Pension Forfeiture in Massachusetts

There are certain circumstances which might cause a Massachusetts public employee to lose his or her pension, whether the person is currently employed or has already retired. For example, G.L. c. 32, § 15(1) provides that a Massachusetts public employee who has stolen or misappropriated funds from his or her employer will forfeit his or her pension. In pension forfeiture cases, the term “misappropriation” is broadly construed and it extends beyond salary payments improperly made.

G.L. c. 32, § 15(1) does not require a conviction for the loss of a public pension due to misappropriation from a public employer. All that is required is a hearing held by the employee’s local retirement board. When a pension is forfeited due to a misappropriation of public funds, the employee is entitled to a return of his or her accumulated retirement deductions less any amounts which were misappropriated.

An employee who has been convicted of public corruption or extortion by a police officer or licensing official will lose all rights to his or her retirement as well as a return of his or her accumulated retirement deductions.

Any Massachusetts public employee who has been convicted of a violation of a statute applicable to his official position will forfeit his right to receive a Massachusetts retirement. In cases such as this, the employee or retiree is generally allowed to receive his or her accumulated retirement contributions, unless there was misappropriation or some other reason for the loss of deductions. Convictions of state or federal crimes can result in pension forfeiture. In cases such as this arguments sometimes arise as to whether the conviction was for a violation of laws applicable to the person’s position or office. In order to make this determination, the unique facts and circumstances of each individual case must be analyzed. Except in cases involving teachers and police officers, a public employee’s off-duty conduct is generally not considered official misconduct which results in the loss of a retirement.

Some individuals facing pension forfeiture have made claims that the loss of a pension constitutes an excessive fine in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Massachusetts public employees who are terminated for moral turpitude lose their retirements, but they are entitled to a return of their accumulated deductions.