UPDATE AS OF JANUARY 31, 2013 FROM THE EMPLOYEES' ATTORNEY
The independent Administrator informs me that checks are being distributed of back pay and interest pursuant to the settlement with the VA. If you filed a timely and valid claim, here is how your check has been calculated: First, please understand that this case always has been about only one item, namely: the 25% premium pay that eligible VA health care employees earn when they work regularly scheduled, non-overtime shifts on Saturdays and then use authorized and approved paid annual leave and/or sick leave instead of working their regularly scheduled Saturday shift.
The VA had not been paying the 25% Saturday premium when eligible health care employees used approved paid leave from January 11, 2004 to June 30, 2012; this case settled that issue after years of litigation and the Federal Judge ruled that the settlement was fair and reasonable. As a result, you should have received 25% premium pay whenever you used approved paid leave instead of working your regular Saturday shift since July 1, 2012 and into the future.
The VA has calculated the amount of back pay and interest which is due to each eligible health care employee who filed a timely and valid claim. The independent Administrator has computed the share of each claimant who filed a timely and valid claim after deducting administrative expenses and attorney fees which have been reviewed and approved by the Judge. If you have any questions, please call 1-877-271-1504, email the independent Administrator at email@example.com, or write to PO Box 4098, Portland, Oregon, 97208-4098.
Sincerely, Ira M. Lechner, Class Counsel
UPDATE AS OF NOVEMBER 5, 2012 FROM THE EMPLOYEES' ATTORNEY
Good news! The Judge has approved the settlement of this case. However, it could take weeks, or even months, for the United States Treasury Department to pay the money to the Class Action Administrator and for all the administrative work to be completed. Then, the Administrator has to prepare checks, calculate and pay withholding taxes, and properly identify who is an eligible claimant from among thousands of employees and former employees. So, please remain patient as the Administrator sorts all of this out, hopefully before Christmas. Please do not call or email us as this will only slow down the work that must be done. Thank you for your patience and your understanding.
Sincerely, Ira M. Lechner, Class Counsel
UPDATE AS OF AUGUST 20, 2012 FROM THE EMPLOYEES' ATTORNEY
From Ira Lechner, Class Counsel:
Good news! After many years of litigation, the government has notified me that it has agreed to settle the case which involves Saturday premium pay when you used authorized paid leave. It is a fair settlement which will allow each eligible person to receive back pay and interest based on their own individual payroll records with respect to the 25 % Saturday premium pay that was not paid when you used authorized leave on regularly scheduled Saturdays from January 29, 2004 to and including June 30, 2012.
Like all settlements, both sides had to compromise in order to end the litigation, but the government agreed to pay 85% of the actual back pay PLUS interest into the Settlement Fund which will be administered by an independent professional firm in Portland, Oregon which has been recommended by me and has been appointed by Judge to handle the administration of the money. And, of course, the settlement recognizes that employees must pay withholding taxes to state, local and federal governments from their back pay.
As you agreed when you filed your claim for back pay, the 30% cost of attorney fees and expenses, and the costs of the independent Class Action Administrator appointed by the Judge, must be paid directly from the settlement fund so that you will not be assessed any of those costs individually.
However, there still are a number of legal steps that must be satisfied before anyone can receive back pay and interest: First, the Judge must hold a hearing on October 1, 2012 in Washington, D.C.. Notice of the settlement has been sent to the class by a postcard, which you and all class members will receive, to determine if the settlement is "fair, reasonable, and adequate." The Judge must issue a written opinion approving the settlement. The Judge also is required to determine the percentage of the attorneys’ fee, and the amount of reimbursable expenses expended by the attorneys, that must be paid directly from the settlement fund before back pay is distributed to the class. Hopefully, the Judge will issue her opinion quickly sometime in October.
Thereafter, it generally takes a number of months for the Treasury Department to issue a check to the Court-appointed Class Action Administrator. The Class Action Administrator determines the appropriate amount of back pay that can be distributed to each eligible claimant, based on your own individual payroll records with respect to the 25 % Saturday premium pay that was not paid when you used authorized leave on regularly scheduled Saturdays from January 29, 2004 to and including June 30, 2012. The Administrator of course must deduct from each award the required withholding of individual federal, state, and local taxes. The Administrator must deduct from the Settlement Fund the costs and fees incurred of the Administrator, and the attorneys’ fee set by the Judge, as well as the reimbursement of the attorneys’ out-of-pocket costs which have been incurred over the years while we have been fighting on your behalf.
As you can see, we still have a way to go before any back-pay is distributed. PLEASE BE PATIENT AS WE ARE WORKING AS FAST AS THE LAW WILL PERMIT US TO DO SO. Completion of each one of these legal steps requires additional attorney time and effort as well as considerable time and expense by the Class Action Administrator to determine the amount of back pay to be paid to each eligible claimant based on payroll records which have been analyzed by the VA’s computers, the issuance of checks to more than 6,000 eligible claimants, and all the preparation, filing, and payment by the Administrator of required withheld taxes to State governments and the IRS.
Thank you for your patience over the years. I will report to you again after I have any significant news. You will soon receive a postcard, authorized and approved by the Judge, notifying you about the process of approval of the settlement. Please do not call or email me individually because there are thousands of claimants in this case and I’m sure you understand that I will be overwhelmed with emails and phone calls.
Remember, I still have to concentrate on pushing the ball over the goal line. It has been a long battle and I appreciate your patience and support over the years---keep it up, please!
Sincerely, Ira M. Lechner, Class Counsel
If you are or were employed as one of these occupations with the VHA, at any time since January 11, 2004, you may be eligible for substantial back pay and interest as a result of a class action lawsuit that may affect your rights:
Series 0621, Nursing Assistant;
Series 0060, Chaplain;
Series 0101, Social Science;
Series 0102, Social Science Aid and Technician;
Series 0181, Psychology Aid and Technician;
Series 0184, Sociology;
Series 0186, Social Services Aid and Assistant;
Series 0187, Social Services;
Series 0188, Recreation Specialist;
Series 0189, Recreation Aid and Assistant;
Series 0334, Computer Specialist (Only DHCP Operations and Maintenance for the period January 11, 2004 through October 1, 2006, and DHCP Development for the period January 11, 2004 through April 1, 2007);
Series 0401, General Biological Science;
Series 0403, Microbiology;
Series 0404, Biological Science Technician;
Series 0405, Pharmacology;
Series 0413, Physiology;
Series 0415, Toxicology;
Series 0601, General Health Science (Except EFDA’s, Nuclear Medicine Technologists, Blind Rehabilitation Specialists and Registered Respiratory Therapists);
Series 0622, Medical Supply Aid and Technician;
Series 0625, Autopsy Assistant;
Series 0636, Rehabilitation Therapy Assistant;
Series 0637, Manual Arts Therapist;
Series 0638, Recreation/Creative Arts Therapist;
Series 0639, Education Therapist;
Series 0640, Health Aid and Technician;
Series 0645, Medical Technician;
Series 0646, Pathology Technician;
Series 0664, Restoration Technician;
Series 0670, Health System Administration;
Series 0671, Health System Specialist;
Series 0673, Hospital Housekeeping Management;
Series 0679, Medical Support Assistant;
Series 0683, Dental Laboratory Aid and Technician;
Series 0690, Industrial Hygienist;
Series 0698, Environmental Health Aid and Technician;
Series 0699, Student Nurse Technician (Title code 63 only);
Series 0701, Veterinary Medical Science;
Series 0704, Animal Health Technician;
Series 1020, Medical Illustrator;
Series 1060, Photographer (Medical);
Series 1301, General Physical Science;
Series 1306, Health Physics;
Series 1310, Physics;
Series 1311, Physical Science Technician;
Series 1320, Chemistry;
Series 1725, Public Health Educator;
Series 1910, Quality Assurance;
Series 2210, Computer Specialist (Only DHCP Operations and Maintenance for the period January 11, 2004 through October 1, 2006, and DHCP Development for the period January 11, 2004 through April 1, 2007).
Employees who are or were working for the VHA since January 11, 2004 in the occupations listed above are entitled to receive premium pay when you work on Saturday shifts. Plaintiffs claim that you are entitled to receive Saturday premium pay also when you use paid leave instead of working on Saturday shifts that you customarily and regularly work. The government believes that you are not entitled to receive Saturday premium pay when you use paid leave instead of working on Saturday shifts.
The plaintiffs have brought a lawsuit in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. claiming that the VA violated federal pay statutes by failing to pay certain specialized health care employees, who are identified above, weekend premium pay of 25% whenever they used annual leave, sick leave, court leave, or military leave instead of working shifts that they customarily and regularly worked on Saturday.