Alabama school employees in limbo with PEEHIP lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A lawsuit between the Alabama Education Association and PEEHIP is moving forward with the hopes of getting some extra cash to Alabama teachers.

In 2016, the Alabama legislature passed a raise for teachers and school employees across the state; four percent for anyone making less than $75,000 and those making more than that would receive a two percent raise.

"When they saw that employees were getting a raise, they decided they wanted it," said Beverly Sims, a representative for the Alabama Education Association.

PEEHIP, or the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan, then voted to increase their rates even though the legislature had fully funded what PEEHIP asked for.

"Some of our employees were actually bringing home less on their paychecks after they got a raise and then had to pay for those increases," Sims said.

AEA sued PEEHIP saying their vote was illegally done because the meeting discussing these raises was closed; according to the Open Meeting Act, what the PEEHIP board talked about should only be discussed in an open meeting, and the first court ruled in AEA's favor.

"The first judge ordered PEEHIP to put all of these increases in escrow. They could not spend the money, so if the ruling is in our favor they will have to return that money to all of the employees," Sims said.

PEEHIP has filed an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court.

The court held verbal arguments for the appeal on Wednesday and now everyone is in limbo until the court makes their decision.

"It's been so long since they had a real raise that they could really make a difference in their pocket, so if they get that money back as a lump sum I cannot even explain to you how happy they will be," Sims said.

The court did not give an expected date for when they'll have their decision. Sims says the employees would love to have that money for the holidays, but they're not hopeful the court will make up their mind before then.