Other Circumstances of Service
Reciprocity is a special relationship that exists between LACERA and certain public retirement systems in California. It is designed to protect retirement benefits when public service employees transfer to other public service jobs within a specified time. Under reciprocity there is no transfer of funds or service credit between reciprocal systems.
Reciprocal systems include, but are not limited to, the other 19 county retirement systems in California governed by CERL, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), systems with reciprocal agreements with CalPERS, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), and the Judges Retirement System I and II (JRS).
Requirements for establishing reciprocity:
- You must become a member of a reciprocal agency within six months after terminating from LACERA, or vice versa.
- Your employment at one public agency must terminate before employment at the next public agency begins. Overlapping service, including vacation or sick time, may disqualify you for reciprocity.
- You must leave your contributions on deposit with LACERA while your employment is covered by a reciprocal retirement system, or vice versa.
- You must apply, in writing, for retirement from each system separately and retire from each system concurrently (on the same day).
Establishing reciprocity provides the following advantages:*
- Your contribution rate in the new system may be based on your entry age into the first system.
- Your years of service earned under each system may be combined and applied to retirement requirements for vesting and years of service credit.
- When calculating your retirement allowance, each system may use your highest final compensation, regardless of under which system it was earned.
Under reciprocity, each system will provide you with a separate benefit payment, based on your age and years of service credit in that system.
*Specifications of reciprocity may vary according to the requirements of each system.
If you leave County service for any reason prior to retirement, your future eligibility for retirement benefits depends on the amount of service credit you have accrued when you terminate service.
If you have at least five years of service credit and leave County service with your retirement contributions on deposit with LACERA:
- Your contributions will continue to earn interest.
- Once you meet the minimum age requirement, you become eligible for retirement.
- No action is required on your part until you decide to apply for retirement or elect to withdraw your accumulated contributions.
If you have less than five years of service credit and leave County service with your retirement contributions on deposit with LACERA:
- Your contributions will continue to earn interest.
- You are not eligible for future retirement benefits from LACERA.
- Your contributions may be withdrawn at any time (unless you return to County service or establish reciprocity in another retirement system).
- No action is required on your part until you wish to withdraw your contributions.
- In accordance with IRS minimum distribution requirements, you will be required to withdraw your accumulated contributions at age 72.
With any amount of service credit, you may establish reciprocity if you leave County service and:
- Leave your contributions on deposit with LACERA, and
- Enter employment with a reciprocal agency within six months of leaving County service.
If you withdraw your accumulated contributions from LACERA:
- Such a withdrawal terminates your membership and forfeits any and all rights to future retirement benefits from LACERA, including disability benefits.
- If you withdraw, you may elect to either:
- Have LACERA issue a check directly to you, minus 20 percent mandatory federal withholding tax and any applicable California state tax (federal and state penalties for early withdrawal may apply if you are under age 59.5), or
- Defer taxes and roll your funds over to an IRA or other tax-qualified plan, if you are under age 72.
If you are over age 72, you are not eligible to roll the funds over. LACERA will issue a check to you minus the mandatory federal withholding tax and any applicable California state tax.
Required Minimum Distribution
Internal Revenue Code (IRC) § 401(a)(9) requires individuals who reach age 72 having left County service with their contributions on deposit to begin taking a distribution from their LACERA retirement plan.
In accordance with IRC requirements and applicable retirement law, this means those individuals must either elect to retire or to withdraw their accumulated contributions.
LACERA must begin paying a monthly retirement allowance to a member who meets the following two conditions:
- Reaches age 72
- Left County service with his or her accumulated contributions on deposit with LACERA
If an individual meeting the above two conditions fails to apply for a retirement allowance and elect a Retirement Option, LACERA will calculate and pay a monthly retirement allowance based on the Unmodified Option.
Note: Rather than apply for retirement, a member meeting the above conditions may elect to withdraw his or her accumulated accumulations. By taking such action, however, the member terminates his or her membership and forfeits all rights to future retirement benefits from LACERA, including disability benefits.
Returning to Service*
A safety member who left County service with his or her accumulated contributions on deposit and returns to County employment working three-quarter time or more in a safety position is automatically reinstated in his former Plan. The returning member retains his or her service credit.
A general member with five or more years of service credit who returns to County employment working three-quarter time or more in a safety position is automatically placed in the safety plan that was in effect at the time he or she initially became a general member. A member who does this assumes dual membership status.
A member with five or more years of service credit who returns to a permanent position of less than three-quarter time may file a written election to return to active membership. The written election must specify whether the member also chooses to purchase service credit for any County service not previously credited prior to the date of his or her election. The purchase may begin at any time prior to the member's effective date of retirement. The election to return to active membership is irrevocable; active membership will remain in effect until the member terminates service.
In such cases, the contribution rate for the returning member is based on the rate in effect on the member's most recent termination date.
*Rules also apply to returning members who entered a reciprocal retirement system after terminating County service.
Restoring to a Prior Plan
A member who previously terminated service, subsequently withdrew his or her accumulated contributions, and later returns to County service may restore to his or her former Plan, provided certain conditions are met:
- Member must elect Plan C upon rehire.
- All withdrawn contributions must be redeposited, plus the interest those contributions would have earned had they been left on deposit.
Once restoration is complete, the member's prior service credit is restored and membership in the prior plan continues as if unbroken.
If you were a public employee prior to 2013, you may be eligible for a different LACERA plan.
Restoration for Reciprocal Safety Members
Certain current or former safety members whose principal duties consist(ed) of active law enforcement or firefighting may be eligible to redeposit contributions they had previously withdrawn from LACERA or a reciprocal retirement system, even if the time between systems exceeded six months. The redeposit (in the first system) restores membership in the individual's previous LACERA or reciprocal system’s (whichever is the first system) retirement plan.
Eligibility Requirements for Reciprocal Safety Member Restoration
- Must be an active member of LACERA (or the reciprocal retirement system) at the time of the redeposit.
- Must be employed by a law enforcement agency or fire department.
- Principal duties must consist of active law enforcement or firefighting, either presently or while a member of the reciprocal system.
Specifications of reciprocity may vary according to the requirements of each system.