With the Agency’s recent payment of back pay, 3.5 years’ worth, to primary grievant Eddie Lugo (a GS-401-11 PPQ officer) and of NAAE’s legal fees, nearly $300,000 worth, to NAAE general counsel who represented Mr. Lugo and NAAE, the hard-fought class action grievance that NAAE filed against the Agency back in June 2016 comes to an end. Finally! NAAE prevailed before an independent arbitrator and the Federal Labor Relations Authority on appeal on all contested grievance issues. The pivotal issue going to the merits of the grievance was whether the Agency violated the law when it refused to promote Mr. Lugo to a GS-12 non-supervisory position in May 2016, claiming he never received the minimum college credits needed to qualify as a PPQ officer at the time the Agency first hired him 25 years earlier. The arbitrator and FLRA ruled against the Agency, ordering his promotion with back pay. They held that, under OPM’s government-wide regulations, as a matter of law, the Agency can not look back, after Mr. Lugo put in 25 years of service to PPQ and after he received multiple promotions, and now claim, after the fact, that he is not qualified for his current position as a PPQ GS-11 and thus for this latest promotion.
And, finally, the Agency has conceded it must pay NAAE’s legal fees incurred in this long, drawn out battle, an obligation the Agency originally contested after the arbitrator concluded that the Agency’s payment of those legal fees, evaluated to be $365,000, was “in the public interest” and awarded NAAE those fees. The Agency and NAAE reached a compromise “settlement” on the amount of the awarded legal fees the Agency should pay, and that payment was made on February 20, 2020, bringing the matter to a close.
As the ancient proverb reminds us, “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” Translation: Justice may be slow but it will come eventually.