Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Miller served in the government's military and civilian sectors before retiring. Because he became an “employee” before October 1982, Miller’s credit for military service can count toward the calculation of his civil service retirement annuity, subject to 5 U.S.C. 8332(c)(2). An annuitant who does not satisfy the requirements of section 8332(c)(2)(A)–(B) but wishes to count military service toward civil service retirement must waive his military retired pay for that period and, in some circumstances, pay a deposit. 5 C.F.R. 831.301(c). The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed the Office of Personnel Management determination of the periods of Miller’s government service that were “creditable” for calculating his civil service retirement annuity. The Federal Circuit concluded that the Board erred in its decision with respect to Periods One and Two, but upheld its decision with respect to Period Three. For concurrent military and civilian service in Period One, Miller is entitled to credit toward both his military and civilian retirement. Substantial evidence does not support the Board’s finding that Miller was in leave-without-pay status during Period Two; he was in a concurrent service situation and is entitled to have Period Two credited as civilian service. Miller is deemed to have had no civilian service during Period Three and has not made a deposit or waived his military retirement pay for this period. View "Miller v. Office of Personnel Management" on Justia Law

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Pay for doctors employed at VA hospitals, consisting of base pay, market pay, and performance pay is governed by 38 U.S.C. 7431. A pay panel meets at least every two years to determine market compensation for an individual physician and must consider new pay tables, issued by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Two women physicians at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System were hired in 2008 for an annual pay of $195,000, slightly less than the maximum allowed by the pay table. One year later, their base pay increased. As of November 2010, both were due for adjustments to market pay. In December 2010, VHA initiated a pay freeze. In 2012, each doctor filed an EEOC complaint, identifying male doctors whom they alleged were similarly situated and were being paid more. An EEOC officer concluded that they could not prove that the reasons for the salary differences were pretextual or resulted from unlawful discrimination. The pay freeze continued until December 2013. Both doctors then received base increases according to their longevity and received market pay increases to make their compensation “more in line with other emergency department physicians.” Each was restored to the middle of the salary spread. The doctors sued under the Equal Pay Act The Claims Court did not analyze whether they had established a prima facie case of salary discrimination, holding that they had not shown that discrimination was the reason for a male physician’s raise one year after being hired or for delays in processing their raises in time to avoid the pay freeze. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The doctors presented no evidence that the pay differential was based on sex, either historically or presently. View "Gordon v. United States" on Justia Law

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Villareal began working for the Bureau of Prisons in 2007 and had no disciplinary record; all of his evaluations were rated satisfactory or higher. In 2012, while Villareal was a Senior Corrections Officer at FDC Houston, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigated Villareal’s relationship with female inmates, Solis and Santana. Villareal was reassigned to a phone monitor position; he was not allowed to interact with the inmates or to work overtime. After a seven-month investigation, OIG concluded that Villareal violated several Bureau policies: placed and failed to report calls on his cellular phone to Solis’s family; engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Solis and showed preferential treatment toward Solis and Santana; misused his work computer, failed to properly monitor inmates around computers, failed to properly secure his office, and made derogatory remarks to inmates. Then-Warden Babcock stated to Villareal’s union representative that Villareal would be given a 30-day suspension. Pearce succeeded Babcock and testified that during their transition meeting, Babcock referred to Villareal as a “potential termination.” Villareal's termination was proposed as consistent with the Bureau’s table of penalties and Villareal’s lack of remorse. Villareal’s union filed a grievance, emphasizing that 1,265 days had passed between the investigation's beginning and Villareal’s removal. An arbitrator found removal justified. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting due process claims. Villareal made no claim of prejudice resulting from the delay. Warden Pearce properly considered the relevant factors in reaching his decision. View "Villareal v. Bureau of Prisons" on Justia Law

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Horvath has been a Secret Service special agent since 2010. To compensate for his availability and overtime hours, Horvath receives a 25% enhancement to his base salary, Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP), 5 U.S.C. 5545a(h)(1). Horvath is additionally entitled to overtime compensation for some––but not all––of the overtime hours he works. For scheduled overtime, employees receiving LEAP are compensated for work in excess of 10 hours on a day during such investigator’s basic 40-hour workweek; or on a day outside such investigator’s basic 40-hour workweek. All other overtime––scheduled or unscheduled––is considered to be compensated by LEAP rather than by additional hourly wages. There is an exception for performing certain duties, including the protective services, for which employees are compensated for all scheduled overtime. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations add: the exception applies only if “[t]he investigator performs on that same day at least 2 consecutive hours of overtime work that are not scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek and are compensated by availability pay,” 5 C.F.R. 550.111(f)(2)(ii). Horvath sued, seeking back pay. Horvath asserted that the OPM regulations improperly required that certain overtime hours be worked consecutively in order to trigger compensation. The Claims Court found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider some claims and that others failed to state a claim. The Federal Circuit reversed in part, finding that the challenged regulations are contrary to the unambiguous meaning of the statute, but otherwise affirmed. View "Horvath v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs each entered into agreements to provide services to Voice of America (VOA), a U.S. government-funded broadcast service. The agreements were a series of individual purchase order vendor (POV) contracts that each plaintiff entered into over several years with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees VOA. In 2014, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State issued a report that was critical of the BBG’s use of POV contracts, concluding that the BBG was using such contracts in some cases to obtain personal services. Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint alleging that, along with other individuals who have served as independent contractors for VOA, they should have been retained through personal services contracts or appointed to positions in the civil service. If their contracts had been classified as personal services contracts or they had been appointed to civil service positions, they alleged, they would have enjoyed enhanced compensation and benefits. The Claims Court dismissed and denied their request for leave to file a proposed second amended complaint. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting several contract-based claims, seeking damages for the loss of the additional compensation and benefits to which Plaintiffs contend they were entitled. Plaintiffs have set forth no viable theory of recovery. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law

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Williams and Winns, former employees of the U.S. Postal Service, were removed from their positions and separately sought review by the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s dismissal of their cases. Only certain federal employees, as defined by statute, can seek review at the Board; neither individual qualified as an “employee” with appeal rights under 5 U.S.C. 7511(a)(1)(B)(ii). The statute states that “‘employee’ means . . . a preference eligible in the excepted service who has completed 1 year of current continuous service in the same or similar positions . . . in the United States Postal Service.” Office of Personnel Management regulations define “current continuous employment” as “a period of employment or service immediately preceding an adverse action without a break in Federal civilian employment of a workday.” The statute is not intended to cover an individual who was employed through a series of temporary appointments; each man took a break of several days between appointments. The court also rejected Williams’s argument that he retained appeal rights from a prior appointment because the Postal Service did not advise him on the loss of appeal rights that would result from his reappointment to a new position. View "Williams v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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From 1968-1991, Lledo was employed at the Subic Bay, Philippines U.S. Navy Public Works Center, initially as an Apprentice (electrician) “excepted service – indefinite appointment.” Lledo resigned with the designated severance pay in 1991, having worked in various positions, finally as a Telephone Installation and Repair Foreman. In 2014, Lledo applied for deferred retirement benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and requested to make a post-employment deposit into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF). The Office of Personnel Management denied the requests. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, stating that all of Lledo’s appointments, including his final position, were either not-to-exceed appointments or indefinite appointments in the excepted service; “[w]hile [Lledo] has shown that he had sufficient creditable federal service, he has failed to show that any of that service was performed in a position covered under the [Act].” The Federal Circuit affirmed. Under 5 U.S.C. 8333(a)–(b), to qualify for a CSRS retirement annuity, an employee must have performed at least five years of creditable civilian service, and must have served at least one of his last two years of federal service in a covered position, subject to the Act. Temporary, intermittent, term, and excepted indefinite appointments are not covered positions; substantial evidence supports the conclusion that Lledo’s service was excluded from CSRDF coverage. View "Lledo v. Office of Personnel Management" on Justia Law

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Holton supervised a Portsmouth Naval Shipyard crane team that was moving submarine covers. Each unit weighed roughly 60,000 pounds. Holton briefed the crew and gave control over the crane to the authorized rigger, then left the crane to supervise preparation of the landing area. From this position, Holton could not see the crane’s boom. Holton’s crew had previously performed the operation, which involved a tight curve, without incident. The crane traveled too far on the inside of the curve; its boom struck Building 343, causing $30,000 in damage. Shipyard Instructions allow drug testing of employees after an accident causing damage in excess of $10,000, when “their actions are reasonably suspected of having caused or contributed to an accident.” The executive director authorized drug testing of the entire team. Holton took the test, certifying that the drug-testing contractor took the proper steps. Holton’s sample tested positive for marijuana twice. The Executive Director removed him. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, finding that the Navy’s failure to provide Holton with advance written notice of why he was being tested, as required by regulation, was harmless because it did not change the outcome. The Federal Circuit affirmed. There was reasonable suspicion that Holton, who briefed the crew, caused or contributed to the accident; the drug test was properly administered and did not violate Holton’s constitutional rights or the regulation's standard. View "Holton v. Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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Holton supervised a Portsmouth Naval Shipyard crane team that was moving submarine covers. Each unit weighed roughly 60,000 pounds. Holton briefed the crew and gave control over the crane to the authorized rigger, then left the crane to supervise preparation of the landing area. From this position, Holton could not see the crane’s boom. Holton’s crew had previously performed the operation, which involved a tight curve, without incident. The crane traveled too far on the inside of the curve; its boom struck Building 343, causing $30,000 in damage. Shipyard Instructions allow drug testing of employees after an accident causing damage in excess of $10,000, when “their actions are reasonably suspected of having caused or contributed to an accident.” The executive director authorized drug testing of the entire team. Holton took the test, certifying that the drug-testing contractor took the proper steps. Holton’s sample tested positive for marijuana twice. The Executive Director removed him. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, finding that the Navy’s failure to provide Holton with advance written notice of why he was being tested, as required by regulation, was harmless because it did not change the outcome. The Federal Circuit affirmed. There was reasonable suspicion that Holton, who briefed the crew, caused or contributed to the accident; the drug test was properly administered and did not violate Holton’s constitutional rights or the regulation's standard. View "Holton v. Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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On September 11, 2012, President Obama published notice “continuing for [one] year the national emergency . . . with respect to the terrorist attacks.” In April 2013, O’Farrell, an Army Reservist, received an order directing him to replace another Reservist, an attorney, who had been deployed. After reaching his maximum total years of active commissioned service (28 years), O’Farrell was transferred to the Army Reserve Retired List in October 2013. O’Farrell served his active duty as legal counsel until September 30, 2013. By August 26, 2013, O’Farrell had used his 15 days of military leave, most of his accrued annual leave, and advance annual leave. To avoid being placed on Military Leave Without Pay for the remainder of his active duty service, O’Farrell (unsuccessfully) requested an additional 22 days leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a)(1). O’Farrell did not cite any statutory provision that would qualify him as "called to full-time military service as a result of a call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation." He argued that he was “serving . . . during a national emergency." O’Farrell sued under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301– 4333. The Federal Circuit reversed. Section 6323(b) does not require that “a specific contingency operation" be identified in military orders when an employee is activated; “in support of” includes indirect assistance to a contingency operation, 5 U.S.C. 6323(b)(2)(B), which includes a military operation that results in service members being called to active duty under any law during a national emergency, 10 U.S.C. 101(a)(13). A service member’s leave request need not use particular language. View "O'Farrell v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law