The National Treasury Employees Union and the federal government have received an extension in their effort to reach a settlement in a 1983 back pay case. Attorneys for NTEU and the Office of Personnel Management appeared in district court yesterday to request more time as they try to hammer out an agreement over how to reimburse 188,000 special rate employees who were denied pay increases from 1982 to 1988 because of an OPM regulation. U.S. District Court Judge John Garrett Penn granted the request and set Dec. 18 as the new deadline for the two sides to reach agreement. Special rate employees are paid at higher levels because they work in occupations that are difficult to fill because of job duties or locale. The OPM regulation exempted special rate employees from annual pay adjustments to the General Schedule, causing special rate employees to receive minimal or no salary increases from 1982 to 1988. The district court ruled the regulation illegal in 1987. NTEU challenged the OPM regulation in a 1983 class action lawsuit. From 1987 to 1998, NTEU and OPM disputed what standard to use in awarding back pay to affected employees. In 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit ruled that employees should be compensated as though OPM's 1982 regulation never existed. The details of a settlement have been in negotiation since then. At a hearing in late October, both sides agreed to try and reach an agreement by Nov. 30. NTEU officials are optimistic about the progress made toward a settlement despite the two sides' failure to meet this deadline. Progress "finally is being made" in settlement discussions, said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. Still, at the hearing yesterday, lawyers for both sides said that numerous outstanding issues remain before an agreement can be reached. Attorneys will meet in court again Dec. 18 at 9:00 a.m. to report on their progress in reaching an agreement.
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