Chapter 2: TRS Membership

Summary & Employer Responsibilities

TRS Membership - Summary

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

The actual rules that govern membership are contained in state retirement law. [RCW 41.32]  [WAC 415.112] 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.

TRS 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 your eligibility determination.
  • You are responsible for documenting your decision regarding a position's eligibility. You may use the "Position Eligibility Worksheet" for this purpose. 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. By doing so, you can ensure that you are reporting correctly.
  • All employers are responsible for reporting eligible members and retirees returning to work from the first day of hire. School districts and educational service districts must also report substitute employees from the first day of hire. (See Chapters 7 and 8 for instructions on how to report employees).

TRS Member Qualifications


In TRS, a teacher is a person who is qualified to teach and works for a public school as an instructor, administrator or supervisor. [WAC 415-112-120]

  • "Qualified to teach," at a K-12 school means the person has a teaching certificate issued by the Superintendent of Public Instruction. For community college or university teachers, it means the person is employed by the institution under a contract to teach.[WAC 415-112-015]
  • A "public school" includes school districts, educational service districts, the State School for the Deaf, and the State School for the Blind. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is not a public school.

Note: As applied to other TRS employers, "public school" means an institution whose primary function is to educate students where fifty percent or more of the employees are qualified to teach. [WAC 415-112-015; RCW 41.32.010(21)]

"Instructor" means a qualified teacher performing services as a classroom teacher. [WAC 415-112-015]

"Administrator or supervisor" means a manager responsible for (a) the administration of a public school; or (b) exercising direction over other employees of the public school. [WAC 415-112-015]

Note: Administrators or supervisors include, but are not limited to, principals, assistant principals, superintendents, assistant superintendents, personnel managers and business managers.

An "Educational Staff Associate" (ESA) is a person employed by a public school in any of the following positions:

  • Communications Disorders Specialist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Reading Resource Technician
  • School Counselor
  • School Nurse
  • School Psychologist
  • School Social Worker

A person employed in an ESA position in a public school must hold a certificate authorized by the State Board of Education.

Note: A person employed in an ESA position on or after June 7, 1984, must become a member of TRS. There are instances where a person employed as an ESA prior to June 7, 1984, has membership rights to PERS. If you have this situation, contact TRS Retirement Services for help in determining this person's membership rights.

A public school employee who is qualified to teach who is not employed as an instructor, administrator or supervisor is not a teacher. A person in such a position cannot be in TRS. Those positions include, but are not limited to, the following: [WAC 415-112-120]

  • Custodian
  • Grounds keeper
  • Bus driver
  • Cafeteria worker
  • Library technician
  • Administrative assistant
  • Payroll clerk

TRS Plan 1 Rules

This section outlines current rules for membership in TRS Plan 1. If you have questions about TRS eligibility, please contact Employer Support Services (ESS).

Plan 1 Member or Former Plan 1 Member

If you hire a person who has established membership in TRS Plan 1 before October 1, 1977, you must determine whether that person is a "TRS Plan 1 member" or a "former TRS Plan 1 member." Use Member Reporting Verification (MRV) to determine a member's status.

A "TRS Plan 1 member" means a person who has established membership and has not terminated membership by withdrawing his or her TRS contributions.

A "former TRS Plan 1 member" means a person who separated from service and withdrew his or her TRS contributions.

TRS Plan 1 Member

If you hire a TRS Plan 1 member, report the member on the TRS monthly transmittal from the first day of employment.

If the member is a substitute or works less than 20 days in the fiscal year (July 1 through June 30) and is not a retiree, report using the chart, “Employees Working In School Districts & Educational Service Districts.”

Note: A TRS Plan 1 member working in any position for a TRS employer should be reported on the TRS transmittal. A TRS employer means school districts, the state of Washington, or any agency of the state of Washington by which the member is paid. [RCW 41.32.010 (11)]


Former TRS Plan 1 Member

If you hire a former TRS Plan 1 member, the following information will help you determine if and how the member should be reported to DRS.

Former TRS Plan 1 Members with full time contracts report as active members:

A former TRS Plan 1 member who is contracted to teach full time in a public school for 90 calendar days or more is required to be a member of TRS Plan 1. A teacher who is eligible for membership must be reported on the transmittal from the first day of eligible employment. [RCW 41.32.240]

Former TRS Plan 1 Members with less than full time contracts report as substitutes:

If you hire a former TRS Plan 1 member in a less than full time contract, report the member on the transmittal report using the substitute reporting codes from the first day of employment.

A former TRS Plan 1 member may qualify to re-establish membership by submitting a substitute service credit application at the end of the school year.

See the New Hire Pyramid Substitutes for reporting requirements or for obtaining an application packet. The application outlines the member requirements and includes the needed form.

Once membership is reestablished, the teacher must be reported on the transmittal.

Plan 1 Substitute Teachers

TRS membership and participation is optional for substitute teachers; however, all TRS substitutes must be reported on the transmittal using the substitute reporting codes. A substitute teacher may apply for membership and service credit in TRS if he or she is: [WAC 415-112-140]

  • a TRS Plan 1 member and works a minimum of 20 full time days during a school year; or
  • a former TRS Plan 1 member and works 90 or more full time days during a school year.

Plan 1 Retirees

  • All retirees who return to work must be reported on the transmittal. Determining the eligibility of a position filled by a retiree uses the same eligibility criteria as a position filled by a non-retiring member.
  • Retirees have special reporting codes. Refer to the Retiree Reporting Charts for the correct plan and type codes. See Chapter 5 Employing Retirees for additional information.
  • A TRS Plan 1 retiree who returns to work as a full time teacher is not required to return to TRS membership but may elect to do so if he or she chooses. If a member chooses to reenter membership, the member must contact DRS. Do not report the retiree as an active member until you are notified by DRS to do so.

Plan 1 Teachers Elected to Statewide Office

A TRS Plan 1 teacher who is elected to statewide office (for example, state senator) may continue membership in TRS by making a written application to the Director of DRS. If the application is accepted, membership will continue during the term of office.

TRS Plan 1 serving in the Supreme, Appeals or Superior Courts may request to participate in the Judges Benefit Multiplier (TRS JBM) program by making a written application to the Director of DRS. If the application is accepted, the TRS JBM option requires a higher retirement contribution and provides a higher benefit multiplier used in the retirement calculation for their judicial service periods of employment.

Refer members to Elected Officials for additional information or contact TRS.

Plan 1 Teachers Working in More than One Position

If you have a teacher working in more than one retirement system during the same school year, the nature of the positions determine how you should report him or her on your transmittal. The member will be reported according to the following:

TRS Plan 2 & 3 Rules

This section outlines current rules for membership in TRS Plan 2 and TRS Plan 3 for teachers hired on or after October 1, 1977. If you have questions about TRS eligibility, contact Employer Support Services (ESS).

TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3

  • Membership rules are the same for TRS Plan 2 and 3, unless otherwise noted.
  • Refer to TRS Membership Definitions section for Plan 2, or Plan 3 definitions.
  • Prior retirement membership impacts current PERS Plan membership. Use Member Reporting Verification (MRV) to view an employee's prior retirement status before determining in which plan to enroll a new employee.

How Eligibility Is Determined

The employer is responsible for the determination of the employee's eligibility for membership. A Plan 2 or Plan 3 teacher [WAC 415-112-120] contracted to work in an eligible position is required to be a member of TRS and must be reported on the transmittal report. The teacher must be reported on the transmittal from the first day of employment in the eligible position. [RCW 41.32.780 and 835]

A position is eligible if:

The position normally requires at least five months within the school year (September 1-August 31) in which compensation is earned for at least 70 hours per month. [RCW 41.32.010(15)(b)]

  • Normally, as used in this definition, means the position requires at least five months of at least 70 hours per month during the school year. Unexpected school closures do not affect eligibility.
  • "School year" means the twelve-month period from September 1 of one year to August 31 of the following year.

The following questions may assist you in determining the eligibility of a position.

  1. Will the position ever require 70 or more hours of compensated employment in a month?

    If the answer is no, the position is not eligible.
    If the answer is yes, ask question 2.

  2. Will the position ever require five or more months with at least 70 hours of compensation per month during the school year?

    If the answer is no, the position is not eligible.

    If the answer is yes, the position is eligible.

Determining Plan Membership When Hiring a New Employee

Current membership status is impacted by prior retirement membership history. Use Member Reporting Verification (MRV) to determine if the member has prior membership history with DRS. Next, select from the following to determine current plan membership:

When the Employee Is Working in an Ineligible Position or as a Substitute

A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 working for you in an ineligible position is not required to be a member of TRS but must be reported on the transmittal report beginning with the 2004-2005 school year using the substitute reporting codes.

Refer to the New Hire Pyramid Substitutes for reporting charts and additional information. An ineligible position is any position that does not require at least five months during the school year in which compensation is earned for at least 70 hours per month.

Example #1: A position requires part time work for 60 hours each month for the entire year.

Explanation: The position is not eligible because employment is for less than 70 hours each month.

Example #2: A position requires full time work for three months each year.

Explanation: The position is not eligible because employment is for less than five months each year.


Return to Determining Plan Membership

When the Employee Is Working In One Eligible Position

Once the position is determined to be eligible, the next step is to determine in what plan to report a TRS member.

Current TRS membership is impacted by prior retirement history. Use Member Reporting Verification (MRV) to determine if the member has prior membership history with DRS, then select from the following New Hire Pyramid reporting tools to determine in which plan to enroll a member:

  1. No Prior Membership

    Beginning July 1, 2007, a new and potential TRS member with no prior TRS membership history has the option to become a member of TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 if hired into an eligible position.

    • A new or potential member has 90 calendar days to make an irrevocable Plan Choice, or they are defaulted by the employer into Plan 3, rate option A, investment program SELF.
    • An employee employed in a TRS eligible position should initially be reported in TRS Plan 2, unless the employer receives the Member Information Form (MIF) from an employee choosing Plan 3 before the first payroll cutoff. If reporting for the first time, be sure to include the begin date, even if it is the same as the Plan Choice Date.
  2. Prior Membership History

    The TRS Reporting Chart lists the correct plan in which to enroll employees who have prior membership history with DRS and who will be working in one TRS eligible position.

Refer to Chapter 8 Reporting Plan 3.

Return to Determining Plan Membership

When the Employee Is Working Concurrently in More than One Retirement System

If you have a TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 working in positions in more than one system during the same school year, the nature of the positions determine how to report the member on the transmittal report. Refer to the following types of concurrent employment:

Return to Determining Plan Membership

When the Employee Is a Retiree

  • Retirees have special reporting codes. Refer to the Retiree Returning to Work Reporting Charts for the correct plan and type codes. See Chapter 5 Employing Retirees for additional information.
  • Use the same eligibility criteria for retiree and active member positions. All retirees who return to work must be reported on the transmittal report.
  • Generally, retirees who are performing services for an employer as a contractor are exempt from the retiree reporting requirements. However, employers must report any TRS Plan 2 or 3 retiree, who retired using the 2008 ERF and has not attained age 65; if they are directly compensated for services performed as a contractor or any other similar compensated relationship. These contractors should be reported as if they are in an ineligible position.
  • A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 retiree who returns to work in an eligible position is not required to return to TRS membership but may elect to do so. The option may be exercised prospectively. If a retiree reenters membership, benefits stop until the member again retires.
  • If a retiree chooses to reenter membership, the retiree must contact DRS. Report as a Retiree Return to Work until notified by DRS to report as an active member.

Note: A retiree may return to public service but this may affect the retiree's pension. Please refer to the Retiree Returning to Work Reporting Charts and Employing Retirees in Chapter 5 for what to do when you hire a retiree.

Return to Determining Plan Membership

TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 Teachers Elected to Statewide Office

A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 teacher who is elected to statewide office; e.g., state senator, may continue membership in TRS by making written application to the Director of DRS. If the application is accepted, membership will continue during the term of office.

Refer members to Elected Officials. Employers, please contact ESS for additional information.

Membership Rules for Prior Periods


The following table summarizes how to report TRS members for prior periods. If you need additional information about eligibility or reporting for TRS members, please contact Employer Support Services.

Period Of Service Type of Employment Plan
07/01/2007 forward New TRS members have option to become members of Plan 2 or Plan 3. 2 & 3
7/1/1996 through 6/30/2007 Plan 3 established by legislature 7/1/96. All new members mandated into Plan 3 3
9/01/1991 through 6/30/1996

You must be employed in an eligible position (requiring at least five months of 70 hours or more of compensated employment each month during a school year).

For substitute teachers: If you meet the above criteria, you may apply for membership/service credit under RCW 41.32.013 and WAC 415-112-140.

2
7/1/1996 forward 2 & 3
6/07/90 through 08/31/91 You must have been employed in an eligible position as defined in Section 2, Chapter 274, Laws of 1990, (requiring two or more consecutive months of at least 90 hours of compensated employment each month during a school year).

For substitute teachers: If you met the above criteria, you may apply for membership and service credit under RCW 41.32.013 and WAC 415-112-140.
2
10/01/77 through 6/30/1996 Plan 2 established by legislature 10/1/77. All new members mandated into Plan 2. 2
10/01/77 through 06/06/90

If you were contracted to teach full time, you were required to be a member.

If you were employed as a substitute teacher or under a less than full time contract, you have the option to apply for membership under RCW 41.32.240 if you worked a minimum of 90 full time days during a school year, provided 1 month had at least 90 hours. 2

2
Prior to 10/01/77 1 If you were contracted to teach full time, you were mandated into membership.

If you were employed under a less than full time contract and you exercised your option to establish membership prior to 10/01/77, you had the option to apply for membership under RCW 41.32.240, if you worked 90 or more full time days during a fiscal year. 2
1

1If you previously established Plan 1 membership as detailed above, you may reestablish Plan 1 membership after October 1, 1977.
2"Ninety days of employment," under RCW 41.32.240 and this section means either:

  1. Ninety full time calendar days, or the equivalent, during a school year if you were employed as a teacher under a contract; or
  2. Ninety full time days of actual, compensated service, or the equivalent, during a school year if you were employed as a substitute teacher.
  3. The "equivalent" of a full time day of employment under (a) and (b) of this subsection is the sum of partial days which, when added together, equals one full time day.

Questions and Answers


Select from the following topics:

Eligible Positions

  1. A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 employee is normally contracted to work three hours each day as a kindergarten teacher and three hours each day, for the same employer, as a basic skills instructor. Is the individual eligible for membership?

    Yes. The individual is considered to be employed in a single eligible position and is required to be a member of TRS.

  2. A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 employee is normally contracted to work three hours each day as a teacher and three hours each day, for the same employer, in a non-teaching capacity (for example, a coach, bus driver, or secretary). Since not all the employee's hours are in a teaching capacity, is the employee eligible for membership?

    Yes. Each of the positions is ineligible but because a portion of the employee's work is as a contracted teacher, the employee is eligible for TRS membership. The employee should be reported on the TRS transmittal report.

  3. A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 employee is contracted to work three hours each day as an English teacher and is hired at times, by the same employer, to work as a substitute. Is the individual eligible for membership?

    No. Hours of employment as a substitute teacher are not considered when determining membership eligibility. However, hours worked as a substitute and as a part time contracted teacher should be reported on the transmittal using the substitute type codes. (See the New Hire Pyramid section Substitutes and Chapter 5 of the Handbook for details.)

  4. A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 teacher works in an eligible position from September until March, then quits working for you. You hire another TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 teacher into the same position for the remaining three months of the school year. Is this second teacher eligible for membership and reported on the transmittal?

    Yes. For TRS Plan 2 and Plan 3, the position determines the eligibility for membership. The second teacher has been hired into an eligible position so he or she is required to be a member and must be reported on the transmittal.

  5. Two TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 teachers are contracted to work in the same position as kindergarten teachers. One teacher works three hours in the morning and the other teacher works three hours in the afternoon. Is each of these teachers eligible for retirement system membership?

    Yes. Because it is one position being filled with two teachers. Each teacher is eligible and must be reported on the transmittal.

  6. You hire a new employee on or after July 1, 2007. Does the member have a plan choice?

    A TRS Plan 1 member doesn't have a plan choice. However, new and potential TRS members with no prior TRS membership history have the option to choose Plan 2 or Plan 3 if hired into an eligible position.

    Use Member Reporting Verification (MRV) to view the past membership history and to determine if they are eligible to make a plan choice. Then use Reporting an Employee to determine the correct reporting options.

TRS Members in Higher Education

  1. A TRS member is hired by a community college to substitute in the classroom. Should the employee be reported on the transmittal?

    No. Substitute teachers working in Higher Education are not reported on the transmittal. The employer should provide the substitute with a quarterly report. (See The Quarterly Report in Chapter 5 of the Handbook for details.)

  2. A TRS member is contracted to work for a community college. Should the employee be reported on the monthly transmittal?

    Different rules apply to Plan 1, Plan 2 and Plan 3 members:

    • A TRS Plan 1 member (a member who has not withdrawn his or her TRS contributions) must be reported on the transmittal from the first day of employment. A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 member contracted to work in an eligible position must be reported on the transmittal from the first day of employment.
    • A TRS Plan 2 or Plan 3 member contracted to work in an ineligible position should not be reported on the monthly transmittal but should be provided with a quarterly report.

Temporaries or Classified Substitutes

  1. An employee is hired as a "temporary" or as a "classified substitute" to fill in for someone who is on leave for two weeks. Is this employee eligible for membership and should he or she be reported?

    Beginning with July 27, 2003, an employee working in a substitute position in a school district or in an educational service district may elect to apply for service credit at the end of the school year. PERS Plan 1 does not have the option to apply for substitute service credit.

    The definition of a substitute includes “a classified employee who is employed as a substitute for an absent employee or is working in an ineligible position." [ WAC 415-110-010(9)]; See the New Hire Pyramid Substitutes for additional information.

Definitions


The following definitions are for terms used in the TRS Membership section of the Employer Handbook.

Active member for TRS is an employee who is currently contributing to the TRS retirement plan. For TRS Plan 1, there is an additional requirement that the person must not have withdrawn contributions.

Compensated employment means salaries or wages earned for hours of employment.

Eligible position, applicable to Plan 2 and Plan 3 only, is any position which normally requires at least five months each school year in which compensation is earned for at least 70 hours per month.

Former TRS Plan 1 Member, see under Plan 1.

Full time, applicable to Plan 1 only, means regular service for four-fifths (80 percent) or more of a school day or an assignment to duties, which are the equivalent of four-fifths (80 percent), or more of a full time assignment.

Normally, as used in the definition of an eligible position for TRS Plan 2 and Plan 3 , means the position requires at least five months of at least 70 hours of compensated service during the school year. Unexpected school closures do not affect position eligibility for Plan 2 or Plan 3.

Plan 1 refers to the funding and benefit provisions covering persons who first became members of the Teachers' Retirement System before October 1, 1977.

  • TRS Plan 1 member means a person who established membership before October 1, 1977, and has not terminated membership by withdrawing contributions.
  • Former TRS Plan 1 member means a TRS Plan 1 member who separated from service and withdrew his or her contributions.

Plan 2 refers to employees who:

  • established membership in the Teachers' Retirement System on or after October 1, 1977 and before July 1, 1996 [RCW 41.32.780], or
  • beginning July 1, 2007 chose Plan 2. New and potential TRS members have up to 90 days to choose Plan 2 or Plan 3 or the employer defaults them into Plan 3
  • For more detailed information, refer to chapter 8, Plan 3 Reporting

Plan 3 refers to employees who:

  • established membership in the Teachers' Retirement System on or after July 1, 1996 and before July 1, 2007 or
  • beginning July 1, 2007 chose Plan 3 or were defaulted into Plan 3. New and potential TRS members have up to 90 days to choose Plan 2 or Plan 3 or the employer defaults them into Plan 3 [RCW 41.32.835] or
  • a TRS Plan 2 member who elected during the month of January to transfer to Plan 3 after July 1, 1996 [ RCW 41.32.817]
  • For more detailed information, refer to Chapter 8 - Plan 3 Reporting.

Potential Member in TRS is someone who has worked in an ineligible or substitute certificated position at a school district or educational service district, but hasn't purchased their substitute service credit and hasn't established membership in TRS.

Retiree is an individual who has terminated membership in a Washington State retirement system, and who has applied for a retirement defined benefit or who is receiving a retirement defined benefit from the Department of Retirement Systems. Members who are only separated or who are only receiving Plan 3 defined contributions do not meet the retiree definition.

School day, for Plan 1 only, means the number of hours for which a full time teacher is compensated. The employer defines a school day. If not defined by the employer, DRS defines a school day as 7 hours.

School year, for Plan 1, means the period from July 1 of one year through June 30 of the following year.

School year, for Plan 2 and Plan 3, means the period from September 1 of one year through August 31 of the following year.

Substitute teacher is defined as

  • A teacher who is hired by an employer to work as a temporary teacher, except for teachers who are annual contract employees of an employer and are guaranteed a minimum number of hours
  • Teachers who either work in ineligible positions for more than one employer or work in an ineligible position or positions together with an eligible position. [RCW 41.32.010 (36)]

Teacher means any person qualified to teach who is engaged by a public school in an instructional, administrative, or supervisory capacity.

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