All permanent employees working at least 75% of full-time in a permanent position for one of MCERA's participating employers are eligible for membership and should be automatically enrolled in the retirement plan. All other employees working under contract or in temporary, seasonal, part time (less than 75% of full time) or provisional positions are not eligible for membership.
Elected officials and new employees who are age 60 or older as of their date of MCERA membership may waive participation in the plan at the time they become eligible. Contact MCERA for the appropriate waiver form.
Types of Membership
General vs. Safety
Classic vs. PEPRA
MCERA membership is divided into two categories: general members and safety members. Safety members are employed in sworn law enforcement, active fire suppression, and some probation positions. All other members are general members.
Classic tiers are applicable to people who became MCERA members on or before December 31, 2012 (and who are still members), and those who enter MCERA membership on or after January 1, 2013 with Classic tier reciprocity. PEPRA tiers were established as a result of the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013. Members who enter MCERA on or after January 1, 2013 and do not have reciprocity prior to that date are in a PEPRA tier.
Membership Enrollment Form
All new and returning MCERA members must complete a Membership Enrollment Form. The answers to the questions on page 2 of the form assist employers in determining which retirement tier the employee should be placed in. This form should be submitted by the employer to MCERA within the first week of the employee’s hire date or date of transfer to an eligible position.
Proof of Age
All members are required to provide MCERA with government-approved proof of age. This is generally in the form of a birth certificate or passport. The original document must be witnessed by MCERA at the start of membership, and new employees can bring the original to MCERA’s office during normal business hours without an appointment.
Age at Entry
A member's age at entry is their actual age on the date they become eligible for MCERA membership rounded up or down to the nearest whole year. The establishment of reciprocity may reduce a member's age of entry and MCERA will notify employers if a member's entry age should be changed.
For Classic members, contribution rates are determined by retirement tier and age at entry. Generally, younger ages have lower Classic member contribution rates. Contribution rates for PEPRA members are determined by tier only, and are the same for all members within that tier regardless of age at entry into membership.
Reciprocity allows public employees in California to move from one retirement system to another and maintain earned retirement benefits. It provides portability by linking retirement service credit and highest average compensation between all reciprocal systems.
Members may indicate prior public service and retirement system membership details on page 2 of the Membership Enrollment Form. This information can be used to determine the member's appropriate retirement tier (Classic or PEPRA). Contact MCERA as soon as possible for assistance in determining tier based on the member's prior public employment.
Reciprocal Retirement Systems
MCERA has reciprocal agreements with 19 other California counties operating under the County Employees’ Retirement Law of 1937 (1937 Act), the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), and other public retirement systems that have a reciprocal agreement with CalPERS.
Reciprocity is not available with the University of California retirement system, Federal retirement system, or any retirement systems outside of California.
Advantages of Reciprocity
To establish and maintain reciprocity, the following requirements must be met:
- Terminate active membership in one system and establish active membership in the new system within six months (180 days).
- Have a clean break in service from the previous system before entering the new one, with no overlapping service credit. Receiving payment for vacation time with the previous system while making retirement contributions in the new system is one example of an overlap in service credit.
- Employee retirement contributions must remain on deposit with all reciprocal systems.
- The election to establish reciprocity must be made with all retirement systems.
- Members must retire from all reciprocal retirement systems on the same date.
- The service credit earned in all reciprocal systems will combine to help meet all vesting and retirement eligibility requirements. This means employees don't "start over" when moving between systems.
- The highest average compensation earned in any retirement system will be used by all systems to calculate retirement benefits.
- If a subsequent retirement system uses age-based retirement contribution rates, the member will pay retirement contributions based on their age at entry into the prior (or first) system. Generally, the younger the age at the start of membership the lower the contribution rate.
- If the employee’s membership date with their first reciprocal system was prior to January 1, 2013, and other requirements are met, they are eligible for the tier and benefit levels in place with MCERA as of December 31, 2012.
Reciprocity and Retirement Tier
Employees who are returning to MCERA-covered employment generally retain rights to their prior retirement tier, which may not be the current tier in place for new employees. Be sure to contact MCERA as soon as possible to confirm the appropriate retirement tier for returning employees to ensure they are earning the correct benefits and will have the correct amount of retirement contributions deducted from their paycheck.
The answers provided to the questions on page 2 of the Membership Enrollment Form can help you determine the appropriate retirement tier for your employee.
If your new employee indicates all of the following on their on their Membership Enrollment Form, they are eligible for a Classic retirement tier and should be placed in the most recently open Classic tier for your agency:
- They were employed by another public agency prior and participated in that agency’s retirement system prior to December 31, 2012.
- They terminated that employment less than 6 months prior to their recent hire with your agency.
- They left their employee contributions on deposit with the prior retirement system.
- They did not retire from the prior retirement system.
If your new employee does not meet all of those requirements they should be placed in your agency’s currently open PEPRA tier. Be sure to contact MCERA if you need assistance with tier determination.