24, 2005, LEOFF Plan 2 retirees who are currently employed or who return to work in a non-LEOFF covered eligible position have the option to become a member and suspend their pension benefits, or to not make retirement contributions and continue receiving LEOFF pension benefits without interruption. Refer to LEOFF Plan 2 Retirees for additional information.

Questions and Answers


The following pages answer some of the more common questions employers have about membership and reporting requirements for LEOFF.

Select from the following topics:

Minimum Medical and Health Standards

  1. A Plan 1 member who is required to meet the minimum medical and health standards is hired as a full time fire fighter. How should this individual be reported?

    Report the individual in Plan 1 from the first day of employment. If the employee meets the minimum medical and health standards, you will continue reporting the employee in Plan 1. If the employee does not meet the standards, you will be notified by DRS to stop reporting the employee in Plan 1, enroll the employee in Plan 2, and begin reporting the employee in Plan 2 on the monthly transmittal. (See "Minimum Medical and Health Standards" for details.)

Eligibility for Membership

  1. A law enforcement officer is hired into a full time, fully compensated position, but the position only lasts six months. Is this individual eligible for membership in LEOFF?

    Yes. There is no requirement in the LEOFF retirement system law that an employee's position has to continue a certain length of time for the employee to be eligible for membership. An individual establishes membership beginning from the first day of employment on a full time, fully compensated basis.

  2. A person is hired as a full time, fully commissioned and fully compensated law enforcement officer, but the officer has not completed the training required by the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission. When is this individual eligible for membership in LEOFF?

    From the first day of employment. There is no requirement that an individual must complete training before being employed on a full time, fully compensated and fully commissioned basis.

  3. An individual is employed as a correctional officer at one of the state correctional institutions. Another individual is employed as a jailer at a county jail facility. Is either of these individuals eligible for membership in LEOFF?

    No. A correctional officer and a jailer do not meet the definition of a law enforcement officer and are not eligible for membership in LEOFF. Beginning July 1, 2006, these employees may be eligible for membership in the Public Safety Retirement System (PSERS) if these positions are full-time, and fully compensated.

    Individuals working in less than full time positions, may be eligible for membership in PERS if they are employed in eligible positions for a PERS-covered employer. (See the section called "PERS Membership" for details.)

  4. An individual is employed by a fire protection district in a half time position as a firefighter. Is this individual eligible for membership in LEOFF?

    No, employment must be full time and fully compensated. The individual may be eligible for membership in PERS if employed in an eligible position for a PERS-covered employer. (See "PERS Membership" for details.)

  5. An individual is employed by a fire protection district in a half time position as a firefighter. He also works in a half time position for another fire district. Is this individual eligible for membership in LEOFF?

    No, the individual is not eligible. Employment from separate employers cannot be combined to meet the fulltime requirement. Only individuals who are full time and fully compensated for the same employer meet the eligibility requirements for LEOFF. The individual may be eligible for membership in PERS if employed in eligible positions for a PERS-covered employer. (See "PERS Membership" for details.)

Definitions


The following definitions are for terms used in the LEOFF Membership section of the Employer Handbook. The complete, legal definition is not provided for terms identified with an "*." Refer to the appropriate RCW or WAC for the complete definition.

Plan 1 employer* means the legislative authority of any city, town, county, or district or the elected officials of any municipal corporation that employs any law enforcement officer and/or fire fighter. [RCW 41.26.030(14)]

Plan 2 employer means the following entities to the extent that the entity employs any law enforcement officer and/or fire fighter:

  • the legislative authority of any city, town, county, or district;
  • the elected officials of any municipal corporation;
  • the governing body of any other general authority law enforcement officer agency; or
  • a four-year institution of higher education having a fully operational fire department as of January 1, 1996.

Law enforcement officer* means any person who is commissioned and employed by an employer on a full time, fully compensated basis to enforce the criminal laws of the state of Washington, generally. [RCW 41.26.030(18)]

Fire fighter* means :

  • Any person who is serving on a full time, fully compensated basis as a member of a fire department of an employer and who is serving in a position which requires passing a civil service examination for fire fighter, and who is actively employed as such;
  • Anyone who is actively employed as a full time fire fighter where the fire department does not have a civil service examination;
  • Supervisory fire fighter personnel;
  • Any person who is employed on a full-time, fully ocmpensated basis by an employer as an emergency medical technician. [RCW 41.26.030(16)]

Member* means any law enforcement officer or fire fighter or other persons whose retirement system membership was transferred to LEOFF on or after March 1, 1970. Member also includes every law enforcement officer or fire fighter who is employed in that capacity on or after that date.

Commissioned means employed as an officer of a general authority Washington law enforcement agency and empowered by that employer to enforce the criminal laws of the state of Washington.

Full time means regularly scheduled to earn basic salary from an employer for a minimum of 160 hours each calendar month.

Fully compensated means the employee earns basic salary and benefits from an employer in an amount comparable to the salary received by other full time employees who hold the same or similar rank in a similar position.

Plan 1 means the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system providing the benefits and funding provisions covering persons who first became members of the system prior to October 1, 1977.

Plan 2 means the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system providing the benefits and funding provisions covering persons who first became members of the system on and after October 1, 1977.

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