Contra Costa Sanitary District Workers Collecting More in Retirement than on the Job
A look at the pay of Contra Costa sanitation workers reveals a curious phenomenon. Certain employees are being paid more in retirement than they ever were as employees. Sanitary district worker Bhupinder Dhaliwal, for example, was paid $135,433 when he was a salaried employee, but now that he is retired, he collects a yearly pension of $143,462.
So how did this happen? How are these Central Contra Costa Sanitary District employees able to collect more when retired than they did while working? They were able to do it by leveraging district leave accrual policies and retirement system rules that allowed shrewd employees to raise their pensions by as much as 40 percent.
These rules are not legal, but certain counties, including Contra Costa, Alameda and Merced, decided to ignore past court decisions. This caused lawmakers in 2012 to pass a law reaffirming their earlier pension rulings. Contra Costa Superior Court Judge David Flinn was one of the lawmakers upholding the new law, which seeks to end the pension spiking for future retirees. Labor unions in Bay Area counties are not pleased, however, claiming the law violates past promises. Certain unions have appealed the court ruling.
Many pensions are ballooned by one-time cash payments for unused leave. These payments include heft payments for unused vacation pay, sick leave, and holiday compensation. Contra Costa’s retirement system allowed employees to count payments for up to a year’s vacation in their calculations. This has been recently halted by the new law put in place by the Contra Costa Superior Court.
Despite the recent actions taken by the Superior Court, the survival of these pension changes now depends on the actions taken by the Court of Appeal.
Read more about the county’s pension here.