1.What is reciprocity?

Reciprocity provides an employee with portability by allowing that employee to leave retirement contributions on deposit regardless of length of service and take a deferred retirement. It allows eligible members to move from one employer to another (during a six-month period) without any loss of credited service or vesting years.

2.What are the benefits to establishing reciprocity?

Benefits include:
– Lower contribution rates, which reflect your earliest entry age among reciprocal retirement systems
– Uniform vesting periods, which consider your earliest entry or membership date and the total service among reciprocal retirement systems
– Uniform salary assumptions, which consider your highest earnings period among reciprocal retirement systems

3.What are the requirements for establishing reciprocity?

Requirements include:
– You cannot withdraw your contributions from the system(s) you wish to link
– You cannot be receiving a retirement from the system(s) you wish to link
– The time between systems cannot be greater than 6 months
– The other system must be another California 37 act county, The California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTERS), the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), or another pension plan that has reciprocity with CalPERS
– You must not have concurrent or overlapping service credit with MercedCERA and the reciprocal system. Exhausting leave balances that count as service credit and/or extending your separation date under your previous system beyond your hire date with an MercedCERA-covered employer will disqualify you for reciprocity
– You must retire from all systems at the same time, unless section 31835.1 applies (section allows for different retirement dates if unable to retire on same date due to different age and/or service requirements)

4.How do I establish reciprocity?

Please contact MercedCERA at 209-726-2724 for the appropriate forms. The member and MercedCERA must also contact the other system.

5.What Counties operate under County Employees Retirement Law of 1937?

Counties that operate under County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 include:

  • Alameda
  • Contra Costa
  • Fresno
  • Imperial
  • Kern
  • Los Angeles
  • Marin
  • Mendocino
  • Merced
  • Orange
  • Sacramento
  • Santa Barbara
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Joaquin
  • San Mateo
  • Sonoma
  • Stanislaus
  • Tulare
  • Ventura

6.Can I withdraw my contributions if I establish reciprocity at a later time?

If you have established reciprocity, the 1937 Act will not allow you to withdraw your member contributions while you are in employment in a position covered by a reciprocal retirement system.

7.What happens if I withdraw my contributions after I have established reciprocity?

Consequences of withdrawing your contributions include:
– You will lose the lower contribution rates and retroactive increase of amounts previously required by MercedCERA
– You will lose uniform vesting periods
– You will lose uniform salary assumptions

8.Can I work for both systems at the same time and establish reciprocity?

No. Reciprocity does not apply when your employment under the first system overlaps your employment under the new system. For the benefits of reciprocity to apply, you must be separated under the first system prior to joining the new system.

This is true even if the overlapping time is due to running out leave credits. You should check with both retirement systems about their rules before you change employment. The overlap must be resolved, if possible, in order to establish reciprocity.

9.Does MercedCERA notify the other system when I submit a retirement application?

No. It is your responsibility to notify the other system when you plan to retire.

10.Do I have to retire from both systems at the same time?

Yes. Regardless of the type of retirement you are electing you must retire from both systems at the same time.

11.Does MercedCERA use all my time at both systems to determine my benefit amount?

No. MercedCERA will use the service time from the other system ONLY to determine eligibility. The actual benefit amount will be based solely on your time with MercedCERA.

12. What are my options for a disability allowance at MercedCERA if I have reciprocity?

Your allowance will depend on whether or not you have reached the maximum allowance permitted per the 37 act. If the allowance at the other system is already paying you the maximum benefit amount permitted MercedCERA allowance will be an annuity, which is the actuarial equivalent of your accumulated contributions. If you have not reached the maximum benefit allowed MercedCERA will coordinate the benefit with the other retirement agency. You must contact both systems when applying for a disability allowance for more information.

13.Will my beneficiary receive a death benefit from both systems?

No. The death benefit is paid by the last system you were at. MercedCERA pays a $3,000 death benefit. You will have to contact the other system to determine what their death benefit allowance is.

14.If I do establish reciprocity will I get reimbursed for the period I was paying contributions at a higher entry age level?

Yes. Only if you notify MercedCERA within a reasonable time frame (usually within 1 month of employment) that you wish to establish reciprocity and our ability to verify reciprocity has not been impaired by any actions you may have taken.

15.If I never showed any interest to establish reciprocity in the past, but wish to do so now, can I?

Yes. You may establish reciprocity at any time as long as you meet the requirements, but you will not be reimbursed for any contributions you paid due to a higher entry age level.

16.Does my sick leave balance get converted into years of service if I terminate employment and establish reciprocity with another system and MercedCERA?

No. Your sick leave balance will only get converted into years of service if the reason for terminating employment with an MercedCERA participating employer (excluding Cemetery District) is due to retirement.

17.If I have established reciprocity and I need my contributions for a medical emergency may I withdraw my accumulated contributions at MercedCERA?

No. MercedCERA will not allow you to withdraw your accumulated contributions at any time if you have established reciprocity unless you are no longer working with an MercedCERA participating employer and the other system has allowed you to withdraw your contributions.