Paycheck Chronicles

Thousands of Civil Service Guard and Reservists Due Back Pay

Lady Justice in front of a wooden gavel. (Getty Images/kynny)
(Getty Images/kynny)

A recent court ruling may pave the way for reservists employed by the federal government to get back pay if they were deployed for more than 37 workdays.

In a ruling earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C said that a reservist employed by the DOD was shorted of 22 days pay for time that he was deployed in 2013.

The Facts

Civil service personnel are usually given 15 days of paid military leave each year but can get another 22 days of paid leave if they are activated "in support of contingency operations" during a presidentially declared national emergency.

The Claim

In this particular case, a Navy JAG lawyer was called to active duty in southern California to replace another JAG lawyer who had been sent to Afghanistan. The DOD and Merit Systems Protection Board had previously ruled that since the lawyer was being sent to California instead of an in-country combat zone, his duty wasn't directly in support of contingency operations.

The Law

Federal law (10 U.S.C. § 101(a)(13)) says: 

The term “contingency operation” means a military operation that—

(A) is designated by the Secretary of Defense as an operation in which members of the armed forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force; or

(B) results in the call or order to, or retention on, active duty of members of the uniformed services under section 688, 12301(a), 12302, 12304, 12304a, 12305, or 12406 of this title, chapter 15 of this title, section 712 of title 14, or any other provision of law during a war or during a national emergency declared by the President or Congress.

The Outcome

Essentially the merit board said that since he wasn't in a combat zone he didn't qualify for the extra 22 days of military leave based on paragraph A above.

The court disagreed, they said that since he was replacing someone who was called to a combat zone, and the Naval Station he was sent to was directly supporting combat operations, that the lawyer was, in fact, directly supporting combat operations, and therefore entitled to back pay for the deployment. The court also cited language and types of mobilizations listed in paragraph B above.

What This Means

As a result of this ruling, thousands of federal employees who served in military operations associated with the presidentially declared national emergency since September 11, 2001, are eligible to have their paid military leave adjusted, so they can reclaim a portion of their annual leave or the monetary equivalent.

How To Get Yours

You can do a web search for o’Farrell vs DOD claim, for lawyers who can help you.

If you want to read the court's ruling you can check it out here.

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