I am pleased to inform you that, on October 31, 2016, Arbitrator Mariann Schick issued a favorable decision in connection with NTEU’s national Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) grievance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). NTEU’s grievance alleged that HHS improperly classified employees in 17 positions as exempt from, or not covered by, the FLSA.
To date, HHS and NTEU have entered into five favorable settlements requiring the agency to reclassify hundreds of employees as covered by the FLSA’s overtime protections and to pay those employees back pay and liquidated damages. As I previously informed you, pursuant to a September 30, 2015 settlement, HHS agreed that a number of employees within the Administration for Children and Families should be covered by the FLSA, including most GS-12 and below Child Support Program Specialists, and almost all GS-12 and GS-13 Child Welfare Program Specialists. Yet HHS refused to concede the FLSA status of: (1) all GS-13 (and one GS-12) Child Support Program Specialists; and (2) four Child Welfare Specialists in HHS’ Washington, D.C. office. Because of HHS’ intransigence, the parties were forced to proceed to arbitration. A hearing was held on September 29–30, 2015.
The arbitrator has now issued her decision, finding that each of the positions challenged by NTEU should be covered by the FLSA. She ruled that the 35 improperly classified employees will be entitled to recover back pay going back to 2010, as well as 100% liquidated damages. In connection with the hearing, NTEU submitted a proposal for a claims process by which employees might dispute HHS’ calculations. HHS has 20 days to respond to NTEU’s proposal. The arbitrator will then issue a decision on the process for calculating employees’ back pay.
The Child Support and Child Welfare Program Specialists whose duties were at issue in this arbitration do vital work helping families across our country. The arbitrator’s decision is important not only because of what it means to these employees, but also because it sets an important precedent regarding what types of duties are, in fact, covered by the FLSA. Moreover, it shows — again — that NTEU will fight to ensure that all its members are properly classified under the federal pay and overtime laws.
We will update you further once the arbitrator has established the process under which eligible employees can recover any back pay that they may be owed.
I welcome your input on this subject.