Ask Jack Jack Ehnes

Is a teacher’s defined benefit pension guaranteed by the California Constitution and protected by the U.S. Constitution?

In California, public pensions enjoy protections under both the U.S. and California constitutions.

Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution, known as the “Contract Clause,” prohibits states from enacting any law that impairs contract rights. Article 1, Section 9 of the California Constitution provides essentially the same protection.

California courts have consistently held that these provisions create contractual rights to a pension at the time the public employee begins employment, which cannot be reduced, even for future public service, without an offsetting benefit.

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