U Of I Trustees Chair Kennedy, Human Resources, On Helping Employees ‘Un-Retire’
By Hannah Meisel and Jeff Bossert
Officials at the University of Illinois say they are willing to work to retain faculty who opted to retire early as a result of mistakes in the state's pension overhaul.
It was a small typo, but it turned out to have big consequences for the state's public universities and community colleges.
The pension overhaul law that passed late last year said that university employees would lose pension benefits if they didn't retire before July 1, 2013.
It also changed the way benefits were calculated. Both provisions caused a rush of people looking to retire, and not enough retirement counselors to help them navigate those waters.
That's no longer an issue; a judge Wednesday put a halt on the pension law entirely.
But it may be too late for employees who already submitted their retirement paperwork.
University of Illinois Board Chairman Chris Kennedy said the school will do everything it can if people have changed their minds and now want to "un-retire."
"We'll be super flexible with current employees and former employees to try to make their life easy," he said. "We're not rule-oriented, we're not going to try to stop people because of a lack of clarity in state law."
The University of Illinois’ Human Resources Department says it’s working with employees who want to rescind their retirement plans.
U of I Associate Vice President for HR, Maureen Parks, said anyone who’s changed their mind about retiring should contact their immediate supervisor, who in turn should contact HR.
Parks says 552 employees on the U of I’s three campuses had filed paperwork to retire by the end of June. She calls that 'much higher than normal', noting that total came from two months, whereas 564 opted to retire during all of 2013.
She said her department is doing it all it can to accommodate those who want to abandon those plans.
“We know that our employees have made decisions, sometimes quickly, sometimes without all the information, sometimes before they were ready to retire," she said. "So we will be as flexible as we can in helping those individuals – and the units and departments – make decisions on whether that person can rescind their resignation.”
Parks said her staff is waiting to hear back from the State Universities Retirement System, to see if they plan to inform universities and community colleges, or to contact those who had planned to retire.
SURS spokeswoman Beth Spencer says they’re still reviewing the judge’s ruling, but will be communicating to its members.
In a mass e-mail Thursday, U of I President Robert Easter said the university will consider rehiring those who tendered their resignations on fears of benefit cuts if they stayed on the job past June 30.
He said the judge's ruling “preserves the current pension system as we know it.''