Can I keep my pension if I get fired?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I keep my pension if I get fired?

I have been employed with a school district in California for over 18 years as
a Special Ed teacher’s aide. I am a very hard worker who puts my heart into my
work. I have had very good results with these children.
The problem I have is that there are many co-workers who are jealous of my
results . They are constantly looking for reasons to get me in trouble whether
they are real or manufactured. On top of that, I have a Principal who hates me
because I am not a butt-kisser like all my fellow employees.
Recently one of my special education students had and accident while walking
with her walker on the sidewalk the wheel of her walker became stuck in a
hole, she fell and cut her lip.
Based on exaggerated and false claims by co-workers who witnessed the accident,
the Principal is threatening to fire me. The principal is placing the blame
entirely on me when most of the blame is on the school for not fixing the hole
in the sidewalk. This Principal is basically saying that this student was
injured because I was not doing my job correctly, which is totally false In 18
years I have never had an incident like this one and yet they are saying I will
be fired if I have any more incidents?
Can they fire me for this? If so, can they take my pension?

Asked on October 23, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) If you have written employment contract for a definite term (e.g. a one-year, two-year, five-year, etc. contract) which is not expired, including a union or collective bargaining contract, you have whatever protections against firing the contract, by its plain terms gives you. You may not be fired in a way or for a reason which violates the contract. If you do not have such a contract, however, you are an "employee at will" and may be terminated at any time, for any reason at all. If you are not protected by a contract, you may be terminated for this incident or at any time, for any reason, in the future.
2) There is no one-size-fits all answer about your pension: it depends on the terms of the pension. To oversimplify: if you are vested in the pension, to the degree you are vested (sometimes you vest in part of the potential pension value first, then over time, the amount goes up), they generally can't take it away; "vesting" essentially means it has become yours. If you are not vested, you likely could lose it if terminated.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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