A decision in the case of O’Farrell v. Department of Defense, in the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, paves the way for federal employees who served in the military after September 11, 2001, to receive additional paid military leave from their agencies. The ruling also creates a much broader interpretation of what qualifies as support for contingency operations.
In February 2018, the court ruled that Michael O’Farrell, Jr. was entitled to 22 additional days of paid military leave from the Department of Defense for serving at the U.S. Navy’s Naval Surface War Center (NSWC) in 2013. He used his 15 days of paid military leave, as well as most of his accrued annual leave and advance annual leave, during his 162-day assignment to the NSWC. He requested 22 additional paid military days from the DOD saying it was because he was supporting the military’s’ operation in Afghanistan. DOD denied the request and said that his active duty wasn’t in support of a contingency operation.
The Merit Systems Protection Board upheld the decision by the DOD, but the Federal Circuit overturned it based on the Board’s misinterpretation of Section 6323 (b) of the U.S. Code, which allows members of the Reserves and National Guard to receive paid time off from their federal agencies for military service.
This ruling now paves the way for thousands of other service members to receive additional paid time off from their federal agencies for serving on active duty post 9/11—like thousands of federal employees who received additional paid military leave following the Federal Circuit’s 2013 ruling in Butterbaugh v. Department of Justice.
In that case, the Federal Circuit ruled that federal agencies improperly charged military leave prior to December 2000 because agencies counted non-working, weekend days within 15 days allotted to paid military time. Because of this. Agencies were required to compensate those employees who had to use personal annual time to fulfill military obligations.
Filing a Claim
Federal employees can file claims with MSPB against their agencies to receive additional paid military leave for serving in support of military operations against terrorist groups. If the claim is successful, employees will receive relief in 1 of 2 forms:
- Personnel still employed by the same agency will receive restored annual leave.
- Retired or separated federal employees will receive a lump sum payment for lost leave, which will be paid at the rate they were earning at the time of retirement or separation.