Section 12-5A-9

Participation of eligible employees in Employees' Retirement System; creditable service; formal leave accounting system; inclusion in health insurance plan.

(a) Class specifications and rates of compensation for employees covered by this chapter, juvenile probation officers, juvenile probation professional staff, and clerical staff, hereafter called "eligible employees," and any future employees occupying those positions shall be established by the Administrative Director of Courts. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the compensation of any employee shall not be diminished as a result of his or her inclusion in the state court system personnel system.

(b) Eligible employees included in the state court system personnel system pursuant to this chapter shall, on October 1 of the year their county transitions, be covered by the Employees' Retirement System. An employee who on that date is participating in a local retirement plan other than a unit administered by the Employees' Retirement System may, by written notice filed with both the Administrative Director of Courts and the administrator of the local retirement plan within 30 days prior to the date the employee joins the state court system personnel system, elect to retain instead membership in the local retirement plan. Upon election of an employee and notice from the local retirement program of the employer retirement contribution rate attributable to the employee, the Administrative Director of Courts shall pay to the local retirement plan the employer contribution for any employee electing to retain local plan membership. The employer contribution paid by the state to the local retirement plan shall not exceed the employer contribution paid by the state for eligible members transferring to the Employees' Retirement System. The county shall pay into the local plan any additional amount necessary to fully fund the employer contribution pursuant to the local retirement plan.

(1) Eligible employees who have participated in retirement programs with units of local government, whether or not the local programs have utilized the state employees' retirement plan to administer the funding of the plans, shall receive credit for prior service for which they have been given credit under the local retirement programs. When an eligible employee joins the Employees' Retirement System, the total of all employer and employee contributions plus any other amounts, including, but not limited to, interest attributable to the account of the employee to which the employee would have had the right to receive upon withdrawal from the local retirement program, shall be transferred immediately into the Employees' Retirement Fund on account of the employee under the same rules and regulations applicable to other members of the Employees' Retirement System on the date the employee joins the Employees' Retirement System. Amounts transferred shall not exceed the amount that would have been received on behalf of the employee had the employee been participating in the Employees' Retirement System for the length of his or her creditable service. Any contribution represented by annuities purchased by or through the previous employer on account of the employment therewith of any eligible employee and for his or her individual benefit shall be immediately cashed out and the proceeds transferred along with any other regular contributions to the Employees' Retirement System.

(2) Eligible employees who have participated in unfunded local retirement programs or who have not participated in retirement programs with units of local government shall be granted prior service credit by the Employees' Retirement System, based on length of previous service in any position in juvenile probation services covered by this chapter, to a maximum of five years. The Secretary-Treasurer of the Employees' Retirement System shall authorize and direct the Comptroller to pay from the Juvenile Probation Services Fund the cost of granting prior service credit in the amounts determined to be necessary, and the Comptroller shall pay those amounts as necessary for both employer and employee contributions into the Employees' Retirement Fund on account of the eligible employee under the same rules and regulations applicable to other members of the Employees' Retirement System. In addition to the five-year prior service credit described above, any eligible employee may purchase prior service credit in any position covered by this chapter, not to exceed actual years served, by direct payment to the Employees' Retirement System, within one year after October 1 of the year of transition in an amount as determined to be necessary by the Employees' Retirement System for the prior service credit desired.

(3) Any unresolved issues relating to the Employees' Retirement System, including eligibility, membership, benefits, or any other similar question shall be determined by the Board of Control of the system.

(c) The Administrative Office of Courts shall consult with each local personnel system prior to October 1 of the year of transition, to determine the existence of any formal leave accounting system for the benefit of those persons joining the state court system personnel system, as provided in this chapter. "Formal leave accounting system" as used herein refers to a system with an established written policy wherein annual and sick leave are earned in specified increments and leave balances for each employee are maintained on individual leave accounting cards or can be calculated based on supportive documentation.

(1) Each local personnel system operating a formal leave accounting system for the benefit of any employee covered by this chapter shall certify to the Administrative Director of Courts the balance of all annual and sick leave credited to each employee's leave account as of the close of business on September 30 of the year prior to transition. Upon receipt of a properly certified leave balance from the appropriate county commission, the Administrative Director of Courts shall credit an individual's leave accounting card with all unused annual and sick leave to which he or she was entitled on September 30 of the year prior to transition. Notwithstanding the foregoing, no individual shall be credited with more than 480 hours of annual leave nor more than 1,200 hours of sick leave for any service rendered prior to his or her inclusion in the state court system personnel system, except that any sick leave earned in excess of this maximum may be credited as a sick leave reserve which may be restored to the employee's sick leave account if that employee suffers an extended illness or disability which results in a depletion of his or her sick leave balance.

(2) Employees entering the state court system personnel system on October 1 of the year of transition, as herein provided, who were not previously covered by a formal leave accounting system shall begin participation in the leave accrual program.

(3) It shall be the responsibility of each county commission to certify to the personnel division of the Administrative Office of Courts, for eligible employees covered by this chapter, their total service through September 30 of the year prior to transition. For eligible employees in counties maintaining a formal leave accounting system, each county shall certify the employee's total service with the county. For eligible employees in counties without a formal leave accounting system, certification shall include only the dates of employment in any position covered by this chapter. An employee's leave accumulation rate shall then be established based on such service, and he or she shall begin earning leave on October 1 of the year of transition, in accordance with the rules and regulations applicable to other employees in the state court system personnel system.

(4) No compensatory leave shall be transferred to the state court system personnel system.

(d) On October 1 of the year of transition, all employees covered by this chapter and any future employees occupying positions covered by this chapter shall be included in the health insurance plan for employees of the State of Alabama under the same rules and regulations applicable to other employees covered by that plan. Any waiting periods applicable to coverage that would otherwise be applicable to an employee joining the state's service are specifically waived for employees covered by this chapter who have at least nine months service prior to transition and provided further that upon receipt of proof at least 30 days prior to October 1 of the year of transition, from any covered employee that his or her family health insurance coverage was furnished as a supplemental benefit to his or her employment immediately prior to his or her inclusion in the state court system personnel system, the Administrative Director of Courts shall pay the cost of family coverage under the state health plan for the individual. In lieu of coverage in the health insurance plan for state employees as provided herein, any employee covered by this chapter may elect instead to continue to participate in the insurance program provided to the employees of the local governmental unit. Notice of election shall be filed by the individual both with the Administrative Director of Courts and the local governmental unit providing the coverage at least 30 days prior to the date the employee joins the state court system personnel system. Upon receiving notification, the state shall reimburse the local governmental unit for the cost of providing this insurance coverage to the employee. Should conditions cause this local governmental unit to alter or discontinue the insurance coverage offered to its employees after the transition date, any employee covered by this chapter electing to participate in the local governmental health insurance program shall be treated as any other employee of the local governmental unit. If any alterations in coverage made by the local governing body are unacceptable to the employee covered by this chapter electing to participate in the local insurance program, the Administrative Director of Courts may take all reasonable action necessary to procure the same or substantially the same coverage in substantially the same amounts as was in effect on January 1 of the year of transition. In any instance where the Administrative Director of Courts is unable to procure the same or substantially the same coverage as herein provided, he or she shall notify the employee who shall then be included in the health insurance plan for employees of the State of Alabama under the same provisions as applicable to employees covered by this chapter who joined the plan on October 1 of the year of transition. Any covered employee who elects to retain coverage under any local insurance program as provided herein, may, during any period of open enrollment as specified by the State Employees' Insurance Board, elect to come under the State Employees' Health Insurance Plan in lieu of any local insurance program. The election shall be made in accordance with any procedure prescribed by the State Employees' Insurance Board, with a written copy of the notice being filed with the Administrative Director of Courts. All waiting periods applicable to coverage that would otherwise apply to other employees joining the state service or their dependents, shall also apply to any person making an election under this subsection. All questions regarding coverage under the health insurance plan for employees of the State of Alabama as provided in this chapter shall be directed to the State Employees' Insurance Board for its determination.

(Act 98-392, p. 782, §10.)