VA Employees Fight for More Pay
Lawsuit and union seek to boost employee compensation.
A former Veterans Affairs Department nurse is suing the agency for allegedly shorting her overtime pay, claiming many more employees would benefit from the suit.
Annamma Samji, who worked as a nurse at a New Jersey facility from September 2012 through October 2013, said VA violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not fully compensating her for overtime. The VA facility, Samji alleged according to court documents, ignored several factors that contributed to her base pay in determining time-and-a-half for her overtime pay.
The nurse, for example, earned special pay rates when she worked nights and weekends. Her suit claimed she earned an extra $4.21 per hour when working evenings and an extra $10.51 per hour when working weekends. Her overtime pay only reflected an extra 50 percent of her base pay of $42.05 per hour, however.
Samji also alleged VA denied overtime pay to employees who worked less than 15 minutes of overtime in a given shift.
She filed the lawsuit “on behalf of all persons presently and formerly employed by defendant who worked or work for defendant within the last three years as hourly non-exempt employees and who were subjected to similar compensation procedures and policies.” The suit claimed “numerous similarly situated” workers were known to VA, but did not offer an exact number.
Grade Reductions Delayed
While VA was allegedly cheating some employees out of certain pay, it was agreeing to put other proposed cuts on hold.
The department was scheduled to issue grade reductions for 21,000 low-wage employees, but Secretary Bob McDonald has agreed to stave off the cuts for at least 15 months. The delay will allow for a national classification review, VA said. The scheduled grade reductions targeted 17 job positions.
VA hiring officials were also given authority to bring in new employees at the same pay level as incumbent workers, according to the American Federation of Government Employees. Previously, some new hires were brought in at lower salaries than coworkers performing the same jobs.
J. David Cox, AFGE national president, hailed the decisions as McDonald’s “commitment to more openness” and a key to boosting workplace morale.
“We are extremely encouraged by Secretary McDonald’s prompt action to address AFGE’s concerns about the devastating downgrades of VA health care personnel,” Cox said, “including a great many service-connected disabled veterans who have devoted their careers to the nation’s stellar health care system for our wounded warriors.”