On Friday, April 2, 2021, the Alaska Supreme Court reaffirmed a constitutional promise to state employees by ruling in favor of the plaintiff in Metcalfe v. the State of Alaska.
The court’s decision restored the opportunity for more than 78,000 former state employees to qualify for the same tier benefits package they enjoyed at the time they left state employment.
In 2005, the Alaska Legislature, in concert with Governor Frank Murkowski’s administration, changed long-standing state law to restrict the time period for certain former state employees and teachers to return to public employment and restore their original benefit package. In 2010, the window closed.
The Supreme Court found that the legislation enacted in 2005 violated Article XII, Section 7 of the Alaska Constitution which prohibits the diminishment or impairment in the membership of an employee retirement system of the State or its political subdivisions.
Former state employees were represented in this class action by the Choate Law Firm, LLC, located in Juneau, Alaska. Attorney Mark Choate stated: “After eight years in litigation and multiple appeals, the Supreme Court’s decision protects the retirement benefits of almost eighty thousand former state employees and teachers. This is a huge victory for Alaska and our state’s constitution.”
According to co-counsel Jon Choate, the next step will be to inform former public employees and teachers about how this decision can allow them to restore their prior tier status.
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