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Horvath v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

July 20, 2018

MICHAEL HORVATH, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF THE CLASSES OF FEDERAL SECRET SERVICE AGENTS SIMILARLY SITUATED TO HIM, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee

          Appeal from the United States Court of Federal Claims in No. 1:16-cv-00688-LKG, Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby.

          Nicholas Wieczorek, Clark Hill PLLC, Las Vegas, NV, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by David James Vendler, Law Offices of David J. Vendler, San Marino, CA.

          Sosun Bae, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Chad A. Readler, Robert E. Kirschman, Jr., Claudia Burke.

          Before Dyk, Chen, and Stoll, Circuit Judges.

          Dyk, Circuit Judge.

         Michael Horvath brought this putative class-action lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims ("Claims Court") seeking overtime and related compensation on behalf of himself and similarly situated special agents of the U.S. Secret Service. Among his theories of recovery, Mr. Horvath asserted that regulations promulgated by the Office of Personnel Management ("OPM") improperly required that certain overtime hours be worked consecutively in order to trigger compensation. See 5 C.F.R. §§ 550.111(f)(2)(ii), 550.182(b)(2). Because we find that those challenged regulations are contrary to the unambiguous meaning of the relevant statute, we reverse in part the Claims Court's dismissal of Mr. Horvath's complaint and remand for further proceedings. We affirm in all other respects.

         Background

         Mr. Horvath has been employed as a special agent of the Secret Service since 2010. As such, he is a law-enforcement officer entitled to certain enhancements to his pay to compensate for his availability and overtime hours.

         First, Mr. Horvath receives a 25% enhancement to his base salary under a provision known as Law Enforcement Availability Pay or "LEAP." See 5 U.S.C. § 5545a(h)(1). The LEAP statute "provide[s] premium pay to criminal investigators to ensure the availability of criminal investigators for unscheduled duty in excess of a 40 hour work week based on the needs of the employing agency." Id. § 5545a(b). There is no dispute that Mr. Horvath is a criminal investigator within the meaning of the LEAP statute, that he otherwise meets its eligibility requirements, and that he has accordingly been receiving LEAP pay.

         Second, Mr. Horvath is additionally entitled to overtime compensation for some--but not all--of the overtime hours he works. For employees receiving LEAP pay, the overtime-pay statute makes an important distinction between unscheduled overtime and scheduled overtime (i.e., "overtime work which is scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek"). Id. § 5542(d)(1). For scheduled overtime, those employees are compensated for work which is:

(A) in excess of 10 hours on a day during such investigator's basic 40 hour workweek; or
(B) on a day outside such investigator's basic 40 hour workweek . . . .

Id. All other overtime--scheduled or unscheduled--is considered to be compensated by the LEAP pay enhancement rather than by additional hourly wages. Id. § 5542(d)(2).

         However, there is an exception when performing certain duties, including the protective services performed by the Secret Service. Id. § 5542(e). For that kind of work, employees are compensated for all scheduled overtime, notwithstanding subsection (d)(1)'s limitations, "if the investigator performs, on that same day, at least 2 hours of overtime work not scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek." Id. OPM has promulgated regulations substantially restating this exception but adding one relevant detail: the exception applies only if "[t]he investigator performs on that same day at least 2 consecutive hours of overtime work that are not scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek and are compensated by availability pay." 5 C.F.R. ยง ...


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