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OPM wants to limit feds' back pay entitlements

The Office of Personnel Management wants to limit the scope of back payments entitled to federal employees.

Under a proposed rule change published Oct. 7 in the Federal Register, federal employees would no longer be entitled to collect back pay for unjustified personnel actions such as overtime payment shortfalls or incorrect performance bonus denials. Federal employee unions also would no longer be eligible to recover certain attorneys’ fees under the proposal.

Both entitlements are a part of the Back Pay Act, which “waives the United States' sovereign immunity and allows employees who are ‘found by appropriate authority under applicable law, rule, regulation, or collective bargaining agreement, to have been affected by an unjustified or unwarranted personnel action which has resulted in the withdrawal or reduction of all or part of the[ir] pay, allowances, or differentials’ to obtain redress in the amount of pay, allowances, or differentials they would have received, but for such unjustified or unwarranted personnel actions… The Back Pay Act also permits payment of reasonable attorney fees in some circumstances, generally when in ‘the interest of justice,’” the notice states.

OPM has not updated its regulations on back pay for federal employees since 1981.

The proposal would limit the kinds of situations that entitlement applies to by restricting what constitutes a personnel action and who can be considered a personal representative that would warrant the payment of attorney fees.

“The term ‘personnel action’ does not refer to other actions that could, outside the context of a [prohibited personnel practice], affect employee pay, such as debt collections, improper overtime payments, rejections for cash awards, leave denials or denials of taxpayer-funded union time,” the notice continued.

Comments on the proposed changed can be submitted through November 6, 2020.

2021 Digital Almanac

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