WKU sues Kentucky Retirement System

Emma Collins

WKU filed a suit on Thursday against the Kentucky Retirement System regarding retirement benefits for former WKU employees who now work for Sodexo, according to a statement from the university.

KRS, which operates the Kentucky Employees Retirement Services, told WKU the university must continue to make retirement payments for the 202 employees who were outsourced by WKU to Sodexo in August of 2016.

The 202 employees were outsourced to Sodexo in an effort to reduce the 2016-2017 budget following Governor Matt Bevin’s university budget cuts. The change was expected to save $745,000. Those affected included groundskeeping, waste management, building services and custodial employees.

According to the university’s statement, WKU received word on October 26 that KRS viewed those outsourced employees as “common law employees of WKU,” and WKU must continue to make retirement contributions for those employees. This notice followed several weeks of discussion between the university and KRS.

Tom Kerrick, attorney for WKU, said the university disagrees with KRS because WKU no longer manages those employees.

“We reject outright this assertion that the affected individuals remain under the control of WKU,” Kerrick said in the statement. “WKU does not have the ability to hire, fire or discipline employees of Sodexo, and Sodexo has complete control over its employee hiring and workplace policies.”

The university is seeking a declaratory judgement from the Franklin County Circuit Court. In a declaratory judgement, the court considers an argument between two litigants and clarifies which party is correct.

“On behalf of WKU, we are simply asking the court to declare that… WKU has no further obligation to pay into the KERS on behalf of these former employees,” Kerrick said in the statement.

Kerrick blamed KRS’ action on the state’s underfunded pension system which is one of the worst in the nation.

“KRS is putting these individuals in financial jeopardy by holding hostage the retirement contributions to which they have a right,” Kerrick said in the statement.

A representative of KRS could not be reached at the time of publication.