Since July of 2014, PLEA has been in the litigation trenches with aims of securing many of your pensionable benefits that were unceremoniously and unilaterally stripped away from you with the City Council’s imposition of the 2012–2014 Terms and Conditions of Employment (TCE). As you will recall, the TCE eliminated certain provisions from your MOU that previously allowed eligible officers to receive additional compensation instead of accruing additional sick or vacation leave or receiving their annual uniform allowance. The additional compensation was structured in a way that allowed it to be included in the officers’ pension calculations. Following imposition of the TCE in July 2014, PLEA filed a lawsuit on behalf of all rank and file officers alleging claims for breach of contract and violations of the pension and contracts clauses of the Arizona Constitution.
Over the last seven years, our office has fought several legal battles related to this lawsuit — in the superior court, court of appeals, and the supreme court. At each stage, we prevailed. In June, however, the superior court found that “[a]ny claim for relief is barred unless a plaintiff was approved and participating in the wage enhancement program on or before July 1, 2014.” This decision significantly narrowed the issues and the potential class size going forward. Officers who were not yet participating in the conversion programs as of July 1, 2014 do not have a claim going forward.
Accordingly, we filed a motion to certify our case as a class action lawsuit. Class certification motions, responses, supplemental briefing and oral arguments spanned from January 2019 to October 2019. On October 22, 2019, the superior court granted our motion for class certification. Unfortunately, we were not able to proceed to the merits of the case because the City filed an appeal of the class certification ruling in November 2019.
After appellate briefing and oral arguments held in November 2020, the Court of Appeals affirmed the superior court’s certification of our class action litigation. In a surprising departure from their demonstrated litigation playbook, the City did not appeal the Court of Appeals decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. The lawsuit is now back before the superior court and a notice will be sent to all officers that were approved and participating in the wage enhancement program on or before July 1, 2014.
If you are one of these officers, it is imperative that you pay special attention to any notices sent from our law firm and that you are in contact with our firm to be actively engaged in the fight for the MOU pensionable benefits that you’ve earned.