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County Sued For Not Allowing Army Reservist To Make Pension Contributions

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CHICAGO (STMW) – A federal lawsuit has been filed against Cook County and its employee pension fund claiming they violated federal law by failing to allow a U.S. Army Reserve member to contribute to her pension while serving in the armed forces.

The civil lawsuit was filed by the government in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of Army Reserve Capt. Latoya A. Hayward of Chicago. It names Cook County and the County Employees’ and Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Cook County, a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

According to the complaint, Hayward began working for John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, which is owned and operated by Cook County, in 2008, but was mobilized for a two-year tour of duty with the Army Reserves starting July 27, 2009. She served as a nurse case manager at Walter Reed Hospital, part of the Warrior Transition Brigade.

Upon her return, the pension fund notified her that not only was she ineligible to make payments for the 90-day grace period following her military service, but that contributions for the two-year period of her active military service would be subject to a 3 percent interest fee, the suit claims.

The U.S. Attorney’s office pointed out that among the protections provided by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 are pension-related benefits that treat service members called to active duty as if they have had no break in service.

According to the complaint, both of the pension fund’s requirements for her participation in the plan violated those protections.

“We fully support members of our military and will look into the matter and work with the Cook County Health and Hospital System to resolve the issue accordingly,” said Kristen Mack, spokeswoman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, via email.

The case stems from a referral by the U.S. Department of Labor following an investigation by its Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)