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Feds Can Sign Up for a COVID-19 Hazard Pay Lawsuit Now

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Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a federal class action lawsuit seeking to secure hazardous duty pay and hazard overtime for federal employees who worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic launched a website for workers to join the case last week.

The case, whose original plaintiffs include the American Federation of Government Employees and employees from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Agriculture Department and the Veterans Affairs Department, dates back to March 2020 and has been in legal limbo while a federal appeals court considers a different lawsuit covering the same issue.

But last month, lawyers for the federal workers seeking hazard pay announced that they would set up a website so that feds can join the lawsuit. At issue is the fact that, for cases in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, potential beneficiaries of a class action lawsuit must sign on ahead of time, unlike most consumer class action suits, where potential plaintiffs can claim their portion of a settlement or damages after the case has been decided.

Additionally, the statute of limitations on damages is more complex than in many other cases. Hazard pay claims have a statute of limitations of six years, whereas adjustments to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act have a two- or three-year limit, depending on whether the judge finds a “willful violation” on the part of federal agencies.

Feds seeking to join the case can now do so by visiting https://www.hazardpaylawsuit.com. The attorneys stressed that the case is not restricted to AFGE members, but rather all “eligible affected federal employees.” In order to join the case, applicants must have been a federal employee during the pandemic, they must have been exposed to COVID-19 during the course of their official duties, their job must be eligible for hazard duty or environmental differential pay and their position description does not include exposure to infectious diseases as a condition of employment, and they must not have been granted hazard pay “for all of [their working time] in which they were exposed to COVID-19.”

Former OPM Director to Lead Blue Collar Pay Panel

The Office of Personnel Management announced Tuesday that OPM Director Kiran Ahuja has appointed Janice Lachance, who served as OPM director in the Clinton administration, to serve as chairwoman on a panel that issues recommendations on the pay of blue collar federal employees hired under the Federal Wage System.

The Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Council is similar to the General Schedule pay system’s Federal Salary Council—it is made up of a combination of agency management and organized labor appointees, and issues recommendations on pay issues relating to the Federal Wage System.

The Federal Wage System has come under scrutiny in recent years, as federal employee groups have advocated for its locality pay area map, which is virtually unchanged from a decades-old map of military installations, to align with that of the General Schedule’s.

Lachance said in a statement that she’s eager to ensure that blue collar federal workers are paid equitably.

“I am honored and pleased to have been asked to once again join OPM, where I look forward to working with Director Ahuja and the OPM staff to ensure a Federal Wage System that is grounded in fairness and equity,” Lachance said. “Working in partnership with employee unions and federal agencies, I am confident we can make real progress on President Biden’s promise to provide additional economic security and dignity to these dedicated workers who provide important services to our nation.”