If your organization participates in the WRS pension plans, you must cover all full-time and regular part-time employees as of their employment date. Employees meeting the definition of “member” according to Wyoming Statues must be enrolled in one of the WRS defined benefit plans. Please see W.S. 9-3-402(a)(vii) for the definition of “member” for the Public Employees Plan.
You must cover all employees regardless of any probationary period you may have for other benefits. Cities, towns, and counties have additional flexibility and may elect whether or not to cover part-time employees pursuant to W.S. § 9-3-405(a)(ii)(A).
An individual hired by the State under an at-will employee contract (AWEC) may elect to participate in the WRS Public Employee Plan. The employee is responsible for paying both the employee and employer contributions. Once an election is made, it is irrevocable for the duration of the contract. The AWEC employee is responsible for paying the required contributions until a new contract is negotiated and signed. Calculating the actual dollar amount that would be deducted from the employee’s paycheck may help them make a more informed decision.
W.S. § 9-3-402(a)(vii) specifies which employees are not eligible for participation in WRS. In general, ineligible employees are:
- Employees paid as an independent contractor, on a fee basis, or on a per diem basis;
- An employee whose term of employment is on a temporary basis for less than six (6) months;
- Members of state boards and commissions not otherwise employed by the State who elect in writing not to participate;
- Employees covered by other retirement plans of the State or a political subdivision of the State;
- Students employed by the University of Wyoming, community colleges or school districts; and
- Employees of the University of Wyoming or community colleges who earn no more than $5,500 per year for part-time teaching and elect, in writing, not to participate.
Determining the Correct Pension Plan for a New Employee
Most government employees belong in the WRS Public Employees Pension Plan. However, WRS administers several other pension plans for specific groups of employees including game wardens, highway patrol officers, DCI investigators, law enforcement personnel, correctional officers, probation & parole agents, judges, paid and volunteer firefighters, and volunteer emergency medical technicians.
It is very important an employee is enrolled in the correct plan. For example, it is particularly important to know when an employee belongs in the Law Enforcement Plan, which provides an enhanced benefit structure for certain employees whose primary duties are law enforcement.
The Law Enforcement Pension Plan includes county sheriffs, deputy county sheriffs, municipal police officers, investigators of the Wyoming livestock board meeting the specifications of W.S. § 7-2-101(a)(iv)(E), investigators employed by the Wyoming State Board of Outfitters and professional guides meeting the specifications of W.S. § 7-2-101(a)(iv)(J), correctional officers, probation and parole agents employed by the Wyoming Department of Corrections, Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy instructors, University of Wyoming campus police officers, and detention officers or dispatchers for law enforcement agencies. If an employee performs law enforcement duties as a secondary job function or on a temporary or emergency basis, that does not necessarily equate to eligibility for the Law Enforcement Plan. If you have any questions regarding which pension plan an employee should be enrolled in, please contact WRS.
If an employee switches positions, then the employee may be required to switch pension plans. It is best if the employee understands this before making a decision to change positions. For example, a person working for a county sheriff’s office with full-time duties of a dispatcher would be in the Law Enforcement Plan. If that person changes jobs and starts working for the county sheriff in a clerical position, the individual would need to be switched to the Public Employees Plan.
If an employee earns service under different pension plans, he or she will have multiple accounts with WRS. If an employee switches pension plans, you must terminate the employee in their current plan and enroll them in their new one. Contribution payments must be paid to the proper plan, i.e. if an employee goes from a Law Enforcement position to a Public Employee position you must change the percentage of the contribution payment at the time the employee transfers.
The eight pension plans may have different benefit structures. Download the Pension Plan Characteristics document for an overview.