TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association announced Monday it has filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and other trustees of the state retirement plan, alleging it unconstitutionally imposed a 3 percent pay cut on teachers to balance the budget.
The lawsuit was filed in Leon County on behalf of 11 workers from across the state, including two nurses and a social worker in Miami-Dade County, a custodian in Madison County and a social studies teacher in Hillsborough County. The Police Benevolent Association, the largest union of law enforcement officers in the state, joined the lawsuit. The workers are asking the court to put aside, while the case moves through the judicial system, the more than $1 billion the state saves from reducing teacher pay 3 percent and ending the cost of living increase on their retirement benefits.
“This pay cut was used by legislative leadership to make up a budget shortfall on the backs of teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters and other state workers,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “It is essentially an income tax levied only on workers belonging to the Florida Retirement System. It’s unfair - and it breaks promises made to these employees when they chose to work to improve our state.”
The lawsuit claims the state violated its contractual obligation to state workers when it shifted money from worker pay to replace some of the state’s obligation to pay into the Florida Retirement System. The union says state law expressly provides that employees do not have to contribute part of their salaries to the state retirement system, and that the shift violates those rights.
Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators argued the change was needed to bring state retirement accounts in line with the private sector, which requires workers to contribute into their retirement accounts. But the money was used not to enhance employee benefits but to relieve the budget deficit. Florida was the only state that still had not negotiated an employee contribution as part of its retirement plan.
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