Looking for legal resources to address pay case in federal government.
August 10, 2017 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I work for the federal government. They messed up my HR, and I'm being told they don't know when they will fix it and that there will likely be no backpay when they do. This impacts me financially very greatly. What do I do, or where do I go to figure out what to do?

Was told in writing (received formal email) I would receive significant promotion effective end of July, which means paycheck day after tomorrow was supposed to reflect new pay (plus $500 clean, post-tax per biweekly paycheck, or roughly an extra $1K a month). Now being told HR paperwork has not gone through, they're unsure when it will, and that there will most likely be no backpay when it does. It took them months longer to onboard me when I started a few years back, so my experience with HR isn't positive, and this could easily translate to about $1k/month losses on my end, which is very significant for me. What are my resources? If HR paperwork didn't go through but I received a letter saying I would get the promotion, what legal options can I explore? Is this cause for lawsuit? If so, what are some resources to try to figure out how not to get screwed out of a lot of money?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you performing different tasks in the role into which you were promoted, or was this a step promotion that left you in the same position? If the latter, you're probably more or less screwed; if the former, you absolutely have a case.

Are you in the AFGE? If not, can you at least ask the nearest AFGE shop to recommend an employment lawyer?
posted by Etrigan at 7:42 AM on August 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

was this a step promotion that left you in the same position? If the latter, you're probably more or less screwed

You are probably screwed, but you are probably also legally in the right. If an employer says, "I will pay you $x effective $date for your work" and you continue to do your work and are not paid $x for your work as of $date, your employer is committing wage theft. Roughly, the law is that your employer pays you what they tell you they will pay and no less.

That said... you probably will not be able to effectively sue the federal government. Beyond the obvious fact that they have a lot more money/resources than you do, suing your employer is a great way to get yourself blacklisted from future employment (which is also not legal... but still happens). Yes, consult with an employment lawyer to see if there is "gentle" pressure they can exert on your employer to get the raise moving. However, be prepared for nothing to happen. There is little to no risk for the government to delay/forget about this raise.

I suspect the only practical way you have to get this raise is to find a new job at the new rate and take it.
posted by saeculorum at 9:13 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ugh, what a nightmare. The "no back pay" is especially BS--recently in a somewhat analogous situation I got over a year's back pay. This sounds like HR trying to cover its screwup in getting the funding allocated by not requesting funding to cover the retroactive period.

The union is definitely your first step if you belong. Then, if you have a good relationship with your boss, I'd raise it directly with him/her, as he/she has an interest in your being happy (and also in the same nonsense not happening to them, if they're still on the regular payscale). Employment lawyer last, but I'd emphasize that you want a gentler approach. A $20K or so pretax change sounds more like a grade than a step to me, but, either way, if you were formally promised the raise in writing by someone authorized to do so, you are generally entitled to it. Yet suing your employer is generally tantamount to quitting, and it's not like you can just go to the federal government in the next town over.
posted by praemunire at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

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