Employer Frequently Asked Questions

Employers are encouraged to submit questions not answered here to Employer Support Services. For more detailed information refer to the DRS Employer Handbook.

Select from the following topics:

General Information

How are retirement contribution rates determined?
Contribution rates are established by a process mandated in RCW 41.45, Actuarial Funding of the State Retirement Systems. In a few plans, rates are a specific percent of salary prescribed in statute. In the majority of plans, rates are the product of a funding formula.
How do I contact Employer Support Services (ESS) with retirement questions?
See contact information for ESS.
We hired a new payroll person who will be reporting retirement. Do I have to notify DRS?
Yes. You must notify DRS when retirement reporting personnel change so they can get a new password. Users are not permitted to share passwords. Contact ESS to update personnel changes.
To sign up a new payroll or human resource person, what information will DRS need from me?
The main retirement contact will need to provide DRS with the new payroll or HR person's name, address, phone number and email address. Also list the eServices (Select from ePAY, EARN, MSV, WBET) and reporting group numbers the person needs to access.
How are retirement laws decided?
Unlike many other states, the governance and administration of Washington's public pensions is shared among several entities. Learn more.
Is there training available for new payroll or human resource personnel?
Yes. Check the Employers homepage for workshops that are currently being offered in your area. Check the New Payroll page for scheduling a training session.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, what type of retirement plan does DRS administer?
Members of PERS, SERS, TRS, PSERS, LEOFF, WSPRS and JRS participate in a 401(a) mandatory retirement plan.This means an employee who works in a retirement-eligible position is required to contribute. DRS also administers a 457 voluntary deferred compensation plan.

Transmittals and Reporting

How do I report compensatory time for a PERS employee?
Compensatory time is reported with status code A. Report the actual number of hours used, not time and a half. Report compensatory time when it is used. But if it's cashed out, report compensatory time as earned.
My edit message said that an employee's data rejected because I was reporting earnings past the end date. How do I fix this?
  • Did you report the wrong EARN PERIOD? If so, correct the EARN PERIOD and send the data again.
  • Did you send us the wrong end date? A wrong end date cannot be changed through the transmittal process.You must fax 360-753-1090 or email DRS, and request us to delete the incorrect end date. Include the member's name, Social Security number, the incorrect date and the report group number. Once the end date has been deleted, we'll contact you. You'll need to transmit the correct end date and report any rejected data.
How do I decide if an employee is working in an eligible position?
Use the New Hire Pyramid Position Eligibility or Chapter 2 in the Employer Handbook.
We hired an employee into an ineligible position in January. On June 15, 2018, the position changed to an eligible position. How do I report this?
Report the day the position became eligible. In this case, it would be June 15, 2018. Report all compensation earned for the entire month. We recommend using the Position Eligibility Worksheet to document your decision.
What is the criteria for an independent contractor?
To help determine the criteria, use the Independent Contractor Questionnaire. Also see WAC 415-02-110.
Do I report L&I payments when a member is on a temporary duty disability?
No. Whether Workers' Compensation payments come from L&I or from a self-insured employer, the payments are not for services rendered and are not reportable. For more information see DRS Notices: 86-011 (PERS), 94-006 (PERS), 89-04 (LEOFF Plan 2. Members can apply for optional service credit while on Temporary Duty Disability. [This applies to PERS Plan 1 or 2 & 3; SERS Plans 2 and 3; PSERS; TRS Plan 1, TRS Plans 2 and 3;LEOFF Plan 2; and WSPRS Plans 1 and 2.
I have an employee who used sick leave while on a Temporary Duty Disability, and I reported it to DRS. Now the employee is buying the sick leave back with L&I payments. What should I do?
You re-instate some or all of the employee's leave balance if the employee gives you a check issued by L&I or a similar federal workers' compensation program. Since the leave has been re-instated, you need to reverse any compensation, contributions and hours that were reported as the paid time off.
How do I report overtime for an employee?
Use status code A for overtime as earned. Report the actual number of hours used, not time and a half.
I got an edit message that said the data was "rejected." What do I need to do?
Verify why the data was rejected. Rejected data means that the information was not added or subtracted from the member's account. You'll need to report the rejected data again if it's supposed to be recorded in the member's account. But if the rejected information was reported in error, don't report it again.
We terminated a PERS employee for not performing job duties. A legal determination requires that we reinstate the employee and "restore all lost wages, seniority and benefits." Is this reportable?
If the re-instatement requires that the person be "made whole" or "all benefits restored", RCW 41.40.010(8) specifically designates these payments as reportable compensation. Prorate the payment over the period that the employee was suspended, terminated, or otherwise absent from work. The payments are only reportable to the extent that they are equivalent to the salary the employee would have earned had he or she been working. [WAC 415-108-467] There may be other possible legal parameters not mentioned here. Contact DRS if you have questions.
How can I report more data for a separated employee when DRS already has an end date?
As long as you are reporting data for an EARN period occurring between the begin and end dates you reported for the employee, the DRS system will accept the data.
I separated an employee on my regular WBET report, but the member's record keeps reappearing on subsequent reports. Why did this happen?
This happens because you deleted the employee before sending the report. Be sure you don't check the "Remove This Employee From This Report" button after you've added the end date in the UPDATE MEMBER INFORMATION screen; if you remove the employee, you also remove the end date.
I transmitted an incorrect Social Security number (SSN). How do I correct it?
Email ESS the member's name, your report group number, the incorrect SSN, the correct SSN, and the member's date of birth. It will take us approximately two to three days to verify the correct number through the Social Security Administration.
In the meantime, start using the correct SSN number on your next transmittal. When you transmit the new SSN, you'll also need to transmit the member profile record and the begin date. (The begin date should be the same as the begin date reported under the old SSN.) From this point forward you'll need to report compensation, contributions and hours under the new number. DRS will transfer all account information to the correct SSN once verification is received from the Social Security Administration. We'll notify you if there are any problems with the new SSN.
How do I determine which plan to report an employee in?
Use Membership Status Verification to determine the past membership history of the employee. Then select from the different types of employment history in the New Hire Pyramid's Reporting an Employee.
I reported the wrong begin date to DRS. How can an incorrect begin date be changed?
ou can't change an incorrect begin date through the transmittal process. To change the incorrect date, you must fax 360-753-1090 or email ESS the change to us. Include the member's name, Social Security number, report group number, the incorrect begin date and the correct begin date with your request. We'll change the begin date and contact you when the change is completed. You'll need to report any rejected data again.
Why would one record reject and another receive a warning on my edit messages?
There are three types of edit messages: warnings, rejections and information changed/defaulted. Compensation, contributions and/or hours can be rejected if they create a net negative balance or are reported incorrectly. In some cases, the member and employer contributions may be defaulted or corrected by our system automatically. See Types of Errors in Chapter 9 of the Employer Handbook for definitions and examples.
I reported the wrong end date to DRS. How can an incorrect end date be changed?
You can't change an incorrect begin date through the transmittal process. To change the incorrect date, you must fax 360-753-1090 or email ESS the change to us. Include the member's name, Social Security number, report group number, the incorrect begin date and the correct begin date with your request. We'll change the begin date and contact you when the change is completed. You'll need to report any rejected data again.

Compliance Reviews

Why were we chosen to participate in a compliance review?
Review selections are based on a risk-based assessment of an employer’s responses to the initial compliance survey and requested documentation, as well as geographical location and time since last audit or review.
How long will a compliance review take?
The length of time to complete a compliance review depends on factors such as the number of employees and the number of retirement plans, the response time of employers to submit requested documentation and the number of compliance issues found during the review.
What information is needed?
Documents reviewed include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Compliance survey
  • Employer-generated spreadsheet to include employees, Social Security numbers, job titles and gross earnings
  • Tax reports such as W2s and 1099s
  • Payroll registers and timesheets for current employees and recent retirees
  • Bargaining agreements and personnel policies
  • Employment contracts, personal service contracts, etc.
Is there a secure method for submitting my documentation?
You will have access to Secure File Transfer during the course of the review. Please do not email personal information such as Social Security numbers.

Plan Choice Plan 2 and Plan 3

We have a new hire who is a Plan 3 member changing employers. What do I report for this person?
Don't take member contributions until you receive the signed Member Information Form (MIF) with the member's selection of rate option and investment program. Until then, report everything except member contributions. The member has up to 90 calendar days to make these selections or they'll default to Rate Option A and and SELF.
How do I report a correction for a Plan 3 member that occurred while they were a Plan 2 member?
It depends on whether you're reporting earnings that were never reported or making a correction to previously reported earnings (to include reporting rejected earnings again). Generally, once a member is enrolled in Plan 3, all information must be reported in Plan 3. If you're reporting earnings for the first time, member contributions will be based on the member’s chosen Plan 3 contribution rate, even if that compensation was earned while still a Plan 2 member. If you're making a correction to previously reported earnings. Member contributions must be based on the appropriate contribution rate in effect at the time the earnings were initially reported.
If you're using WBET to make the correction:
  • Enter the appropriate earning period along with the compensation and associated hours if the compensation was never reported. WBET will automatically calculate employer contributions based on the rate in effect at the time the compensation was earned, and on member contributions based on the Plan 3 contribution rate the member chose.
  • Enter the information as indicated above if you're correcting previously reported information. On the Earning Detail screen, select the member contributions as calculated by WBET, and enter the appropriate amount based on the member contribution rate in effect at the time the information was first reported. WBET will accept an override of member contributions in Plan 3.

After the correction is processed, you will need to take appropriate steps to balance your account.
Will a Plan 3 member who fails to make a plan selection within 90 calendar days automatically default?
No. You must transmit the default information to DRS. Some employers have set up their payroll systems to automatically generate the default information.
An employee chose Plan 3, and I sent in the Member Information Form (MIF) to DRS. Why is the member still in Plan 2?
You must transmit the plan choice using the PLAN CHOICE record. Your transmittal moves the member from Plan 2 to Plan 3. The MIF is imaged and kept by DRS to document the member's decision.
We hired an employee in an eligible position who is a New Member Plan Choice. How do I report this person?
Report the member's demographic information, a begin date, compensation, hours, member contributions and employer contributions at the Plan 2 rate until you receive the Member information Form (MIF). The member has up to 90 calendar days to provide the MIF or default to Plan 3, Rate Option A and SELF.
We hired an employee into an eligible teaching position from a classified position. Do they get plan choice?
Yes. If there's no prior TRS membership, the member has a choice between TRS Plans 2 or 3.
I looked up a new hire on the member reporting verification and it says they are a TRS 2 potential member. Do they get a choice or stay in plan 2?
Only if they have no prior service in TRS. Treat a potential member like a new member with a plan 2 or 3 choice. One exception: someone hired into a SERS position with prior PERS Plan 2 membership is reported in SERS Plan 2, with a January transfer option.
What do I do if an employee was reported in Plan 3 in error?
Send an email requesting the cancellation of Plan 3 and the return of the employee to Plan 2. DRS will need the member's name, Social Security number, report group number and the date the member signed the Member Information Form requesting Plan 2. The account will need to be valued before the transfer can occur. Continue to report the employee in Plan 3, but deduct the Plan 2 rates if your payroll system will allow. Don't report the employee in Plan 2 until DRS contacts you.

Retiree Return to Work

How do I report an address change for a retiree who has returned to work?
You can't make an address change for retirees. They need to update their addresses in online account access. If you transmit a retiree's address data in the MEMBER PROFILE record, it will reject.
An employee worked for us through Dec. 31, 2017, and then retired. After 90 calendar days the employee returned to work for us. Why won't WBET let me enter Plan 0 or change the status code to a retiree status code?
The system won't recognize the employee as a retiree return to work unless DRS has the end date for the active service period. You will need to:
  1. Back out any compensation earned as a retiree
  2. Transmit the end date for the active service period
  3. Let the transmittal process
  4. Transmit a new begin date reporting the retiree in the system in which they are working, plan 0, and the correct retiree status code
  5. Report again the compensation and hours you backed out previously if the retiree is working in an eligible position
  6. Only begin and end dates are required for retirees returning to work in ineligible positions.
We are hiring a retiree into an ineligible position. Do we have to report?
Yes. All retirees must be reported, even those working in ineligible positions; however, reporting compensation and hours for ineligible positions is optional.
Between Jan. 1, 2017, and July 31, 2020, K-12 if you report substitute teachers who retired from the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) using the 2008 Early Retirement Factors (ERF), you must use a 96 transmittal type code and report compensation and hours to DRS.
We are hiring a retiree as a contractor. Do we have to report?
Only if the individual retired using the 2008 Early Retirement Factors (ERF) and is under age 65. If so, you need to report the begin date and end date for the work period. Use Member Reporting Verification (MRV) to determine whether the individual retired using the 2008 ERF.
We hired a retiree into an ineligible position in January. In March the position changed from ineligible to eligible but WBET won't let me choose the new type code. Why not?
You must first transmit an end date for the ineligible period. Next report the new employment period with a start date and choose the eligible type code.
Why do I keep getting a missing earnings edit message?

Once you report a start date for a retiree in an eligible position, you must report the retiree each month until employment is terminated. You must transmit one of these status codes:

  • Status code A with compensation and hours
  • Status code B if the retiree has no earnings for the month, but is still employed in an eligible position.
Which retiree hours (earned or compensated) count toward the annual limit?
If an individual takes a normal retirement or takes an early retirement and doesn’t use the 2008 Early Retirement Factors (ERF), any hours worked in an eligible position count toward the annual limit of 867 hours in a calendar year. All hours the retiree receives compensation for are counted. This includes paid holidays or when compensatory time, sick leave or annual leave is taken in place of normal work hours. Sick leave or annual leave that is cashed out at the end of employment doesn’t count toward the limit. Cashed out compensatory time does count toward the limit. Hours worked in an ineligible position don’t count toward the limit.
If an individual takes an early retirement using the 2008 ERFs, any hours worked for a DRS-covered employer before age 65 – whether in an eligible position, an ineligible position, as a substitute, or as a contractor – will stop the benefit. The benefit will stop the first of the month the retiree begins work and will restart the first of the month following the day the retiree stops work. At age 65, the rules described above will apply.
However, if the individual is a Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) retiree, the rules have temporarily changed. As a teacher who retired using the 2008 ERFs, the individual can return to work as a K-12 substitute teacher and continue receiving a TRS benefit during the first 867 hours the retiree substitute teaches each calendar year. Any hours worked in addition to that amount will suspend the retiree’s benefit. Any hours worked outside the role of K-12 substitute teacher will suspend the retiree’s benefit. This opportunity is available from June 10, 2016, through July 31, 2020.
Which plan do I report a retiree in?
Retirees must be reported on the applicable system's transmittal report based on the position the retiree is working in and not the system the employee retired from. For more information, refer to the New Hire Pyramid retiree section and the Employer Handbook, Chapter 5. If you have questions, contact ESS.

School Districts and Educational Service Districts

I have a teacher terminating employment at the end of the school term. This teacher's last day of work is June 20, 2017, and the contract ends later in the summer. What should I report for an end date and when should I report it?
For TRS, SERS, and PERS Plan 1, report the actual last day of work as the end date. In this case the end date would be June 20, 2017; however, most payroll systems won't allow you to send the summer payment information to DRS after an end date is reported. Transmit the end date with your last contractual summer payment data. Typically this is the transmittal sent to DRS in September.
How do I report personal holidays?
If a member uses a personal holiday, use an status code A. If a PERS Plan 1 or TRS Plan 1 member cashes out a personal holiday, use the correct cash out code. If the cash out occurs in the AFC and the contract allows for the member to have it factored into the benefit, it will generate an excess compensation billing. DRS will need a copy of the current contract.
Do I report sick leave cash outs?
A sick leave cash out for a school district or ESD employee is not reportable and is not included in the employee's retirement benefit calculation.
How do I report substitutes?
See School District and ESD Substitutes in the New Hire Pyramid for reporting charts, the DRS Notice and application packets for school substitutes.

Retirement Services

What is the process to retire?
A member requests an estimate of benefits from membership services within two years of retirement. Once created, the estimate is sent to the member, often with a retirement packet. The member fills out the forms, sends them back, and in the retirement month, a Retirement Specialist calculates the benefit. The pension is paid on the last working day of the retirement month.
What if the Retirement Specialist doesn't have all of a retiring member's information? I have not reported the last month of earnings yet.
We will proceed with the retirement. When the last information is posted, such as last month of earnings or leave cash out for plan 1, the benefit will be recalculated retroactively adjustmented.
I have a member who has eight years remaining until retirement. Is there a place I can refer members to view their accounts and estimate their benefits?
Yes. Members can access their account information on the DRS website. They can view their plan summary, service credit detail, see a copy of their annual statement, view their employment history as well as create an estimate of benefits. And when they're ready, they can retire online.