A federal judge Friday ordered the government and the National Treasury Employees Union to settle an 18-year-old back pay case through court mediation. Lawyers for NTEU and the Office of Personnel Management met in late March with U.S. District Court Judge John Garrett Penn to discuss how to reimburse thousands of federal workers who were denied certain salary increases from 1982 to 1988 because of an OPM regulation. The March meeting was the latest in a series of discussions between the two parties. As a result of the meeting, Penn decided to refer the case to a court mediator in the hopes that the union and the government can finally reach an agreement. A status conference on the mediation effort is scheduled for no later than May 31. "NTEU has taken the initiative at every step of the way in discussions with the government," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley, "and we stand ready to work with the mediator to resolve remaining issues and ensure that the government satisfies its ever-growing obligations to the class members and bring this matter to a close." In March, lawyers for NTEU and OPM discussed a motion the union filed with the district court ordering the government to compute the amounts owed to each individual and, upon the union's review, pay people accordingly. The union's motion is on hold during the mediation effort. NTEU first challenged the OPM regulation--which the district court ruled illegal in 1987--in a 1983 class action lawsuit. In 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the government owed affected employees back pay, sending the case back to the lower court to determine compensation. Employees are still waiting for their money.
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