State Employees Association of North Carolina, SEIU Local 2008 P.O. Drawer 27727, Raleigh, NC • www.seanc.org 800-222-2758 • 919-833-6436 • Circulation 55,000
• Vol. 31, Issue 5
Treasurer Pushes Minimum Retirement Age New state employees would have to work until 62 regardless of years of service by Jonathan
SEANC Assistant Director of Communications
Who the Proposal Affects All state employees who started working for the state on or after Aug. 1, 2011, would be affected by the proposal, which Cowell’s staff rolled out at a roundtable meeting with groups representing active and retired public employees, including SEANC, on Feb. 22. Employees would have to accept an asyet-undetermined reduced benefit rate if they retired after 30 years of service but before they turn 62. The treasurer’s staff suggested these moves would save costs and fight off threats of major changes to the plan, but failed to mention that this proposal also reduces the pressure on Cowell to meet the 7.25 percent return on investment currently required. Cowell has come under fire on several occasions for her failure to meet this requirement. Cowell Bypasses Retirement Systems Board Cowell’s staff also bypassed the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) Board of Trustees entirely and presented the plan to the House State Personnel Committee on Feb. 22 without any discussion by the TSERS board. SEANC lobbyists attended this legislative meeting and were shocked at the presentation. SEANC supports other parts of the proposal, including a reduction in the vesting period for state employees from 10 to five years and prohibitions on salary spiking — the practice of inflating salary usually during the final four years of employment to increase benefits paid.
Photo by Ardis Watkins
State Treasurer Janet Cowell took another swipe at state employees in February, pushing for a minimum retirement age for recent and future hires. After adding surcharges that would increase state workers’ State Health Plan premiums by up to $40 per month earlier in February, Cowell’s retirement systems division proposed setting a minimum retirement age of 62 regardless of years of service. SEANC Lobbyists Chuck Stone (left) and Mitch Leonard listen to State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s proposal.
SEANC’s Concerns with Proposal SEANC members oppose a minimum retirement age and in 2010 fought off efforts to set the minimum at 55. Young people who choose state service just after college or high school graduation would be most affected by the change. For instance, a worker who enters state service at 24 years of age would have to work 38 years to realize full retirement benefits. This change only targets employees who are TSERS members and would not apply to members of the General Assembly, the Judicial System or Local Government Retirement Systems, placing the state at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining employees. What’s Next? The proposed changes must be approved by the General Assembly in order to take effect. SEANC members should contact their representatives at 919-733-4111 to state their opposition to a minimum requirement age for state service. SEANC’s legislative affairs team will continue to monitor the issue and update members through the weekly Legislative Update, found under “Legislative Action” at seanc.org.
Counselor’s Comments By Tom Harris
SEANC Chief of Staff/General Counsel
Supreme Court Tackles Employment Discrimination
All too frequently, I get calls from SEANC members who feel they are being harassed or discriminated against by their supervisor. I explain to them that not all forms of discrimination are illegal — just those made illegal by a specific law. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. So it is of great interest that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide a case this year that could broaden the coverage of Title VII. In the lawsuit, Vance v. Ball State University, an employee alleged that her supervisor in the catering department at the university subjected her to racial harassment. Specifically, Ms. Vance, the only African-American working in the department, claimed she was forced to work in “an environment of physical intimidation and racial harassment.” Harris Under Title VII, an employer can be held liable for the illegal actions of its supervisors but not the actions of co-workers, unless the employer knew of the co-worker’s improper actions and did nothing to stop them. The issue for the court in the Vance case is whether the harasser was actually a supervisor or only a co-worker. In attempting to prove her case, Ms. Vance alleged that her harasser was “given authority to direct [her] work and other employees’ work” and, therefore, was a supervisor for purposes of Title VII. The trial court dismissed the case, finding that the harasser was not a supervisor because he had not been given the explicit power “to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline” other employees. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal.
Currently, several federal appeals courts are split on what constitutes a supervisor. The Supreme Court’s decision is expected to provide clarity to the appeals courts’ various rulings by deciding whether the term “supervisor” has a broad or narrow meaning under Title VII. This issue is important for public sector employees, in particular, because it is not unusual for one or more employees in a job classification to be designated as “lead” employees who are charged with supervising the work of other employees without being given the authority to hire, fire or discipline those employees. If such “lead” employees are not actually supervisors, the harassed public employee might not have a claim against their employer under Title VII for harassing conduct by the lead employee.
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The Reporter • April 2013
Toni Davis, Editor-In-Chief Jonathan Owens, Managing Editor Alicia Miller, Associate Editor Johnny Davison, Associate Editor State Employees Association of North Carolina P.O. Drawer 27727 • Raleigh, NC 27611 1621 Midtown Place • Raleigh, NC 27609 Telephone 919-833-6436, 800-222-2758
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The Reporter • April 2013
Photo Submitted by Teressa Jackson
District 37 member Teressa Jackson and Sgt. Ronald Coley walk with a SEANC banner at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day March in Downtown Raleigh on Jan. 21.
Photo submitted by Lynn Tuthill
SEANC District 65 teamed up with Parkers Paws, a non-profit animal rescue group of volunteers committed to saving animals from shelters and finding them loving homes, for a recent fundraiser. Members collected items such as blankets, rugs, towels, pillows, flannels, jackets, sweatshirts and doggie beds to keep the rescued animals warm. At left, District 65 members Lynn Tuthill (right) and Theresa Cieslinski (left) are shown with some of the items as well as two of the group’s dogs.
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The Reporter • April 2013
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Photo submitted by Mary O’Neill
Photo COURTESY WRAL-TV/John West
Members Take the Polar Plunge!
Photo submitted by Mary O’Neill
First Vice President Art Anthony and District 39 members Shoshana Serxner and Wanda Simmons ignored the cold rain to participate in the 5K Torch Run.
District 39 member Ryan Hancock makes the mad dash to plunge in the icy waters of Lake Raleigh.
Photo submitted by Douglas Wilson
Photo Submitted by Steve Lawson
Photo submitted by Mary O’Neill
Members of District 39 participated in the N.C. State University Police Department’s 5K Torch Run and Polar Plunge for Special Olympics on Feb. 23 at Lake Raleigh on NCSU’s Centennial Campus, and also provided hot chocolate to warm all the brave souls who participated in this year’s event. Water temperature that day was measured at about 38 degrees. At left, Chris Conner, District 66 Chairman Mike Kollock and Scholarship Foundation Board Chairman George Thiessen exit the lake after the plunge. At right, Thiessen won an award for best costume.
District 70 member David Cobb (left) presented District 70 member Johnnie Carson with a television he won as part of a raffle fundraiser.
District 19 Chairwoman Martha Fowler (right) speaks with new member Irene Newman, who joined SEANC at the Orange County Schools Health Expo in Hillsborough on Feb. 18.
The Reporter • April 2013
Act Now to Continue Saving with SEANC Insurance By Brenda Hooker
Are You Ready to Retire?
SEANC Insurance Director
Retiring from state service can be an exciting and possibly confusing time for anyone. Luckily, SEANC is here to help. You can still be an active member of SEANC even after your last day on the job. In fact, five of SEANC’s Top 10 Legislative Priorities for 2013 relate specifically to retirees. SEANC advocates to make sure state government keeps your retirement secure. SEANC also fights for expansion of the Bailey Settlement, which exempts public service retirees from state income taxes. Also, SEANC’s discounts and insurance programs can stretch your money further and give your family peace of mind. Retirees receive a discount on their monthly membership dues as well. The state does not alert SEANC when a member retires, so it is very important to contact our office at 800-2222758 to ensure that your membership is maintained and insurance programs continue.
To help you with the transition, here’s a few things to keep in mind. 1. At retirement, your SEANC membership dues are reduced to $5 per month — a savings of $48 annually. 2. It can take up to two months for your dues to be deducted from the retirement system, so please contact SEANC prior to your retirement so there is no lapse in your dues, especially if you are a SEANC insurance customer. 3. Be sure to enroll in the term-life insurance program before you retire. Term-life coverage is not available to members once their status changes to retired. 4. Make sure you obtain a SEANC retirement packet and return it to the SEANC Insurance Department. If you submit your SEANC retirement packet after the 10th day of the month, you must include your insurance premium and membership dues for one month. 5. SEANC can be reached at 800-222-2758.
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The Reporter • April 2013
Contact Alicia Miller today at (919) 833-6436 or firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a SEANC conference room.
Quotes to Note “We’re a little perplexed at what this memo is. The revenue seems to be available to handle the Medicaid dollars without budgeting the Medicaid deficit on the backs of state employees and people trying to provide essential services to the taxpayers.” SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope in a March 8 News & Observer story, “McCrory: Limit state spending to cover Medicaid overrun”
“It’s a subjective determination that apparently doesn’t rise to the level of demotion or dismissal. It’s one person’s opinion of your performance. I think the public should have a concern when public employee records are delved into in a manner that doesn’t serve a legitimate purpose.” SEANC Legislative Affairs Director Ardis Watkins in The Wilson Times article from March 6, “Should performance reviews be public?”
“Lawmakers have a chance to give citizens relief from extraordinarily over-inflated hospital prices. It’s ridiculous if they don’t take that opportunity. Why wouldn’t we want to encourage competition to decrease health care costs?” SEANC Legislative Affairs Director Ardis Watkins in a March 12 Charlotte Observer story, “Lawmakers: Surgery centers would provide alternative to high hospital bills”
From Social media “Our thoughts are with the brave state trooper who was shot in Durham tonight.” SEANC’s official Twitter account (@seanc2008) on Feb. 19.
“SEANC is committed to protect taxpayers from secretive practices of taking taxpayer money to pad pockets/reserves of big hospitals. #ncga” SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope (@DanaDCope) on a bill that would end hospitals’ monopolies on surgical procedures on March 12.
“Another six figure salary person sticking it to the little guy again. Her retirement will be much more than the average salaries for regular employees.” District 63 member Wayne Bryant responding to a March 1 post on SEANC’s Facebook page concerning the State Treasurer’s proposed changes to retirement. The Reporter • April 2013
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The Reporter â€¢ April 2013