On March 16, 2012, NTEU filed a national grievance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS or agency) concerning the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) status of employees in 17 different positions. That grievance included HHS Paralegal Specialists within the GS-0950 series. NTEU reached a settlement agreement with HHS under which the agency agreed to reclassify employees under the Paralegal Specialist title and series number as non-exempt (covered) under the FLSA. HHS also agreed to pay these employees back pay and liquidated damages for uncompensated overtime worked between March 16, 2010 (or the date on which the employee entered the position, whichever is later), until the effective date on which they are reclassified as FLSA non-exempt (or the date on which the employee left the position, whichever is earlier).
Shortly before signing the settlement agreement, NTEU learned that sometime in 2012 or 2013, HHS moved certain Paralegal Specialists, GS-0950, into the position of Government Information Specialist, GS-0306. HHS transitioned employees into this new position without giving notice to NTEU. In fact, although HHS was well aware that these employees’ FLSA status was in dispute, the agency did not raise the issue of employees’ new position titles until March 14, 2016.
NTEU believes that regardless of the change in title and series number, affected employees continue to perform essentially the same job, and therefore, the change should have no impact on employees’ status under the union’s FLSA grievance. Over NTEU’s strident objections, HHS has held firm that the employees should recover back pay and liquidated damages under the settlement agreement only for the period during which they held the title of Paralegal Specialist — and not for the period of time since they have been in the Government Information Specialist position.
NTEU persists in its efforts to secure for these employees the compensation they deserve. On April 5, 2016, NTEU filed a motion with the arbitrator assigned to NTEU’s March 2012 grievance, asking her to define that grievance as covering Government Information Specialists. In addition, to preserve employees’ rights in the event that the arbitrator denies that motion, NTEU has filed a protective grievance asserting that Government Information Specialists should be covered under the FLSA.
Since filing the national FLSA grievance in 2012, NTEU’s efforts to achieve proper compensation for employees has been met with resistance from HHS at every step. Undeterred, NTEU continues to hold HHS’s feet to the fire and has won relief for more than 700 employees and counting. But these efforts are not possible without the support of bargaining unit employees. I encourage you to speak with me or any other Union representative about how you can do your part.