On September 30, 2015, NTEU settled a national grievance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) status of multiple positions within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). That settlement covered ACF Financial Operations Specialists (GS-13 and below), ACF Financial Management Specialists (GS-13 and below), ACF Child and Family Program Specialists (GS-13 and below), most ACF Child Support Program Specialists) (GS-12 and below), and most ACF Child Welfare Program Specialists (GS-13 and below).
In addition, NTEU went to arbitration on September 29–30, 2015, regarding the FLSA status of a small group of additional employees (GS-13 Child Support Program Specialists and several Child Welfare Program Specialists) that HHS refused to resolve through settlement. The arbitrator ruled in NTEU’s favor on October 31, 2016.
The employees covered by the settlement and by the arbitrator’s order have been reclassified as covered by (or nonexempt under) the FLSA, which means that they are entitled to a choice between compensatory time off or overtime pay at time-and-a-half, when their supervisor asks them to work extra overtime hours.
Pursuant to the parties’ settlement and the arbitrator’s order, HHS has been calculating how much back pay these employees are owed for improperly compensated overtime that they worked going back to March 10, 2010. The calculations are based on paid overtime hours, compensatory time, and compensatory time for travel (but not credit hours) that employees have earned. Employees who are owed back pay will receive a matching amount of 100% liquidated damages. Although HHS was supposed to have completed these calculations many months ago, there were a series of delays and problems with the agency’s implementation of the settlement and NTEU was required to seek the arbitrator’s assistance in pressing for agency compliance. At NTEU’s urging, the arbitrator signed a consent order on March 23, 2017, with deadlines for HHS to act.
Consistent with the arbitrator’s order, HHS has finished preparing the employee statements and has now begun sending statements to every covered former and current employee. HHS will send statements to current employees via e-mail and to former employees via regular U.S. mail. HHS expects to have all of the statements out by May 8, 2017.
Employees who disagree with HHS’ calculations as reflected on the statement may file a claim within 30 days of receiving the statement. The statements that HHS is sending to employees explain the process for filing a claim. Please read these instructions carefully and be mindful of the 30-day deadline. Employees who agree with the agency’s calculations of how much back pay they are owed should sign and return the release that HHS is providing. Employees should either sign the release or complete a claim form, but not both.
Although the agency has taken far longer than it should have, NTEU is pleased that HHS is finally proceeding with the necessary implementation of this important settlement. The agency’s delays will not diminish or affect the amounts that are owed to covered employees.
Back pay and proper classification under the federal overtime laws are two solid examples of the benefits of NTEU representation.
Contact your Chapter representative if you have any questions.