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Grimsley v. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

Supreme Court of South Carolina

December 23, 2015

Phillip D. Grimsley, Sr. and Roger M. Jowers, on Behalf of Themselves and Others Similarly Situated, Respondents,
v.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the State of South Carolina, Defendants, of whom South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is the Petitioner

Heard September 23, 2015.

Appeal from Richland County J. Ernest Kinard, Jr., Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2014-001059.

William H. Davidson, II and Kenneth P. Woodington, both of Davidson & Lindemann, P.A., of Columbia, for Petitioner.

A. Camden Lewis and Ariail E. King, both of Lewis, Babcock & Griffin, L.L.P., of Columbia; Richard A. Harpootlian, of Richard A. Harpootlian, P.A., of Columbia; John A. O'Leary, of O'Leary & Associates, P.A., of Columbia; and James Walter Fayssoux, Jr., of Fayssoux Law Firm, P.A., of Greenville, for Respondents.

JUSTICE KITTREDGE. TOAL, C.J., BEATTY, HEARN, JJ., and Acting Justice James E. Moore, concur.

OPINION

Page 898

[415 S.C. 35] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS.

KITTREDGE, JUSTICE.

We granted a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' opinion in Grimsley v. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division ( Grimsley II ), 408 S.C. 38, 757 S.E.2d 542 (Ct.App. 2014), which reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Petitioner South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). We reverse.

Respondents are former SLED agents who retired and were rehired by then SLED Chief Robert Stewart for a period of four years pursuant to a rehire program formulated by Chief Stewart. At the conclusion of Respondents' service under the rehire program, they filed suit against SLED and the State under various theories, all premised on the allegation that SLED deducted from their salaries the amount of the employer's contribution to the retirement system. The State was granted dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP.[1] On appeal, taking the allegations of the Complaint as true, we reversed and remanded. Grimsley v. S.C. Law Enforcement Div. ( Grimsley I ), 396 S.C. 276, 279, 283-86, 721 S.E.2d 423, 424, 427-28 (2012).

On remand and following discovery, the trial court granted SLED summary judgment, which the court of appeals reversed. Having carefully reviewed the record, we find the [415 S.C. 36] trial court properly granted summary judgment to SLED, for the record makes clear that Respondents were rehired at reduced salaries and the employer contributions to the retirement system were not deducted from those salaries, but were paid by SLED. As a result, we reverse the court of appeals and direct that judgment be entered for SLED.

I.

This case arises out of a dispute over a hiring program created by SLED involving participants in the Police Officers Retirement System (PORS). We now have the benefit of an extensive record following discovery, and the essential facts are not in dispute. In 2002, the General Assembly eliminated salary caps for so-called working retirees, that is, state employees who retired and then returned to work. This allowed state employees, including members of the PORS like Respondents, to retire, collect full retirement benefits, and then return to their former jobs at salaries that could have been, but were not required to be, the same as their pre-retirement salaries. Shortly after the salary cap was eliminated, Chief Stewart developed the program in question, informally called the Retirement/Rehire program (Program).

Chief Stewart created the Program, in part, because an existing program, the Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) program, was not available for members of the PORS. Chief Stewart described the Program as benefiting all involved--SLED, its employees, and the people of South Carolina. SLED benefited because the Program allowed more experienced employees to remain inservice after becoming eligible to retire, working alongside agents with less experience. To the extent employees were rehired at reduced salaries, SLED also benefited by saving money, thereby allowing the agency to avoid layoffs while maintaining services. The citizens and taxpayers of South Carolina benefited from SLED's ability to maintain ...


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