Civilians in Iraq eligible for premium pay cap waiver through 2012

Executive order allows certain federal employees to receive higher pay.

Civilian federal employees working in Iraq are eligible to receive higher premium pay through the end of 2012, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

The July memorandum, released because of a May executive order from President Obama continuing the national emergency in Iraq through May 22, 2013, allows civilians working in that country to take advantage of a premium pay cap waiver for a longer period. Eligible civilian employees in Iraq, including those who work for the Defense and State departments, can receive basic and premium pay up to $230,700 through Dec. 31. In March, before Obama announced the continuation of a national emergency in Iraq, OPM issued guidance telling agencies they could not apply the premium pay cap waiver for civilians working there after May 19.

Premium pay typically includes additional compensation for overtime, night, Sunday or holiday work. The 2009 National Defense Authorization Act first authorized the waiver of the cap and Congress has continued to extend it during the past few years.

“This revised guidance applies to civilian employees working in qualifying overseas locations, including Iraq,” stated the OPM memorandum.

The current premium pay cap, which the government also waived in 2011, is $179,900. Other employees working overseas in support of military or emergency operations in areas covered by U.S. Central Command as well as those formerly of CENTCOM now under U.S. Africa Command still are eligible for the waiver through 2012. The waiver authority extended by the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act expires on Dec. 31.

The amount of basic pay and premium pay in 2012 cannot exceed $230,700, which is the vice president’s salary.

Any additional pay employees receive as a result of the higher cap cannot be used to calculate retirement benefits or for lump-sum payments for accumulated and accrued annual leave.