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Federal Judge Rules in Favor of NATCA Plaintiffs Suit Claiming FAA Violations of the Federal Overtime Pay Statute - (8/5/2008)

CONTACTS: NATCA National Office, Alexandra Caldwell, 202-220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On July 31, a federal judge issued a 51-page decision finding that the FAA violated the provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by maintaining comp time and credit hours programs instead of paying time-and-a-half overtime since the implementation of FAA personnel reform in 1996. 

In a resounding victory for the 7,438 NATCA members who joined the suit against the FAA for violations of the country’s bedrock overtime law that was initiated by NATCA last year, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Hewitt rejected the claims of the government that these programs were lawful under the general grant of authority to set up a new personnel management system that Congress gave the FAA Administrator in 1996.  Recognizing the supremacy of the nation’s fundamental law governing minimum wages and maximum hours of work, Judge Hewitt concluded instead that the Agency’s actions in implementing and maintaining the comp time and credit hours programs violated the FLSA.

Said NATCA President Patrick Forrey: “This decision is a resounding victory for NATCA – the court’s decision that our members are due financial compensation is an affirmation that the FAA cannot railroad everything past NATCA without any oversight or accountability of federal laws, rules and regulations. This is a very important step in making our members whole again.”

NATCA initiated this suit against the FAA in 2007 and enlisted the Washington, D.C. law firm of Woodley & McGillivary to represent members who joined the suit. The suit which claimed that Congress’s passage of FAA personnel reform legislation in 1996 (that stripped FAA employees from coverage of most or the provisions of Title 5 of the U.S. Code) deprived the FAA of the requisite statutory authority to maintain either a comp time or credit hours program in lieu of paying time-and-a-half overtime for hours worked in excess of forty in a week.

Although Congress provided that a few specific provisions of Title 5 would continue to apply to FAA employees, the Title 5 provisions allowing federal agencies to establish comp time and credit hours programs as an alternative to time-and-a-half overtime were not among the specific Title 5 provisions remaining applicable to employees of the FAA after the passage of the personnel reform statute. 

In a motion to dismiss the case, the government argued to the court that the general grant of authority given to the FAA Administrator to set up a new personnel management system included the ability to continue comp time and credit hours programs.  The court disagreed and noted that, once the Title 5 provisions allowing such programs were removed by Congress, the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated that the FAA pay employees at a time-and-a-half rate for any overtime hours.

With this resounding victory finding the Agency liable for violations of the federal overtime law, the case moves into a new stage for the calculation of the dollar amount of actual damages owed to the NATCA plaintiffs.  There also remain a number of additional issues still to be resolved such as whether the recovery period for the plaintiffs will run back two or three years from the date they joined the suit and the compensability of pre- and post-shift activities performed by the plaintiffs.

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