Mandatory vs. Optional Membership

Membership in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS)

There are two types of membership in ERS, mandatory and optional. If you are a permanent, full-time employee of an employer that participates in the Retirement System, your membership is mandatory.

Otherwise, membership prior to July 27, 1976, was optional for jobs with:

  • Exempt¹ or labor² classification; or
  • Competitive³ classification where you were appointed temporarily or provisionally.

Membership from July 27, 1976, to the present is optional if:

  • You are appointed to a temporary or provisional position (under Civil Service Law);
  • Your work schedule is less than 30 hours per week, or less than the standard number of hours for full-time employment as established by your employer for this position;
  • Your employment duration is for less than one year, or on a less than 12 month per year basis; or
  • Your annual compensation is less than the State’s minimum wage multiplied by 2,000 hours.

The date of membership for optional membership in ERS is the date your application is received, or the date your employer registers you through the telephone registration or fax process, assuming the application is immediately forwarded to us.

All New York State employees or employees of participating employers, whose membership in ERS is not mandatory, still have the right to join. Section 45 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, effective 1986, imposes requirements on employers hiring people whose membership is optional. Employers must, at the time of hiring, notify new employees, in writing, of their right to membership in ERS. This law also requires that each employee acknowledge having been given such notice by signing an acknowledgment and filing it with the employer. Employers must keep these documents on file.

If membership in ERS is optional, your date of membership becomes the date we receive your membership application.

Note: Although membership is not compulsory for optional members, once you join, you can only terminate membership by terminating your public employment.

¹Exempt Class — Classified Civil Service positions deemed impracticable to fill by tests of any kind. No minimum training and experience requirements are established for exempt positions.

²Labor Class — Classified Civil Service positions for which competitive tests are impracticable because of the unskilled nature of the duties. Minimum qualifications for Labor Class positions, other than the physical ability to perform the duties of the position, are generally not established.

³Competitive Class — Classified Civil Service positions for which it is practicable to determine the merit and fitness of applicants by competitive examination.

Membership in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS)

Membership in PFRS is not optional. All police officers and paid firefighters working for employers that participate in the Retirement System must become members.


(Rev. 2/12)