CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that a woman who filed suit is not eligible to participate in the Teachers’ Retirement System because she was not regularly employed for full-time service.

The West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, and the circuit court agreed, that West Virginia Code requires minimal employment for 200 days throughout the employment term to be eligible to participate in the TRS and since Cynthia Ringel-Williams only worked 120 days a year, she was not eligible, according to the June 3 opinion.

The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court’s conclusion that Ringel-Williams was not statutorily eligible to participate in the TRA and affirmed the court’s Feb. 27, 2015, order.

Justice Margaret Workman authored the majority opinion.

Ringel-Williams has been employed by the Raleigh County Board of Education as a physical therapist since 1987 and executed a Teacher’s Continuing Contract of Employment that provided she was to be employed term of 120 days.

When Ringel-Williams executed her probationary contract, she also executed a membership enrollment form provided by the BOE requesting to be enrolled in the TRS. In 1991, she elected to enroll in the newly-created Techers’ Defined Contribution System and “freeze” her TRS contributions. In 1999, she elected to transfer her TRS funds to TDC.

In 2008, Ringel-Williams chose to transfer back to TRS and, in the process of auditing the transferring members, the Board ascertained that she was ineligible to participate in either plan because she was only working 120 days a year and sent her a letter advising that the money contributed would be returned to her and her employer.

Ringel-Williams appealed the board’s determination and a hearing examiner found she was eligible to participate in TDS, but not TRS, and the board adopted the hearing examiner’s recommended decision. The circuit court then affirmed the decision on appeal utilizing the same rationale. Ringel-Williams then appealed the circuit court’s decision.

The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision.

Ringel-Williams is represented by Andrew J. Katz of the Katz Working Families’ Law Firm LC.

WVCPRB is represented by J. Jeaneen Legato.

W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 15-0281

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