ERA FAQ

The Employer Reporting Application (ERA)

ERA is a modern reporting application that provides a reliable system, reduces ongoing costs and improves the employer experience. DRS implemented this easy-to-use responsive application in August 2018.

ERA basics, employer impacts, ERA functionality, security and access, and technical questions

  1. What enhancements does ERA provide?
  2. What is the timeline for ERA?
  3. If the ERA rollout schedule conflicts with an employer’s availability (for example School Districts are very busy August through September), will DRS reschedule the employer’s adoption of ERA?
  4. What if the Employer Rollout Schedule causes a conflict for me?
  5. What are Early Adopters and Advisors, and how were they selected?
  6. How do I prepare for the changes in reporting ERA will bring?
  7. Is training available?
  8. How do I sign up for training?
  9. Where can I learn more about ERA?
  10. Who do I contact if I have questions?
  11. Will corrections process immediately?
  12. Who has the ability to update my Main Contact in ERA?
  13. If a member has prior service credit with a different employer, can the current employer see that information?
  14. Why did DRS make the decision to have ERA reject all the records being reported for a member, and not just a specific piece of data or the invalid record?
  15. Can I identify more than one person as a Main Contact?
  16. What's a case number?
  17. Will DRS pre-populate employer data when the employer adopts ERA?
  18. How will DRS handle new data elements when pre-populating an employer’s data into ERA?
  19. Will I be able to enroll DCP participants in ERA?
  20. If the status code reported in the Extended Status Code field is fewer than four characters, should I program my system to use filler characters?
  21. Where can I find Edit Messages in ERA?
  22. Is there a file size limit for using the simulation process during the manual file upload?
  23. Are the “Max Compensation Exceeds Date” and “Max Compensation Exceed Indicator” fields related to DCP contributions?
  24. If I'm an SFT employer, can I use any of the three reporting methods in ERA (SFT, Manual File Upload or Interactive) to report retroactive adjusted pay by the month it was earned?
  25. If I use the Interactive process to enroll a member, and then also report that data via SFT, will it create a duplicate?
  26. How many methods do I have to report regular retirement information, and what are they?
  27. If I use SFT only, can I continue to do so after adopting ERA?
  28. Am I required to submit an email address for a member?
  29. Why is DRS collecting member email addresses?
  30. Can I use the Member Lookup process just like MRV?
  31. Can I use the Determine Member Eligibility process for members who are working in multiple positions?
  32. If I use the status code “A1” to report overtime more than two times the regular rate of pay, should I separate the regular and overtime compensation and hours into two defined benefit records?
  33. What does the term “Interactive” mean in ERA?
  34. Can I send files in the new updated MRL format before adopting ERA?
  35. Are reports available in ERA to assist employer audit processes (an example is the Human Resource Management System [HRMS], where employers have activity logs to see who made changes and what those changes are)?
  36. What reports are available to me in ERA?
  37. Will members’ personal information in ERA, or notifications or emails sent from ERA, be subject to release under the Public Records Act (PRA)?
  38. How do I keep a payroll system provider up-to-speed on new ERA requirements?
  39. How does an employer use the new A1 overtime code to report earnings?
  40. What is a SAW account?

ERA basics

What enhancements does ERA provide?

After adopting ERA, public employers will see substantial enhancements, including:

  • An employer portal that presents all data in one easy-to-navigate location
  • The ability to edit and validate employment data before submission, increasing accuracy and reducing the time employers spend making corrections
  • Enhanced on-demand tools for self-auditing, allowing employers to report the right positions in the right plans the first time. This will also increase accuracy and reduce the need for costly corrections
What is the timeline for ERA?

September 2018: ERA launch and Early Adopter rollout begins

December 2018: Employer Full Rollout begins

Refer to the Employer Rollout Schedule for information about individual employers.

If you have questions or concerns about the rollout, please contact us at DRSERAOutreach@DRS.wa.gov or call Debbie Callar at 360-664-7167.

If the ERA rollout schedule conflicts with an employer’s availability (for example School Districts are very busy August through September), will DRS reschedule the employer’s adoption of ERA?

We are doing our best to consider all employers’ high-demand months when developing the rollout plan for ERA, trying to find a slot that works for each of our approximately 1,400 employers.

If you have questions or concerns about your assigned rollout date, please contact us at DRSERAOutreach@DRS.wa.gov or call Debbie Callar at 360-664-7167.

Employer impacts

What if the Employer Rollout Schedule causes a conflict for me?

Employers who want to talk further about the transition schedule can contact the ERA Outreach team or call Debbie Callar at 360-664-7167.

What are Early Adopters and Advisors, and how were they selected?

DRS worked with Early Adopters and Advisors to help us preview ERA during development, consult with us, provide feedback on training and be the first employers to use the new tool.

Early Adopters:

  • Reviewed progress at the end of each build phase
  • Provided consultation with the project team as needed during the build
  • Received the first training on the new tool, providing us with feedback to improve the experience
  • Used the new tool first, identifying issues quickly so we could resolve any significant defects before the rollout to approximately 1,400 employers

Early Adopters made a monthly time commitment to the project and updated their systems to adopt ERA first. Both large and small employers who report from a variety of methods, and who use different payroll vendors and tools, were involved.

ERA Advisors were employers and employer groups that provided project guidance, but couldn't commit to the timeframe required to be an Early Adopter, or were not a reporting employer. This group included software providers.

How do I prepare for the changes in reporting ERA will bring?

Read and review ERA Employer Technical Requirements and Reporting Procedures. We are keeping this document up to date and DRS will send an Employer Notice anytime there are changes or clarifications.

If you have questions after your review, contact us at DRSERAOutreach@DRS.wa.gov or call Debbie Callar at 360-664-7167.

Is training available?

Yes. DRS is providing in-person and online training:

Statewide training

To help make your ERA transition as smooth as possible, Employer Support Services (ESS) is providing training for all employers throughout the state from August to November of 2018. During the three-hour sessions, we’ll explain the rollout process and the steps you'll need to complete in preparation. You’ll also see what the new application looks like and learn about new features and functionality.

The topics covered include:

  • ERA Introduction
  • Employer Management
  • Member Management
  • Employer Reporting
  • Electronic Bank Account/Payment Management
  • Upload Documents
  • DCP

Registration for statewide training remains open until the last class is held in early November.

ERA online training videos

These videos provide a screen-by-screen walkthrough of each ERA process, and include narration and closed captioning to help employers with specific training needs. The ERA Employer Training Team posts new videos as they become available.

How do I sign up for training?

Use the statewide training registration process. All employers are welcome to attend. Please register in advance.

Where can I learn more about ERA?

The ERA webpage on the DRS employer website has more information about the employer rollout and the ERA application. The ERA handbook is an additional resource.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

If you adopted ERA and need assistance logging in or using the application, please contact ESS at employersupport@drs.wa.gov

If you haven't adopted ERA and you have questions about the process, please call Debbie Callar, ERA Employer Training Lead, at 360-664-7167, or DRSERAOutreach@drs.wa.gov.

ERA functionality

What's a case number?

Each time a user starts a process, it’s called a “case.” ERA assigns a unique case number to each of these instances. The case number consists of a three-letter abbreviation for the process, the date the case was created and a number based on the count of cases created that day. For example, the 224th case created in the Member Management Process on July 6, 2019, would be MMG-20190706-0000224.

If you call Employer Support Services with a concern, it’s important to provide the case number so the ESS team member can troubleshoot your issue.

Will corrections process immediately?

That depends. For both regular reports and correction reports submitted in a file, processing time depends on your file size and how many other employers are submitting files at the same time. Corrections will reflect in members’ accounts as soon as the file is processed.

Corrections submitted in Interactive process immediately, and will reflect in members’ accounts the same day. You can also submit multiple corrections for a single member in the same day. For example, you can submit corrected earnings and then follow up with a separation date right away.

If a member has prior service credit with a different employer, can the current employer see that information?

Yes. What you see is the same as it was in MRV (Member Reporting Verification) within eServices. A current employer can see basic information from a member’s other employer, including service credit totals. But the employer isn't able to see earnings from other employers.

Why did DRS make the decision to have ERA reject all the records being reported for a member, and not just a specific piece of data or the invalid record?

DRS made this decision to improve data accuracy and to simplify the process for some types of corrections. By rejecting all the records, it's easier for the employer and DRS to reconcile the employer’s account, matching the rejected data with the money. And the employer can see all relevant edit messages simultaneously rather than getting them one at a time as corrections are submitted.

Before ERA, employers didn’t always recognize that when DRS rejected at the record level, not all the records were rejected. For instance: DRS might have rejected the Defined Benefit (DB) record for a Plan 3 member but not the Defined Contribution (DC) record. If the employer reported both the DB and DC records in the correction, the associated contribution dollars were posted twice. But with ERA, DRS rejects all associated records for a particular member, avoiding unnecessary and inaccurate receivables for the employer.

Security and access

Who has the ability to update my Main Contact in ERA?

Only DRS’s Employer Support Services team can create and update the Main Contact role in ERA. You can designate one person as the primary Main Contact.

Can I identify more than one person as a Main Contact?

Yes. You can identify more than one person as a Main Contact. The Primary Main Contact is responsible for approving any additional Main Contacts, but only DRS can set up or modify access for each Main Contact. The Primary Main Contact should keep in mind that any person designated as a Main Contact has the ability to grant security access in ERA to others in their organization.

For all other positions, you can set up and modify Contacts within your organization with roles and skills so they can provide backup.

Technical questions

Will DRS pre-populate employer data when the employer adopts ERA?

Yes. For employers who report through the new ERA Interactive, we will pre-populate ERA with the data we already have from the employer’s last regular report.

How does DRS handle new data elements when pre-populating an employer’s data into ERA?

New data elements are left blank. Employers can submit new data (via SFT, Manual File Upload or Interactive once they have adopted ERA.

Can I enroll DCP participants in ERA?

That depends. Most employers will continue to use existing processes for new DCP participants. The only employer who can enroll a new DCP participant in ERA is Human Resource Management System (HRMS), as long there isn't a break in service.

If the status code reported in the Extended Status Code field is fewer than four characters, should I program my system to use filler characters?

No. You should not program your system to use zeros or any other filler character in the Extended Status Code field (for example, don't report an “A” code as “A000 or “000A”). ERA will accept codes between 1-4 characters long. Filler characters will result in rejection of the record for containing an invalid status code.

Where can I find Edit Messages in ERA?

You will continue to find your Edit Messages report in “My Documents.” In ERA, you can review edit messages in PDF and Excel.

If you use SFT to submit your report, you'll no longer find a copy of the Edit Messages in your SFT folder.

Is there a file size limit for using the simulation process during the manual file upload?

No. There's no size limit for files submitted in ERA; however, processing time depends on your file size and how many other employers submit files at the same time.

Are the “Max Compensation Exceeds Date” and “Max Compensation Exceed Indicator” fields related to DCP contributions?

No. The “Max Compensation Exceeds Date” and “Max Compensation Exceed Date” fields aren't related to tracking DCP or other 401a plan contributions. IRC Section 401 (a)(17) restricts the amount of salary used to determine a benefit. The law does not limit the amount of salary earned or paid in a year, only the amount DRS can use.

In ERA, the new fields are “read only” for employers and updated by DRS. You can use the two new fields to track an employee who approaches or reaches the maximum compensation limit.

If I'm an SFT employer, can I use any of the three reporting methods in ERA (SFT, Manual File Upload or Interactive) to report retroactive adjusted pay by the month it was earned?

Yes. If you're an SFT employer, you can use various methods to report retroactive earnings, as you did in the past. In ERA, SFT employers can choose among the following options:

  • Include the retroactive earnings on the regular file
  • Submit a separate correction file
  • Submit the earnings in Interactive as a correction

Employers who submit regular reporting via Interactive will use Interactive for all reporting. DRS will continue to be available to assist with unique circumstances (for example, if the employer must make several adjustments due to a contract settlement).

If I use the Interactive process to enroll a member, and then also report that data via SFT, does it create a duplicate?

That depends. If you complete the enrollment process in Interactive, and then also report the new member via SFT, it creates a duplicate; however, if you stop the Interactive process without completing enrollment, and then report the person as a new member via SFT, a duplicate isn't created. This is because you haven't actually reported anything via Interactive. You can easily tell whether you have completed the enrollment process when you use the Interactive method.

How many methods do I have to report my regular retirement information, and what are they?

You have three methods to choose from to report your regular retirement file:

  • Secure File Transfer (SFT): You send the file via SFT. Your file is saved in your SFT folder and then DRS ensures the file is transferred to us. The ERA Portal monitors SFT folders every 5 minutes and creates a new case for each file as it's discovered.
  • Manual File Upload: You log into the ERA Portal and upload a file with all the records for this particular period. The ERA Portal reads the file values, validates them and updates them into the DRS system.
  • Interactive: You manually submit each member’s earning activity, adding members and records individually. Interactive replaces WBET within eServices.

You can submit correction files via the same method as your regular file, or you can use Interactive.

If I use SFT only, can I continue to do so after adopting ERA?

Yes.

Am I required to submit an email address for a member?

No. Submitting an email address is optional; however, if you use the Multiple Record Layout (MRL) to submit files via SFT or Manual File Upload, you must update the MRL to include the optional email address field. The file will reject if the format doesn't allow space for the email address field. If you opt not to submit email addresses for members, leave the field blank. For more information about the updated MRL, please see the ERA Tech Requirements and Reporting Procedures.

Why is DRS collecting member email addresses?

DRS uses member email addresses to support employers in educating members about retirement, as well as to notify members of actions they need to take. For example, ERA automatically emails new PERS/SERS/TRS members a reminder if they haven't made a Plan 2/3 choice before the deadline.

Can I use the Member Lookup process just like MRV?

Yes. The Member Lookup process replaces MRV. You can look up a member’s system and plan history, and view additional information depending on your relationship to the member (former, current or prospective employment).

Can I use the Determine Member Eligibility process for members who are working in multiple positions?

Yes. The Determine Member Eligibility Process covers almost all known eligibility scenarios (one example is a SERS 2/3 member with emergency Substitute Teacher credentials [TRS 0]). Your responses to a series of questions about a member’s eligibility trigger additional questions to narrow down a determination. The scenarios include members working in multiple positions, substitute teaching, retiree return to work and many others. And as always, DRS team members are available if you want additional support in making an eligibility determination.

If I use the status code “A1” to report overtime more than two times the regular rate of pay, should I separate the regular and overtime compensation and hours into two defined benefit records?

Yes. If you choose to use the status code “A1,” that compensation and hours are reported on a separate record from the regular compensation reported with the “A” code. At this time, use of the “A1” code is optional.

What does the term “Interactive” mean in ERA?

Interactive is the reporting method that allows you to “interact” with ERA to report retirement data. Interactive is one of the three ways to report retirement data to DRS (they are: Secure File Transfer [SFT], Manual File Upload and Interactive). Interactive is similar to, and replaces, WBET.

Can I send files in the new updated MRL format before adopting ERA?

That depends. If you submit a file in the new ERA MRL file format before ERA adoption, the entire file is rejected unless it meets certain requirements.

If you want to discuss early adoption of the ERA MRL, contact DRSERAOutreach@drs.wa.gov to discuss requirements.

Are reports available in ERA to assist employer audit processes (an example is the Human Resource Management System [HRMS], where employers have activity logs to see who made changes and what those changes are)?

No. Employers can't run activity reports to track their employee’s activities; however, DRS is keeping a list of requests from employers. As we move forward, we'll evlauate the requests and possibly incorporate them into ERA in the future.

What reports will be available to me in ERA?
  • Current Account Activity: Your current account receivable balances and invoices (currently in eServices)
  • Processed Transmittal Summary: Provides you with access to create reports needed for the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (currently in eServices)
  • Plan Choice Report: A list of members who have exceeded their plan choice window
  • January Transfer Report: A list of members who have the right to transfer from Plan 2 to Plan 3 every January
Will members’ personal information in ERA, or notifications or emails sent from ERA, be subject to release under the Public Records Act (PRA)?

Yes. All DRS correspondence is subject to disclosure as required by the PRA. So an email automatically generated by the ERA Portal is treated the same as other correspondence with DRS.

If a Public Records Request asks for any correspondence generated by ERA, or information stored in ERA, any content that is exempt from disclosure under the PRA is redacted before release of the record. For example, residential addresses, personal telephone numbers and personal email addresses are exempt from disclosure. Learn more in RCW 42.56.250.

How do I keep a payroll system provider up-to-speed on new ERA requirements?

You should encourage payroll system providers and other technical staff to review the ERA Technical Requirements and Reporting Procedures and other information on the ERA webpage.

How do I use the new A1 overtime code to report earnings?

See page 24 in the ERA Technical Requirements for examples.

What is a SAW account?

Secure Access Washington (SAW) is a single sign-on application gateway used by state agencies to keep applications like ERA secure. SAW can include or grant access to secure information. DRS uses a SAW-Enabled Agency Portal (SEAP) to integrate ERA with SAW. SEAP allows users to access ERA securely through SAW without leaving the DRS website.

Users with access to more than one agency application can use the same login information (the same SAW account) to securely access each application.