Chief US District Judge James Payne of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma ruled that Richard Mullins could not sue PERS under ERISA, Washington-based legal publisher BNA reported. As an arm of the state of Oklahoma, PERS is constitutionally immune from lawsuits under federal law.
Mullins sued PERS after it refused to pay him additional pension benefits for time he served in the US military. Mullins alleged that the retirement system violated ERISA and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act by not including his military service in the calculation of his pension benefits.
Payne also rejected Mullins’s claim that the retirement system was subject to ERISA because it qualified as a public pension plan. Instead, Payne ruled that the retirement system was both established and maintained by the state of Oklahoma and, as such, qualified as a “governmental plan” exempt from ERISA.
The case is Mullins v. Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System , E.D. Okla., No. 01-456-P, 1/31/03.