Chapter 2: PSERS Membership

Summary & Employer Responsibilities

PSERS Membership Summary

The information in this section is provided to help you determine an employee's eligibility for membership in the Public Safety Employees' Retirement System (PSERS).

The actual rules that govern membership are contained in state retirement law. [RCW 41.37] and [WAC 415-106] 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.

PSERS Membership - Employer Responsibilities

As the employer, you have certain responsibilities when 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. PSERS Plan Rules explain the membership rules that currently apply. Review these pages carefully when making your determination.
  • Use the PSERS Eligibility Worksheet to assist you with your determination. Document your eligibility decisions to help protect you in case questions arise about your decisions.
  • 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 regularly reviewing the determinations you have made. By doing so, you can ensure that you are reporting correctly.

PSERS Plan Rules

PSERS Plan Rules

PSERS was created for certain public employees whose jobs contain a high degree of physical risk to their own personal safety and who provide public protection of lives and property. This section outlines current rules for membership in the Public Safety Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) Plan 2. If you have questions about these rules, please contact Employer Support Services (ESS).

The Employer Determines Eligibility

The employer is responsible for the determination of the employee's eligibility for membership. In making your eligibility determination, use the rules below and verify your decisions on the PSERS Eligibility Worksheet. For additional assistance, refer to Definitions and Questions and Answers.

Who Is Eligible for PSERS Membership?

To be eligible for PSERS, the individual must meet all four of the following requirements:

Note: PERS Plan 1 members do not have the option to join. TRS Plan 1 members do not have the option to join unless employed by a nonTRS employer.

PSERS Plan 2 Begins July 1, 2006

Employees Hired Full-time into PSERS Positions on or after July 1, 2006

  • Are mandated into PSERS.

Currently Employed Eligible PERS Plan 2 or Plan 3 Members Working in PSERS Positions

  • Have the option to join PSERS during the election period of July 1, 2006 through September 30, 2006 or to remain in PERS.
  • If they don't elect PSERS membership during this election period, they will remain in PERS as long as they remain employed with their employer. Promotions, demotions, or lateral moves for the same employer do not affect membership. However, if these existing PERS members change employers, they are mandated into PSERS if hired into a PSERS eligible position.

Note: If a member of the Department of Corrections changes prisons, this does not constitute a change of employers.

The Person Must Meet at Least One of the Four Member Criteria

When evaluating whether a person meets the member criteria below, only one of the four criteria must be met. However, the person must be authorized to complete all items listed in that criteria.  For example, if you evaluate a person under member criteria #1, if the person is not authorized to carry a firearm, then the person does not meet the criteria.

  1. Completion of a certified criminal justice training course with authority to arrest, conduct criminal investigations, enforce the criminal laws of Washington, and carry a firearm as part of the job,
    or
  2. Primary responsibility is to ensure the custody and security of incarcerated or probationary individuals,
    or
  3. Function as a limited authority Washington peace officer, as defined in RCW 10.93.020,
    or
  4. Primary responsibility is to supervise eligible members who meet the above criteria

The Person Must Be Employed by a PSERS Employer

The following are PSERS employers:

  • All Cities with PSERS positions, except Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane
  • All Counties with PSERS positions
  • State Employers including the Department of Corrections, Parks and Recreation Commission, Gambling Commission, State Patrol, and Liquor Control Board
  • Beginning July 2007, the Department of Natural Resources
  • State Elective position employers

The Position Must Be Permanent and Full-time

In order to qualify as a PSERS member, the position must be:

  • Permanent
  • Full time - means regularly scheduled to provide at least 160 hours of compensated service 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.

Less Than Full time Individuals

An employee serving on a less than full time basis is not permitted to enter PSERS 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 Plan Rules for details.)

PSERS Membership Available Only to Persons Working in PSERS Positions

If a PSERS member takes a job that isn’t PSERS eligible, whether for the same or different employer, PSERS membership stops and the member may be required to establish membership in the retirement system applicable to the new job.  If the member returns to a PSERS position, the member will be mandated back into PSERS membership.

For example, a county Corrections Officer was a PERS Plan 2 member and chose PSERS during the election window. Then he takes a job as an auditor and enters PERS membership. Later, the person returns to his Correction Officer position and is mandated back into PSERS membership.

PSERS Has No Concurrent Employment with PERS

If an employee is hired into a PSERS position while working simultaneously in a PERS position, the PERS service is no longer reported. If the employee is working for:

Reemployed PSERS Retirees

  • When reporting a retiree returning to work, special rules apply. Those rules are summarized in the Retiree Returning to Work Reporting Charts.
  • Use the same eligibility criteria for retiree and active member positions. All retirees who return to work must be reported on the transmittal report.
  • If a retiree chooses to reenter membership, the retiree must contact DRS. Do not report the retiree as an active member until you are notified by DRS to do so.
  • A PSERS member who has retired on disability may be required to reenter membership if returning to work at a job with a salary comparable to the salary earned before the disability. If hiring a PSERS disability retiree, notify Member Retirement Services.
  • See the Employer Handbook Chapter 5 Employing Retirees and the New Hire Pyramid Retirees Returning To Work for additional information.

Exemptions for Persons Employed in PSERS Eligible Positions

Exemptions for Persons Employed in PSERS Eligible Positions

Professional Employees
Employees rendering professional services may be exempted from PERS RCW 41.40.023(9), SERS RCW 41.35.030(9) or PSERS RCW 41.37.020(5) membership if they:
  • are employed on a fee, retainer or contract basis; or
  • earn less than 50 percent of their gross income from the practice of their profession with a DRS-covered employer.
This exemption is limited to persons providing professional services. The terms "profession" and "professional services" are not defined in statute or rule. Some occupations that qualify as "professions" include: law, medicine, accounting, teaching, engineering, or lobbying.

If you encounter a person working in an occupation other than those listed above, contact DRS Employer Support to discuss whether the occupation qualifies as a profession. Remember that the question of whether an occupation is a profession is not relevant if the person earns 50 percent or more of their income from a PERS, SERS or PSERS employer. A person who earns 50 percent or more of their income from a PERS, SERS or PSERS employer may be entitled to membership as long as they qualify as an employee.

When Employment is on a Fee, Retainer or Contract Basis
If the employee renders services on a fee, retainer or contract basis they may be exempted from membership. This issue usually focuses on whether the person is an employee or an independent contractor. RCW 41.35.030(5)

When Less than 50 percent of Gross Income is from the Employer
If the employee earns less than 50 percent of his or her gross income from the practice of their profession from the employer, then the person is exempted from membership. The best way to determine the percentage of a person's income earned from the practice of their profession would be to ask the employee for a statement of their income.

Some Retirement Plans are Exempt from PSERS Membership

You are exempt from PSERS membership if you:

  • are, or have been, a PERS Plan 1 member
  • are, or have been, a TRS Plan 1 member and are working for a TRS employer. [If you have withdrawn your TRS Plan 1 contributions, you are mandated into PSERS]
  • were a PERS Plan 2 or PERS Plan 3 member on July 1, 2006 and did not elect PSERS membership during the election window (July 1, 2006 through September 30, 2006) and have not changed employers

To determine prior plan membership, use Member Reporting Verification.

Membership Is Optional For Elected and Governor-Appointed Officials

PSERS members elected or Governor-appointed to any state elective position are exempt from PSERS membership unless they elect to join pursuant to RCW 41.37.020.

For questions about elected officials, contact Employer Support Services and refer members to the PSERS Elected Officials publication.

Independent Contractors Are Exempt from PSERS Membership

Only an employee of a PSERS employer is eligible for PSERS membership. Because independent contractors are not employees, they are exempt from PSERS membership. DRS applies the common law right of control test to determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Because of the complexity of the test, it is often difficult to determine if a person is an independent contractor without auditing the working situation. If you have questions about determining if a person is an independent contractor, contact Employer Support Services. [RCW41.37.020(5), WAC 415-02-110]

Professional Services May Be Exempt from Membership

If an employee earns less than 50 percent of his or her gross income from the practice of his or her profession from a PSERS employer, then the person is exempt from PSERS membership. The terms "profession" and "professional services" are not defined in statute or rule, but some occupations that qualify as "professions" include:

  • Law
  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Lobbying
  • Teaching

If you encounter a person working in some occupation other than those listed above, please contact the legal unit at DRS to discuss whether the occupation qualifies as a profession.

Retirees Are Exempt from Membership

In most cases, retirees will only reenter membership if they elect to do so. The option may be exercised prospectively. If a PSERS retiree reenters membership, benefits stop until the member retires again. Refer to Retiree Returning to Work: What You Need to Know for reporting information. Refer members to Thinking About Working After Retirement?

Questions and Answers


The following provides answers to some of the more frequently asked questions regarding membership and reporting requirements for PSERS.

Select from the following topics:

Eligibility for Membership State Elected or Governor-Appointed Officials

Eligibility for Membership

  1. A PSERS corrections officer is hired into a full time position, but the position is scheduled to last six months. Is this individual eligible for membership in PSERS?

    No. The PSERS retirement system law states that position must be permanent.

  2. A person is hired as a full time corrections officer, but the officer does not carry a firearm on a daily basis. Is this individual still eligible for membership in PSERS?

    Yes. If you are using the member criteria item #1 to determine eligibility, the member must be authorized to carry a firearm, but does not need to carry a firearm every day.

  3. An individual is employed as a corrections 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 PSERS?

    Yes, beginning July 1, 2006, these employees may be eligible for membership if these positions are permanent and full-time. Refer to PSERS Plan Rules and use the PSERS Eligibility Worksheet to assist you in your determination.
    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 PERS Membership for details.)

  4. An individual is employed by a PSERS employer in a half-time position as a corrections officer. Is this individual eligible for membership in PSERS?

    No, employment must be full time. 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 two cities as a limited peace officer in two half-time positions. Is this individual eligible for membership in PSERS?

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

  6. What if a PERS member was working in a PSERS eligible position during the election window, but chose to remain in PERS; then after September 30, 2006 takes a different PSERS position with their current employer?

    The member must remain in PERS as long as they remain employed with their current employer. Moreover, if the PERS member goes to a LEOFF position then back to a PSERS eligible position, the employee would remain in PERS because the member hasn't changed employers. However, if the member accepts employment in a PSERS position with a different employer, the member is mandated into PSERS.

  7. A member in an eligible position takes an extended unpaid leave of absence. Is this individual still eligible for membership?

    Yes. An unpaid leave of absence does not affect the eligibility of a position. If the position requires 160 or more calendar hours of compensated employment, then the position is still eligible. The employer should continue to report the employee on the monthly transmittal using status code B.

  8. Is everyone who supervises a PSERS member eligible for PSERS membership?

    No. Only those supervisors whose primary responsibility is to directly supervise PSERS members is eligible.

  9. An employee works in a PERS eligible position from March 1 through November 10. On November 11, you redefine this as a PSERS eligible position. When do you begin reporting the individual in the PSERS position?

    With November's report using November 11 as the PSERS begin date. You would report an end date for the PERS position using November 10.

  10. An employee is working in a PERS eligible position for another employer. You hire the employee into a PSERS position on November 11. How is this employee reported?

    There is no PSERS/PERS concurrent employment. When hiring a new employee, use MRV and the Retirement Status Form to determine prior retirement history, including concurrent employment. If a member is simultaneously working in a PERS eligible position for another employer, you must contact ESS.

    You will report a November 11 begin date for the PSERS position. ESS will contact the other employer who will need to transmit an end date for the PERS service--November 10, one day prior to the PSERS begin date. PERS hours and compensation occurring during the simultaneous employment will also need to be backed out by the PERS employer.

  11. The city where I work does not have a department called "Corrections Department," but we employ police support officers and corrections officers. Does this mean that these employees are not PSERS eligible?

    No. Your corrections department may be identified by a different name. If these employees meet at least one of the four PSERS member criteria, and are employed in a permanent, full time position, they may be PSERS eligible. Refer to the PSERS Plan Rules and the PSERS Eligibility Worksheet to determine eligibility.

  12. What if two employees request to job-share a PSERS position? Can they be reported in PSERS?

    No. Not only must the position be permanent and full time, but the person must be working full time to be eligible for PSERS membership.

State Elected or Governor-Appointed Officials

  1. An individual who has been in PSERS is appointed by the Governor to an state elective position on an interim basis. Can the individual continue PSERS membership during the time in the elective position?

    Yes, but membership does not continue automatically. Upon being appointed to office, the individual must make a written application to DRS to continue membership in PSERS. (The individual could also choose PERS membership.) When the application is accepted, membership will continue without loss of service credit.

  2. An individual who has been in PSERS is elected to state office and takes office in January. Should the individual be reported on the January transmittal?

    No. The individual must first make a written application to DRS to continue membership in PSERS. When the individual has received written acceptance from DRS, he or she should then be reported on the monthly transmittal. Membership and reporting will be required retroactively to the first day of the term of office.

Definitions


The following definitions are given for the terms that are used in the PSERS sections of the Employer Handbook. For additional terms, refer to the Glossary of Terms.

Authorized means required as a part of the job to perform a certain duty. A person may not perform the duty on a daily basis.

Compensation earnable means salaries or wages earned by a member during a payroll period for personal services, including overtime payments, and deferred compensation wages; and payments as specified in RCW 41.37.010(6).

Corrections Department refers to a city or county that has a department whose employees meet at least one of the four PSERS position member criteria. Your corrections department may be identified by a different name.

Criminal Justice training course means a course provided by the WA State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC). The CJTC Web address is: https://fortress.wa.gov/cjtc/www/

Custody and Security means the detention and compliance of incarcerated or probationary individuals. Refer to the PSERS Eligibility Worksheet, question five, for more information.

Election window means the period from July 1, 2006 through September 30, 2006 when current PERS Plan 2 or Plan 3 members working in PSERS eligible positions have the option to remain in PERS, or to choose PSERS.

Eligible position means any permanent, full-time position included in the PSERS employer and member criteria.[RCW 41.37.010(22)

Employer who is PSERS eligible includes the following:

  • Cities – Who have PSERS positions, except for the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane
  • Counties – Who have PSERS positions
  • State - Department of Corrections; Parks and Recreation Commission; Gambling Commission; State Patrol; and Liquor Control Board
  • State Elective position employers

Full time means an employee who is regularly scheduled to provide at least 160 hours of compensated service for an employer each calendar month. 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.

Limited authority Washington law enforcement agency means any agency, political subdivision, or unit of local government of this state, and any agency, department, or division of state government, having as one of its functions the apprehension or detection of persons committing infractions or violating the traffic or criminal laws relating to limited subject areas, including but not limited to, the state departments of natural resources and social and health services, the state gambling commission, the state lottery commission, the state parks and recreation commission, the state utilities and transportation commission, the state liquor control board, and the state department of corrections. [RCW 10.93.020(2)]

Limited authority Washington peace officer means any full-time, fully compensated officer of a limited authority Washington law enforcement agency empowered by that agency to detect or apprehend violators of the laws in some or all of the limited subject areas for which that agency is responsible. A limited authority Washington peace officer may be a specially commissioned Washington peace officer if otherwise qualified for such status under this chapter. [RCW 10.93.020(4)]

Member Criteria includes the following four categories of job duties. A PSERS employer must evaluate whether an employee meets at least one of the four Member Criteria listed below.

To satisfy the criteria, all items listed in that criteria must be met. For example, in Member Criteria #1, if the member does not have the authority to arrest, the member does not qualify.

  1. Completion of a certified criminal justice training course with authority to arrest, conduct criminal investigations, enforce the criminal laws of Washington, and carry a firearm as part of the job,

    OR

  2. Primary responsibility is to ensure the custody and security of incarcerated or probationary individuals,

    OR

  3. Function as a limited authority Washington peace officer, as defined in RCW 10.93.020,

    OR

  4. Primary responsibility is to supervise eligible PSERS members.

Permanent means that you do not foresee a time when the position would not exist.

  • State agency positions are classified by the Department of Personnel. You should review the established classification to determine if it is permanent.
  • Cities and counties may need to check with their human resource office to see if the position is considered permanent.
  • If you still are unable to determine whether a position is permanent, ask the question, "Do I expect the position to be on-going? If you can't foresee a time when the position would not exist; it's permanent."

Plan 2 refers to employees who established membership in the Public Safety Employees Retirement System on or after July 1, 2006. [RCW 41.37.010(29)]

Primary responsibility of a position means the main basis or reason for the position.

Retiree means any person who has begun accruing a retirement allowance or other benefit provided by RCW 41.37 resulting from service rendered to an employer while a member. [RCW 41.37.010(25)]

State elective position means any position held by any person elected or appointed to statewide office or elected or appointed as a member of the legislature. [RCW 41.37.010(27)]

Chapters

Contact Us

Other Links

Close