It always seems impossible until it’s done. After 10 years of fighting to get their employer to do the right thing, AFGE members working at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finally succeeded. The EEOC has agreed to pay $1.53 million to settle the overtime case.
The case is a result of a grievance filed by the AFGE EEOC Council 216 in 2006 after the agency refused to pay employees for the extra hours they worked helping to tackle the humongous claims backlog when the agency lost 25% of its workforce and tried to do more with less.
In 2008, a federal arbitrator ruled that the EEOC changed the classification of certain positions to exempt them from overtime. In 2009, the arbitrator found that the EEOC willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that covered employees must have a true choice to elect overtime. According to the arbitrator, the agency was “inclined, as a matter of policy, to deny it” and had a practice of “forcing compensatory time,” making the choice a “fiction.” The most glaring examples cited by the arbitrator were agency forms used to approve additional hours that had been altered so employees could not exercise their right to claim overtime pay.
As a result of the ruling, approximately 700 employees were reclassified so that they are eligible for overtime. But the EEOC didn’t act on the overtime money it owed to the employees until now.
“Our union is pleased that our dedicated members who worked extra unpaid hours will finally see some compensation,” said Council President Gabrielle Martin. “It has been very frustrating to employees that this case has gone on for a decade during which employees retired or unfortunately passed away.”
Martin said the amount that each employee will receive has not been decided. She thanks current EEOC Chair Jenny Yang for doing the right thing by the employees.