Retirement, Benefits and Disability

Retirement, Benefits and Disability

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

Areas in which we work

Retirement Litigation and Administrative Hearings

We also represent agencies in all aspects of administrative enforcement and appeals related to retirement benefits.  Our firm responds to determination letters, prepares responses to draft audit findings, and appeals adverse determinations.  Our firm also represents agencies at administrative hearings before hearing officers and administrative law judges, in court proceedings, and in writ proceedings. 

We have successfully advocated for agencies in court proceedings and in administrative hearings. Issues our firm has litigated include:

  • Vested rights;
  • Compensation earnable and pensionable compensation;
  • The Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act;
  • Retiree medical benefits;
  • Disability retirement administrative hearings and litigation; and
  • CalPERS and '37 Act retirement board administrative hearings.

Long-Term Leaves of Absence

Have you received note after note extending an employee’s leave?  Do you have employees who have been out on leave more than 6 months who you think may never be returning?  Are you frustrated with navigating the overlapping leave laws?

LCW will work with your agency to develop a tailored, proactive approach to manage your employees on extended leaves.  We will provide specific advice and strategies to address each employee’s circumstances and ensure the agency remains in compliance with all applicable laws. 

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Training and Proactive Services

Our firm provides a number of trainings to help agencies stay current on retirement, health, and disability laws and administrative interpretations.  Our training and proactive services include:

  • Negotiating retirement provisions;
  • Reviewing collective bargaining agreements for compliance issues and offering solutions;
  • Restructuring retirement benefits, including retiree medical benefits, and compliance with the Public Employees’ Medical and Hospital Care Act (“PEMHCA”);
  • Reviewing benefits to determine whether they are vested;
  • Analyzing independent contractor status;
  • Reviewing retired annuitant employment for compliance with applicable statutory restrictions;
  • Conducting leave reviews for employees on extended leaves of absence; and
  • Representing agencies in making disability retirement determinations and defending the agency in disability retirement proceedings.

Health Benefits

The firm advises employers on all aspects of employee health and welfare benefits, including the complex and evolving Affordable Care Act ("ACA").  We also advise employers on compliance with the PEMHCA (a.k.a. CalPERS medical), 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. 

Disability and Leave Review

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, 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.

Our firm provides comprehensive leave review to address employees who are out on an extended leave of absence.  We will work with your agency to develop a tailored, proactive approach to manage your employees on extended leaves.  We will provide specific advice and strategies to address each employee’s circumstances and ensure the agency remains in compliance with all applicable laws.  Our leave review includes an analysis of the medical documentation supporting the leave, the duration of the leave, return to work solutions, and assistance in separation and disability retirement where necessary.

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.  We also assist agencies in navigating negotiations to comply with administrative and court decisions.


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, administrative interpretations, and charter provisions, and regularly provides advice and opinions on retirement system obligations, including enrollment, independent contractor status, retirement formulas, optional contract and statutory benefits, disability retirement eligibility and procedures, reportable compensation, unfunded liabilities, elected official benefits and post-retirement work restriction compliance.  

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (“LCW”) has attorneys well-versed in the nuances of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), a firm-wide “ACA Strike Team” that stays up to date on legal developments and advises private schools and colleges on the ACA compliance daily.

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News & Knowledge

& Knowledge View All News 
Best Practices for Communicating with Employees on Medical Leave and Utilizing Intermittent Leave Schedules
Dec 30, 2020 Blog Posts

Best Practices for Communicating with Employees on Medical Leave and Utilizing Intermittent Leave Schedules

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Dec 17, 2020 Special Bulletins

Governor Issues Executive Order Revising Cal/OSHA Quarantine Guidance and Addressing Other COVID-19 Related Issues

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Jul 31, 2020 Published Articles

Partner Steven M. Berliner Quoted in Daily Journal, Orange County Register, Sacramento Bee, Courthouse News Service and EdSource

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Jul 30, 2020 Special Bulletins

California Supreme Court Leaves The California Rule Largely Intact in Highly Anticipated Opinion Concerning Public Employee Pension Rights

On July 30, 2020, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Assn. v. Alameda County Employees' Retirement Assn. (Alameda).  It was anticipated that the Court would address the continuing viability of the “California Rule.”  Under the Ca
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Special Bulletins

CalPERS Issues Circular Letter Explaining How Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Should be Tracked and Reported

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Please contact Cynthia Weldon, Director of Marketing & Training, 800.981.2000.