VHA computer specialists hit pay dirt

Under a settlement agreement, some computer specialists at the Veterans Health Administration are receiving back pay and will receive overtime pay in the future.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) announced this week that it had agreed to a partial settlement with the VHA regarding a grievance the union filed in the mid-1990s.

The VHA determined that all of its GS-11 computer specialists were covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which makes them eligible for such benefits as overtime pay.

On Dec. 8, the VHA said that it would compensate all its GS-11 computer specialists time-and-a-half for overtime work performed in the future. Also on Dec. 8, the agency paid just less than $1 million in back pay, dating back to Jan. 25, 1995.

However, AFGE says that the employees are entitled to more back pay—double the amount the VHA paid out. "We don't think that amount paid them is the full amount [they are] entitled to under law," said Judy Galat, assistant general counsel for AFGE. "We're glad the agency recognized that [it] wrongly classified [these workers]. We think they're entitled to more back pay and will continue to pursue it."

In August 2000, AFGE reached a similar settlement for GS-11 computer specialists at the Veterans Benefits Administration.

The VA is "converting previously exempt series 334 computer specialist positions to nonexempt status as appropriate," said Steve Westerfeld, a spokesman for the VA. "We are still in negotiations with unions regarding the status of higher-graded computer specialists positions. We are also negotiating the final amount of back pay. We ultimately may have to arbitrate on coverage and amounts with respect to some senior employees."

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