NH Firefighter Challenging Law Limiting Hours of Retirees

A retired New Hampshire firefighter is challenging a state law that limits the number of hours he can work.

Mark T. Lemay, a retired Manchester firefighter who works part-time for Goffstown, Litchfield and the State Fire Academy, has filed suit along with three retired police officers, William R. Tucker Jr., Gregory Santuccio, and Scott Anderson.  Each of the officers have continued to work as police officers in other NH communities following their retirement.

The four are suing the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS) alleging that changes made in 2011 and 2012 governing retirees’ part-time employment are unconstitutional as ex post facto laws prohibited by Article 23 of the state constitution.

The laws is question limit retirees to working no more than 32 hours a week for the state, or a city, town, county or school district while collecting a pension. The laws coincide with laws that require employees who work more than 32 hours a week to contribute into the pension system.  

The employees allege that because they had already retired when the laws were enacted, it is illegal for the retirement system to restrict their hours. Attorneys for the NHRS have taken the position that Lemay and the three officers have sued the wrong party: they should have sued the state of New Hampshire who enacted the laws, not the retirement system.

The UnionLeader.com quoted state Senator Jeb Bradley as commenting about the case:  “Of all the things the public gets up in arms about, double-dipping is one of the worst. The public feels the system is being abused by double-dipping … To allow someone to get a retirement check at the same time they are in a highly paid job, the public has said, ‘Enough,’ and I think they are outraged.”

The laws were enacted as part of a reform effort to address a pension underfunding problem. The theory was that retirees working over 32 hours a week are essentially taking jobs away from full time employees who would be contributing to the pension system. The laws do not limit the hours that retirees can work for employers who are not part of the NHRS.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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