On December 22, 2011, the Colorado Court of Appeals decided the Colorado Industrial Claim Appeals Panel’s decision to deny unemployment benefits to a worker was incorrect. Claimant Hopkins previously worked for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment before retiring on July 31, 2001.
During her time of employment, Hopkins and the department contributed to a pension plan. Hopkins received pension payments since August 1, 2001. Like many retirees, Hopkins returned to work for the department from April 2009 through August 2009. During this second period of employment, neither Hopkins nor the department contributed to a pension plan. Apparently, Hopkins, through no fault of her own, lost her employment with the department in August 2009.
Initially, Hopkins was granted unemployment benefits because the department did not contribute to Hopkins’ pension during the second employment period (the relevant period for granting unemployment benefits). The department appealed the hearing officer’s decision which was reversed by the Panel. The Panel, interpreting a Colorado state statute, decided Hopkins was not entitled to unemployment benefits because she was receiving a pension, albeit, that the same employer contributed during her previous employment period with the department.
The Colorado Court of Appeals announced the Panel’s decision was incorrect because Hopkins was receiving a pension the department contributed to prior to her retirement in 2001. The department did not contribute to a pension during the period of time used to determine unemployment eligibility, i.e., the second employment period. The Colorado Court of Appeals essentially decided that a prior pension cannot be used as an offset, under Colorado law, to unemployment benefits.
The Colorado Court of Appeals’ decision can be found here http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Court_Of_Appeals/Opinion/2011/11CA0239.pdf.