2017 ORS 237.620¹
Membership of police officers and firefighters in Public Employees Retirement System
  • death benefits

(1) Except as provided in this section, all public employers of police officers or firefighters shall provide retirement benefits to those employees under the Public Employees Retirement System.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section, a public employer of police officers or firefighters need not provide retirement benefits to those employees under the Public Employees Retirement System if the Public Employees Retirement Board determines that the public employer provides retirement benefits to each of the following classes of employees that are equal to or better than the retirement benefits that would be provided to the equivalent classes of employees under the Public Employees Retirement System:

(a) Police officers or firefighters who are entitled to receive benefits only under ORS chapter 238 and who established membership in the system before January 1, 1996, as described in ORS 238.430 (Limitation on benefits payable to persons establishing membership on or after January 1, 1996) (2);

(b) Police officers or firefighters who are entitled to receive benefits only under ORS chapter 238 and who established membership in the system on or after January 1, 1996, and before August 29, 2003, as described in ORS 238A.025 (Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan established) (4); and

(c) Police officers or firefighters who establish membership in the system on or after August 29, 2003, and are entitled to benefits only under the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan.

(3) A public employer that provides retirement benefits under subsection (2) of this section must provide that:

(a) If an employee to whom the public employer provides retirement benefits dies before the employee’s effective date of retirement, a former spouse of the employee is entitled to a death benefit if and to the extent provided for in the terms of any judgment of annulment or dissolution of marriage or of separation, or the terms of any court order or court-approved property settlement agreement incident to any judgment of annulment or dissolution of marriage or of separation, as if the former spouse were the surviving spouse of the employee, as provided in ORS 237.600 (Payment to alternate payee).

(b) If an employee to whom the public employer provides retirement benefits dies before the employee’s effective date of retirement and has a dependent child who is not supported by the former spouse who is treated as the surviving spouse under paragraph (a) of this subsection, the dependent child is entitled to a death benefit.

(4) Notwithstanding subsection (3) of this section, a former spouse or dependent child of an employee is not entitled to a death benefit if, before the death of the employee, the former spouse or dependent child has commenced receiving a retirement benefit provided for in the terms of any judgment of annulment or dissolution of marriage or of separation, or the terms of any court order or court-approved property settlement agreement incident to any judgment of annulment or dissolution of marriage or of separation, as provided in ORS 237.600 (Payment to alternate payee).

(5) At such times as may be established by board rule, the Public Employees Retirement Board shall review the retirement benefits provided by a public employer of police officers or firefighters that does not provide retirement benefits for those employees under the Public Employees Retirement System. The review must be conducted at the expense of the public employer. Based on the review, the board shall determine whether the public employer complies with the requirements of subsection (2) of this section. If the board determines that the public employer does not comply with the requirements of subsection (2) of this section for any class of employees described in subsection (2) of this section, the public employer must provide that class of employees with retirement benefits adequate to meet the requirements of subsection (2) of this section. If the public employer fails to provide those benefits, any employee within the class may bring an action in circuit court to compel compliance with the requirements of this section. [1971 c.692 §3; 1973 c.704 §16; 1975 c.449 §13; 1989 c.888 §2; 1991 c.67 §56; 2001 c.945 §76; 2003 c.625 §33; 2007 c.622 §1; 2015 c.506 §4]

Notes of Decisions

PERB was clearly within delegated authority in determining that no plan can be equal to or better than PERS unless it provides basic amounts of benefits in each of four major categories equivalent to 50 percent of that which would be provided under PERS. Oregon Fire/Police Retire­ment Committee v. PERB, 65 Or App 465, 671 P2d 729 (1983), Sup Ct review denied; Springfield Firefighters’ Assoc. v. PERB, 93 Or App 134, 760 P2d 1372 (1988), Sup Ct review denied

In determining whether public employer’s pension plan for police and firefighters provides benefits “equal to or better than” PERS plan benefits, board must use formula that considers both employee contribu­tions and benefits. Salem Firefighters Local 314 v. PERB, 300 Or 663, 717 P2d 126 (1986)

Advantage of retire­ment plans is to be compared from standpoint of benefits to employees, not cost to employers. Springfield Firefighters’ Assoc. v. PERB, 93 Or App 134, 760 P2d 1372 (1988), Sup Ct review denied

Notes of Decisions

In home rule cities, retire­ment and life insurance benefits for police of­fi­cers and firemen are predominantly matters of state concern rather than local concern. La Grande/Astoria v. Public Employes Retire­ment Board, 281 Or 137, 576 P2d 1204 (1977)

Const. Art. XI §2, providing that “Legislative Assembly shall not enact, amend, or repeal any charter or act of incorpora­tion for any municipality, city or town,” did not deny legislature authority to enact statewide standards for police and fire fighters retire­ment and insurance benefits. La Grande/Astoria v. PERB, 284 Or 173, 586 P2d 765 (1978)

Chapter 237

Atty. Gen. Opinions

Authority for voluntary pension trust program for public employees not in educa­tion, (1971) Vol 35, p 998; applica­tion of 1971 amend­ments to benefits under this chapter to retired teachers, (1972) Vol 35, p 1243; retroactive credit for employees of the Legislative Assembly for benefits of the Public Employes’ Retire­ment System, (1973) Vol 36, p 491; eligibility of Teachers’ Retire­ment Fund members for increased retire­ment benefits under 1973 law, (1973) Vol 36, p 687; implied standards for level of funding which must be maintained to achieve “actuarial soundness,” (1977) Vol 38, p 880

1 Legislative Counsel Committee, CHAPTER 237—Public Employee Retirement Generally, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ors237.­html (2017) (last ac­cessed Mar. 30, 2018).
 
2 Legislative Counsel Committee, Annotations to the Oregon Revised Stat­utes, Cumulative Supplement - 2017, Chapter 237, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ano237.­html (2017) (last ac­cessed Mar. 30, 2018).
 
3 OregonLaws.org assembles these lists by analyzing references between Sections. Each listed item refers back to the current Section in its own text. The result reveals relationships in the code that may not have otherwise been apparent.