HHS Is Distributing Statements Itemizing Back Pay Owed to Office of Refugee Resettlement Field Specialists

HHS has begun distributing statements to Office of Refugee Resettlement Field Specialists itemizing how much back pay and liquidated damages each specialist is owed under an NTEU Fair Labor Standards Act settlement and arbitration award.

Arbitrator Robert Creo
Arbitrator Robert Creo

As I previously informed you, Arbitrator Robert Creo issued a favorable decision on February 10, 2017, regarding 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 field specialists in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) as exempt from, or not covered by, the FLSA. 

Agreeing with NTEU, Arbitrator Creo ordered HHS to reclassify the specialists as covered by the FLSA and to pay each eligible employee back pay for improperly compensated overtime. Pursuant to the parties’ remedial settlement agreement, employees will also receive 100% liquidated damages (to match the back pay amount). The recovery period is from April 1, 2014 to the date that the specialist was reclassified.

Gavel on a stack of moneyHHS prepared statements itemizing how much back pay and liquidated damages each ORR field specialist is owed, and has now begun sending out these statements to the approximately 57 affected employees. HHS will send statements to current employees via e-mail and to former employees via regular U.S. mail. In total, close to $200,000 in combined back pay and liquidated damages will be paid out to ORR employees because of NTEU’s efforts.

Money in walletEmployees who disagree with HHS’s calculations as reflected on their 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. Processing of back pay and liquidated damages payments and resolving any employee claims will be the next steps.

I'm no BUE. But if I was, I would join NTEU.

Of particular note, while many field specialists may have earned overtime pay over the last several years, that overtime was paid at an incorrect rate (Title V or the Federal Employees Pay Act); that rate is lower than what the FLSA requires for covered employees. Specialists should now be receiving the correct time-and-a-half FLSA rate from the date that they were properly reclassified by HHS as FLSA non-exempt.

Back pay and proper classification under the federal overtime laws are two solid examples of the benefits of NTEU representation.

Contact your chapter president if you have any questions.

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