§ 135-3.  Membership.

The membership of this Retirement System shall be composed as follows:

(1)        All persons who shall become teachers or State employees after the date as of which the Retirement System is established. On and after July 1, 1947, membership in the Retirement System shall begin 90 days after the election, appointment or employment of a "teacher or employee" as the terms are defined in this Chapter. On and after July 1, 1955, membership in the Retirement System shall begin immediately upon the election, appointment or employment of a "teacher or employee," as the terms are defined in this Chapter. Under such rules and regulations as the Board of Trustees may establish and promulgate, Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service employees excluded from coverage under Title II of the Social Security Act may in the discretion of the governing authority of a county, become members of the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System to the extent of that part of their compensation derived from a county. On and after July 1, 1965, new extension service employees excluded from coverage under Title II of the Social Security Act in the employ of a county participating in the Local Governmental Employees' Retirement System are hereby excluded from participation in the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System to the extent of that part of their compensation derived from a county; provided that on and after July 1, 1965, new extension service employees excluded from coverage under Title II of the Social Security Act who are required to accept a federal civil service appointment may elect in writing, on a form acceptable to the Retirement System, to be excluded from the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System and the Local Retirement System; provided further, that effective July 1, 1985, an extension service employee excluded from coverage under Title II of the Social Security Act who is employed in part by a county and who is compensated in whole by the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service pursuant to a contract where the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service is reimbursed by the county for the county's share of the compensation shall participate exclusively in the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System to the extent of their full compensation. On or after July 1, 1979, upon election, appointment or employment, a legislative employee shall automatically become a member of the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System. At such time as Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service Employees excluded from coverage under Title II of the Social Security Act become covered by Title II of the Social Security Act, such employees shall no longer be covered by the provisions of this section, provided no accrued rights of these employees under this section prior to coverage by Title II of the Social Security Act shall be diminished.

(2)        Repealed by Session Laws 2012-130, s. 8, effective July 1, 2012.

(3)        A member shall cease to be a member only if the member withdraws his or her accumulated contributions, or becomes a beneficiary, or dies.

(4)        Notwithstanding any provisions contained in this section, any employee of the State of North Carolina who was taken over and required to perform services for the federal government, on a loan basis, and by virtue of an executive order of the President of the United States effective on or after January 1, 1942, and who on the effective date of such executive order was a member of the Retirement System and had not withdrawn all of his or her accumulated contributions, shall be deemed to be a member of the Retirement System during such period of federal service or employment by virtue of such executive order of the President of the United States. Any such employee who within a period of 12 months after the cessation of such federal service or employment, is again employed by the State or any employer as said term is defined in this Chapter, or within said period of 12 months engages in service or membership service, shall be permitted to resume active participation in the Retirement System and to resume his or her contributions as provided by this Chapter. If such member so elects, he or she may pay to the Board of Trustees for the benefit of the proper fund or account an amount equal to his or her accumulated contributions previously withdrawn with interest from date of withdrawal to time of payment and the accumulated contributions, with interest thereon, that such member would have made during such period of federal employment to the same extent as if such member had been in service or engaged in the membership service for the State or an employer as defined in this Chapter, which such payment of accumulated contributions shall be computed on the basis of the salary or earnable compensation received by such member on the effective date of such executive order.

(5)        Repealed by Session Laws 2012-130, s. 8, effective July 1, 2012.

(6)        Repealed by Session Laws 1981 (Regular Session, 1982), c. 1396, s. 1.

(7)        The provisions of this subdivision (7) shall apply to any member whose retirement became effective prior to July 1, 1963, and who became entitled to benefits hereunder in accordance with the provisions hereof. Such benefits shall be computed in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 135-5(b) as in effect at the date of such retirement.

a.         Notwithstanding any other provision of this Chapter, any member who separates from service prior to the attainment of the age of 60 years for any reason other than death or retirement for disability as provided in G.S. 135-5(d), after completing 20 or more years of creditable service, and who leaves his total accumulated contributions in said System shall have the right to retire on a deferred retirement allowance upon attaining the age of 60 years: Provided, that such member may retire only upon written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, not less than 30 days nor more than 90 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to be retired. Such deferred retirement allowance shall be computed in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 135-5(b), subdivisions (1), (2) and (3).

b.         In lieu of the benefits provided in paragraph a of this subdivision (7) any member who separates from service on or after July 1, 1951, and prior to the attainment of the age of 60 years, for any reason other than death or retirement for disability as provided in G.S. 135-5(d), after completing 30 or more years of creditable service, and who leaves his total accumulated contributions in said System, may elect to retire on an early retirement allowance; provided that such member may so retire only upon written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, not less than 30 days nor more than 90 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to be retired; provided further that such application shall be duly filed within 60 days following the date of such separation. Such early retirement allowance so elected shall be the actuarial equivalent of the deferred retirement allowance otherwise payable at the attainment of the age of 60 years upon proper application therefor.

c.         In lieu of the benefits provided in paragraph a of this subdivision (7), any member who separated from service before July 1, 1951, and prior to the age of 60 years for any reason other than death or retirement for disability as provided in G.S. 135-5(d), and who left his total accumulated contributions in said System, may elect to retire on an early retirement allowance; provided that such member may so retire only upon written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, subsequent to July 1, 1951, and not less than 30 days nor more than 90 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to be retired; provided that such application shall be duly filed not later than August 31, 1951. Such early retirement allowance so elected shall be the actuarial equivalent of the deferred retirement allowance otherwise payable at the attainment of the age of 60 years upon proper application therefor.

d.         Should a teacher or employee who retired on an early or service retirement allowance be restored to service prior to the attainment of the age of 62 years, his allowance shall cease, he shall again become a member of the Retirement System, and he shall contribute thereafter at the uniform contribution rate payable by all members. Upon his subsequent retirement, he shall be entitled to the allowance described in 1 below reduced by the amount in 2 below.

1.         The allowance to which he would have been entitled if he were retiring for the first time, calculated on the basis of his total creditable service represented by the sum of his creditable service at the time of his first retirement, and his creditable service after he was restored to service.

2.         The actuarial equivalent of the retirement benefits he previously received.

e.         Should a teacher or employee who retired on an early or service retirement allowance be restored to service after the attainment of the age of 62 years, his retirement allowance shall be reduced to the extent necessary (if any) so that the sum of the retirement allowance at the time of his retirement and earnings from employment by a unit of the Retirement System for any year (beginning January 1, and ending December 31) will not exceed the member's compensation received for the 12 months of service prior to retirement. Provided, however, that under no circumstances will the member's retirement allowance be reduced below the amount of his annuity as defined in G.S. 135-1(3).

(8)        The provisions of this subsection (8) [subdivision] shall apply to any member whose membership is terminated on or after July 1, 1963 and who becomes entitled to benefits hereunder in accordance with the provisions hereof:

a.         Notwithstanding any other provision of this Chapter, any member who separates from service prior to the attainment of the age of 60 years for any reason other than death or retirement for disability as provided in G.S. 135-5(c), after completing 15 or more years of creditable service, and who leaves his total accumulated contributions in said System shall have the right to retire on a deferred retirement allowance upon attaining the age of 60 years; provided that such member may retire only upon electronic submission or written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, not less than one day nor more than 120 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to be retired; and further provided that in the case of a member who so separates from service on or after July 1, 1967, or whose account is active on July 1, 1967, or has not withdrawn his contributions, the aforestated requirement of 15 or more years of creditable service shall be reduced to 12 or more years of creditable service; and further provided that in the case of a member who so separates from service on or after July 1, 1971, or whose account is active on July 1, 1971, the aforestated requirement of 12 or more years of creditable service shall be reduced to five or more years of creditable service. Such deferred retirement allowance shall be computed in accordance with the service retirement provisions of this Article pertaining to a member who is not a law enforcement officer or an eligible former law enforcement officer. Notwithstanding the foregoing, any member whose services as a teacher or employee are terminated for any reason other than retirement, who becomes employed by a nonprofit, nonsectarian private school in North Carolina below the college level within one year after such teacher or employee has ceased to be a teacher or employee, may elect to leave his total accumulated contributions in the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System during the period he is in the employment of such employer; provided that he files notice thereof in writing with the Board of Trustees of the Retirement System within five years after separation from service as a public school teacher or State employee; such member shall be deemed to have met the requirements of the above provisions of this subdivision upon attainment of age 60 while in such employment provided that he is otherwise vested.

b.         In lieu of the benefits provided in paragraph a of this subdivision (8), any member who separates from service prior to the attainment of the age of 60 years, for any reason other than death or retirement for disability as provided in G.S. 135-5(c), after completing 20 or more years of creditable service, and who leaves his total accumulated contributions in said System, may elect to retire on an early retirement allowance upon attaining the age of 50 years or at any time thereafter; provided that such member may so retire only upon electronic submission or written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, not less than one day nor more than 120 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to be retired. Such early retirement allowance so elected shall be equal to the deferred retirement allowance otherwise payable at the attainment of the age of 60 years reduced by the percentage thereof indicated below.

 

Age at                                           Percentage

Retirement                                       Reduction

59                                                       7

58                                                     14

57                                                     20

56                                                     25

55                                                     30

54                                                     35

53                                                     39

52                                                     43

51                                                     46

50                                                     50

 

b1.       In lieu of the benefits provided in paragraphs a and b of this subdivision, any member who is a law-enforcement officer at the time of separation from service prior to the attainment of the age of 50 years, for any reason other than death or disability as provided in this Article, after completing 15 or more years of creditable service in this capacity immediately prior to separation from service, and who leaves his total accumulated contributions in this System may elect to retire on a deferred early retirement allowance upon attaining the age of 50 years or at any time thereafter; provided, that the member may commence retirement only upon electronic submission or written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, as of the first day of a calendar month, not less than one day nor more than 120 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to commence retirement. The deferred early retirement allowance shall be computed in accordance with the service retirement provisions of this Article pertaining to law-enforcement officers.

b2.       In lieu of the benefits provided in paragraphs a and b of this subdivision, any member who is a law-enforcement officer at the time of separation from service prior to the attainment of the age of 55 years, for any reason other than death or disability as provided in this Article, after completing five or more years of creditable service in this capacity immediately prior to separation from service, and who leaves his total accumulated contributions in this System may elect to retire on a deferred early retirement allowance upon attaining the age of 55 years or at any time thereafter; provided, that the member may commence retirement only upon electronic submission or written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, as of the first day of a calendar month not less than one day nor more than 120 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to commence retirement. The deferred early retirement allowance shall be computed in accordance with the service retirement provisions of this Article pertaining to law-enforcement officers.

b3.       Vested deferred retirement allowance of members retiring on or after July 1, 1994. - In lieu of the benefits provided in paragraphs a. and b. of this subdivision, any member who separates from service prior to attainment of age 60 years, after completing 20 or more years of creditable service, and who leaves his total accumulated contributions in said System, may elect to retire on a deferred retirement allowance upon attaining the age of 50 years or any time thereafter; provided that such member may so retire only upon electronic submission or written application to the Board of Trustees setting forth at what time, not less than one day nor more than 120 days subsequent to the execution and filing thereof, he desires to be retired. Such deferred retirement allowance shall be computed in accordance with the service retirement provisions of this Article pertaining to a member who is not a law enforcement officer or an eligible former law enforcement officer.

b4,       b5. Repealed by Session Laws 2014-88, s. 3(a), effective July 30, 2014.

c.         Should a beneficiary who retired on an early or service retirement allowance under this Chapter be reemployed by, or otherwise engaged to perform services for, an employer participating in the Retirement System on a part time, temporary, interim, or on a fee for service basis, whether contractual or otherwise, except as provided in G.S. 120-32(1), and if such beneficiary earns an amount during the 12 month period immediately following the effective date of retirement or in any calendar year which exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the reported compensation, excluding terminal payments, during the 12 months of service preceding the effective date of retirement, or twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), whichever is greater, as hereinafter indexed, then the retirement allowance shall be suspended as of the first day of the month following the month in which the reemployment earnings exceed the amount above, for the balance of the calendar year, except when the reemployment earnings exceed the amount above in the month of December, in which case the retirement allowance shall not be suspended. The retirement allowance of the beneficiary shall be reinstated as of January 1 of each year following suspension. The amount that may be earned before suspension shall be increased on January 1 of each year by the percentage change between the December Consumer Price Index in the year prior to retirement and the December Consumer Price Index in the year most recently ended, calculated to the nearest tenth of a percent (1/10 of 1%), provided that this percentage change is positive.

c1.       Within 90 days of the end of each month in which a beneficiary is reemployed under the provisions of sub-subdivision c. of this subdivision, each employer shall provide a report for that month on each reemployed beneficiary, including the terms of the reemployment, the date of the reemployment, and the amount of the monthly compensation. If the required report is not received within the required 90 days, the Board may do any or [all] the following:

1.         Assess the employer with a penalty of ten percent (10%) of the compensation of the unreported reemployed beneficiaries during the months for which the employer did not report the reemployed beneficiaries, with a minimum penalty of twenty-five dollars ($25.00). If after being assessed a penalty, an employer provides clear and convincing evidence that the failure to report resulted from a lack of oversight or some other event beyond the employer's control and was not a deliberate attempt to omit the reporting of reemployed beneficiaries, the Board may reduce the penalty to not less than two percent (2%) of the compensation of the unreported reemployed beneficiaries during the months for which the employer failed to report, with a minimum penalty of twenty five dollars ($25.00).

2.         Require the employer to reimburse the Retirement System for any retirement allowance paid to the beneficiary during a period when the allowance would have been suspended under sub-subdivision c. of this subdivision had the report been received within the required 90 days.

3.         Require the employer to pay any amounts that the beneficiary would have been required to pay to the Retirement System under sub-subdivision f. of this subdivision had the report been received within the required 90 days.

Upon receipt by the employer of notice that any payment is due to the Retirement System under this sub-subdivision, the employer shall remit the payment of the amount due to the Retirement System, in one lump sum, no later than 90 days from the date of the notice.

If an employer is required to make payments to the Retirement System under sub-sub-subdivision 2. or sub-sub-subdivision 3. of this sub-subdivision, then (i) the beneficiary shall have no obligation to reimburse the Retirement System for related amounts under sub-subdivisions c. or f. of this subdivision, (ii) the provisions of G.S. 135-9(b) relating to offsetting overpayments against payments made from the Retirement System to the member or beneficiary shall not apply, (iii) the Retirement System shall have no duty under G.S. 143-64.80 to pursue repayment of overpayments from the beneficiary, (iv) the overpayments shall not be considered a debt of the beneficiary under Chapter 105A of the General Statutes, and (v) the beneficiary's effective date of retirement shall be adjusted if the adjustment is required under sub-subdivision f. of this subdivision.

d.         Should a beneficiary who retired on an early or service retirement allowance under this Chapter be restored to service as an employee or teacher, then the retirement allowance shall cease as of the first of the month following the month in which the beneficiary is restored to service and the beneficiary shall become a member of the Retirement System and shall contribute thereafter as allowed by law at the uniform contribution payable by all members.

Upon his subsequent retirement, he shall be paid a retirement allowance determined as follows:

1.         For a member who earns at least three years' membership service after restoration to service, creditable service earned while in receipt of disability benefits under Article 6 of this Chapter shall count as membership service for this purpose only, and the retirement allowance shall be computed on the basis of his compensation and service before and after the period of prior retirement without restrictions; provided, that if the prior allowance was based on a social security leveling payment option, the allowance shall be adjusted actuarially for the difference between the amount received under the optional payment and what would have been paid if the retirement allowance had been paid without optional modification. In the alternative, the member may receive a refund of the member's accumulated contributions for the period of service after restoration to service in accordance with G.S. 135-5(f).

2.         For a member who does not earn three years' membership service after restoration to service, the retirement allowance shall be equal to the sum of the retirement allowance to which he would have been entitled had he not been restored to service, without modification of the election of an optional allowance previously made, and the retirement allowance that results from service earned since being restored to service; provided, that if the prior retirement allowance was based on a social security leveling payment option, the prior allowance shall be adjusted actuarially for the difference between the amount that would have been paid for each month had the payment not been suspended and what would have been paid if the retirement allowance had been paid without optional modification. In the alternative, the member may receive a refund of the member's accumulated contributions for the period of service after restoration to service in accordance with G.S. 135-5(f), or the member may allow this new account to remain inactive.

e.         Any beneficiary who retired on an early or service retirement allowance as an employee of any State department, agency or institution under the Law Enforcement Officers' Retirement System and becomes employed as an employee by a State department, agency, or institution as an employer participating in the Retirement System shall become subject to the provisions of G.S. 135-3(8)c and G.S. 135-3(8)d on and after January 1, 1989.

f.          Should a beneficiary who retired on an early or service retirement allowance under this Chapter be reemployed by, or otherwise engaged to perform services for, an employer participating in the Retirement System on a part-time, temporary, interim, or on a fee for service basis, whether contractual or otherwise at any time during the six months immediately following the effective date of retirement, then the option of the two listed below that has the lesser financial impact on the member, as determined by the Retirement System, shall be applied:

1.         The member's retirement shall be deemed effective the month after the last month the member performed services for a participating employer, and the member shall repay all retirement benefits paid up to the deemed effective date, provided the member thereafter has satisfied the six-month separation required by G.S. 135-1(20).

2.         The member shall make a lump-sum payment to the Retirement System equal to three times the amount of compensation earned during the six months immediately following the effective date of retirement.

g.         Expired June 30, 2021, pursuant to Session Laws 2019-110, s. 6.

(8a)      Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs c and d of subdivision (8) to the contrary, a beneficiary who was a beneficiary retired on an early or service retirement with the Law Enforcement Officers' Retirement System at the time of the transfer of law enforcement officers employed by the State and beneficiaries last employed by the State to this Retirement System on January 1, 1985, and who also was a contributing member of this Retirement System on January 1, 1985, shall continue to be paid his retirement allowance without restriction and may continue as a member of this Retirement System with all the rights and privileges appendant to membership.

(9)        Members who are participating in an intergovernmental exchange of personnel under the provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 126 may retain their membership status and receive all benefits provided by this Chapter during the period of the exchange provided the requirements of Article 10 of Chapter 126 are met; provided further, that a member participating in an intergovernmental exchange of personnel under Article 10 of Chapter 126 shall, notwithstanding whether he and his employer are making contributions to the member's account during the exchange period, be entitled to the death benefit if he otherwise qualifies under the provisions of this Article and provided further that no duplicate benefits shall be paid.  (1941, c. 25, s. 3; 1945, c. 799; 1947, c. 414; c. 457, ss. 1, 2; c. 458, s. 5; c. 464, s. 2; 1949, c. 1056, s. 1; 1951, c. 561; 1955, c. 1155, s. 91/2; 1961, c. 516, ss. 1, 2; 1963, c. 687, s. 2; 1965, c. 780, s. 1; c. 1187; 1967, c. 720, ss. 1, 2, 15; c. 1234; 1969, c. 1223, ss. 1, 2, 14; 1971, c. 117, ss. 6-8; c. 118, ss. 1, 2; 1973, c. 241, s. 1; c. 994, s. 5; c. 1363; 1977, c. 783, s. 3; 1979, c. 396; c. 972, s. 2; 1981, c. 979, s. 1; 1981 (Reg. Sess., 1982), c. 1396, ss. 1, 2; 1983, c. 556, ss. 1, 2; 1983 (Reg. Sess., 1984), c. 1034, ss. 228, 229, 236; c. 1106, ss. 1, 2, 4; 1985, c. 520, s. 1; c. 649, ss. 2, 11; 1987, c. 513, s. 1; c. 738, s. 38(b); 1989, c. 791; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 769, ss. 7.30(e), (f), 7.31(d), (e); 1995, c. 509, s. 73.1; 1998-212, s. 28.24(a); 1998-217, s. 67; 2000-67, s. 8.24(a); 2001-424, s. 32.25(a); 2002-126, ss. 28.10(a), (b), (d), 28.13(a); 2004-124, s. 31.18A(a), (b); 2004-199, s. 57(a); 2005-144, ss. 7A.1, 7A.2, 7A.4; 2005-276, ss. 29.28(a)-(d); 2005-345, s. 43; 2006-226, s. 25(a); 2007-145, s. 7(a), (b), (d)-(f); 2007-326, ss. 1, 3(a), (b), (d)-(f); 2007-431, s. 9; 2009-66, ss. 8(a), 12(a), (b); 2009-137, s. 1; 2010-72, s. 4(a); 2011-232, s. 1; 2011-294, s. 2(a); 2012-130, s. 8; 2013-405, s. 5; 2014-88, s. 3(a); 2014-97, s. 4(d); 2015-164, s. 11(a); 2019-110, s. 2(a), (b); 2019-212, s. 7(b); 2020-29, ss. 1(i), 7(a); 2021-60, s. 2.1.)