News from the Federal Circuit: On August 5, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued its decision in Gallo v. Department of Transportation, Case No. 2011-3094. The Court created a major new hurdle to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees seeking the award of back pay, specifically holding that the Federal Circuit lacks the authority to award attorneys' fees and costs in FAA back pay cases.
News from Congress: On December 19, 2012, the House approved amendments to the Hatch Act which were previously passed by the Senate. The Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012, S.2170, makes several changes to the Hatch Act which affect its disciplinary provisions and the scope of employees covered by the Hatch Act. According to Senate Report 112-211, these amendments were supported by Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. S.2170 now goes to President Obama for his signature.
News from Congress: Congress has increased protections for federal employee whistleblowers. On November 13, 2012, the Senate passed S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 ("WPEA") by unanimous consent. The Senate action accepted revisions to WPEA to match the version of the bill passed in the House of Representatives in September 2012. The bill has now been forwarded to President Obama for his signature.
News from the Whitehouse: On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, Pub.L. 112-141. While most of the statute dealt with an assortment of issues such as highway funding, student loans and flood insurance, Section 100121 of the statute made a notable modification to the FERS retirement system for federal employees. Section 100121 created the category of "phased retirement", under which a retirement-eligible employee can make a one-time election to work part-time and begin collecting part of their federal pension at the same time. The default under Pub.L. 112-141 is working half-time while receiving 50% of the pension, although Section 100121 permits the Director of OPM to expand the possible percentages by regulation. Phased retirement participants outside of the Postal Service are required to spend 20% of their work time in mentorship activities, and continue to accrue pro rata retirement service credit for the time that they still work. Participants then may elect to fully retire at any time, at which point their pension is recomputed to reflect their additional phased retirement work. The statute also contemplates the Director of OPM setting procedures for phased retirement participants to return to full-time work.
News from Congress: In a subsection to a larger statute earlier this year, Congress retroactively restored the rights of Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") employees who win appeals at the Merit Systems Protection Board ("MSPB") to receive back pay awards. Prior to enactment of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub.L. 112-95, FAA employees who won appeals at the MSPB, unlike many other federal employees, were not entitled to receive applicable back pay, due to the effects of certain statutes associated with FAA's current separate personnel system. Section 611 of FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 ends this restriction, and grants the MSPB the authority to award back pay to FAA appellants who win at the MSPB in the same manner as other successful civil service appellants. Most strikingly, Congress expressly made the restoration retroactive to April 1, 1996, meaning that successful FAA appellants who were previously denied back pay in earlier MSPB appeals may now be able to seek back pay relief from the MSPB.
News from Congress: On November 30, 2012, the Senate passed S. 2170, the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012. The bill now goes to the House.