Retirement, Health and Disability

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore provides representation, advice, and counsel to employers on public employee retirement plans, health and welfare benefits, and issues related to employee disabilities, including disability retirement, the interactive process and reasonable accommodations.


We advise agencies on public employee retirement plans, including the California Public Employees' Retirement System ("CalPERS"), the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 ("37 Act"), the California State Teachers' Retirement System ("CalSTRS"), and local agency retirement systems.  Our firm offers retirement system audits to review compliance with public retirement statutes, regulations, and charter provisions, and regularly provides advice and opinions on retirement system obligations, including enrollment, independent contractor status, retirement formulas, CalPERS optional contract benefits, disability retirement eligibility and procedures, reportable compensation, unfunded liabilities, elected official benefits and post-retirement work restriction compliance.  We also provide training and defend public agencies in administrative and court proceedings brought by employees, retirees, and public agencies and retirement boards. 

The major areas of this practice are:

  • Negotiating Retirement Provisions;
  • Reviewing collective bargaining agreements for compliance issues and offering solutions;
  • Restructuring retirement benefits, including retiree medical benefits;
  • Responding to and defending agencies during CalPERS or other retirement board audits;
  • Defending retirement grievances and litigation;
  • Reviewing benefits to determine whether they are vested; and
  • Representing agencies in making disability retirement determinations and defending the agency in disability retirement proceedings.

Retirement Litigation

We successfully represent public agencies in administrative proceedings and in court on all issues involving retirement benefits, including:

  • Vested rights;
  • Compensation earnable;
  • PEPRA;
  • Retiree Medical;
  • CalPERS and '37 Act Retirement Board Administrative hearings; and
  • Disability Retirement administrative hearings and litigation.

Health Benefits

The firm advises employers on all aspects of employee health and welfare benefits, including the complex and evolving Affordable Care Act ("ACA") [hyperlink to page].  We also advise employers on compliance with the Public Employees' Medical and Hospital Care Act ("PEMHCA"), health reimbursement accounts, health and welfare benefits for elected officials, vesting of retiree health benefits, and structuring and modifying benefits for retirees, current employees, and future employees in order to manage the cost of benefits.

Our firm is at the forefront of advising employers on their duties under the ACA and related health care laws.  The firm routinely advises clients on the following issues:

  • Exposure to potential penalties under the employer shared responsibility provisions;
  • Determination of applicable large employer status;
  • Adoption & Implementation of the Look Back Measurement Method Safe Harbor;
  • Determination of employee/independent contractor status;
  • Determination of affordability of plans;
  • Required notices and opt out;
  • Applicable Large Employer and Self-Insured Reporting Requirements;
  • Form W-2 Reporting Requirements;
  • Interaction of the ACA with PEMHCA;
  • The 2018 excise tax (aka the "Cadillac Tax");
  • Collective bargaining issues raised by the ACA, including labor negotiations and drafting of language;
  • Anti-retaliation provisions;
  • Non-discrimination under the ACA;
  • ACA impacts unique to educational organizations, including community college districts, school districts, and independent schools;
  • HIPAA and excepted benefits; and
  • COBRA.

LCW regularly provides comprehensive training on the ACA including individualized training to the management team on the safe harbors and new operations an employer needs to comply with the ACA. 


Our firm works with local agencies on every facet of the disability accommodation process, including identifying disabilities, requesting medical documentation and evaluation, ensuring leave rights of disabled employees, engaging in the interactive process, identifying possible reasonable accommodations, complying with applicable disability laws, and, when necessary, medical separations or disability retirements.  We have also defended clients in state and federal court from disability discrimination suits brought by employees.  Our firm also guides public agencies through the entire disability retirement application process from filing the application to representing agencies in administrative and court proceedings.

Retirement and Health Aspects of Labor Relations

Retirement and employee health care issues have major impacts on agency labor relations, as well as on long-term financial stability.  The firm acts as chief negotiator for our clients, providing strategy and direction during labor negotiations on retirement and health benefits and all other matters subject to negotiations.  We review agency policies, collective bargaining agreements/memoranda of understanding to ensure that they comply with applicable law.  We also advise agencies on the issue of modifying vested and non-vested benefits.

Featured Presentations

LCW Webinar Recording: Hot Topics in STRS Law
September 24, 2015

This webinar will focus on some of the most pressing issues for STRS employers.  Discussion will include the recent STRS regulations redefining creditable compensation, employment of STRS retirees to administrative positions, re-employment of faculty upon retirement, and a legal update on Senate Bill 963 concerning STRS/PERS membership complications.

LCW Recording: Compensation Earnable and Pensionable Compensation
October 13, 2015
CalPERS agencies need to be aware of the strict rules that determine whether an item of pay is compensation earnable (Classic members) or pensionable compensation (New members). CalPERS focuses on this issue in their audits of agencies and in its review of individual retirees. This webinar will cover the components of compensation earnable/pensionable compensation and how to draft MOU language that not only accomplishes the agency's goals of a pay item being reportable or not. The webinar will also show you the language you need to help protect the agency from liability in the future.
LCW Recording: Preparing for ACA Reporting as the Deadline Approaches
October 20, 2015
The first set of Affordable Care Act reporting forms are due in early 2016 and large employers are anxiously gathering their data to prepare for the upcoming deadlines. Applicable large employers (and employers offering self-insured plans) will need to report certain monthly data from 2015, including the identity of full-time employees and the health coverage offered to those employees. The IRS recently released draft versions of IRS Forms 1095-C, 1094-C, 1095-B, and 1094-B and corresponding draft instructions for reporting 2015 data. The IRS will use the information reported on these forms to determine potential penalties under the Affordable Care Act's shared responsibility provisions and individual mandate. We will discuss these reporting requirements in depth, including who must report, when the reporting is required, the data that must be reported, and available reporting methods. This webinar will also include an in-depth discussion on how to complete the reporting forms, including reporting on COBRA beneficiaries.
A Year in Review on Disability, Health and Retirement Law
December 07, 2015  |  10:00 AM
We will celebrate the end of 2015 with a year-end overview and update on important legal cases and legislation over the past year on issues including disability, ACA, paid sick leave, and pension reform. If you haven't closely followed all of the relevant cases and laws during 2015, here is your opportunity to catch up and learn what your agency should be thinking about in light of these changes in the law.
2016 Legislative Update for Public Agencies
December 10, 2015  |  10:00 AM
The California legislature passed numerous bills, which will go into effect on January 1, 2016, that will impact California employers. This webinar will provide an overview of key legislation, as well as pertinent employment law cases that will impact California's public agencies.
2016 LCW Annual Public Sector Employment Law Conference
February 24, 2016
The registration for the Liebert Cassidy Whitmore's 18th Annual Public Sector Employment Law Conference is now open!






To Contact Liebert Cassidy Whitmore:
Los Angeles 310.981.2000 | Fresno 559.256.7800 | San Francisco 415.512.3000 | San Diego 619.481.5900
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