Daily Labor Report® is the objective resource the nation’s foremost labor and employment professionals read and rely on, providing reliable, analytical coverage of top labor and employment...
Sept. 20 — An instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia isn’t eligible for the same enhanced retirement benefits that federal law enforcement officers and firefighters get, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled ( Fitzgerald v. DHS , Fed. Cir., No. 2015-3154, 9/20/16 ).
Federal law enforcement officers can retire with an annuity at an earlier age and based on fewer years of service than most other federal employees. A 2007 statute essentially reclassified U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers as law enforcement. It provided those enhanced benefits to CBP officers and certain “supervisory or administrative” employees who had served as CBP officers for at least three years.
Susan Fitzgerald, a former customs inspector, sued the Department of Homeland Security challenging the Office of Personnel Management’s interpretation of which workers qualify as a “supervisory or administrative” employee under the statute. Fitzgerald argued that OPM’s interpretation—under which her particular current position isn’t eligible for the enhanced benefits—contradicts the purpose of the law. The court disagreed.
“Congress likely intended to leave a gap as to the meaning of a ‘supervisory or administrative position in [DHS]' that OPM would fill through regulations,” and the regulations are valid because they’re not unreasonable interpretations of the statutory language, Judge Alvin Schall wrote in his Sept. 20 decision.
The CBP became a component of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. The law extending law enforcement benefits to CBP officers was enacted to attract and retain more workers for the agency.
The court noted that the part of the statute targeted at former CBP officers who go on to become administrators or supervisors doesn’t actually define what constitutes such a position. Fitzgerald argued that this means that a worker with three previous years of service at CBP who then transfers to any administrative or supervisory position at the DHS is eligible for the enhanced benefits. The court disagreed.
The court said it accepted the government’s argument that “Congress’s reliance on OPM to fill the gaps as to the meaning of the term ‘supervisory or administrative’ position is consistent with its approach to retirement benefits for other special groups.” Given OPM’s rulemaking authority here, courts must defer to the agency as long as its regulations aren’t an unreasonable interpretation of the statute, Schall said.
The “regulations do not conflict with the statute; instead, they merely cabin it by restricting entitlement to CBPO status to employees in certain CBPO-related positions,” the court wrote. This is reasonable because “all supervisory and administrative positions in DHS are not created equal,” and “second, the restriction encourages career service as a CBPO.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Hassan A. Kanu in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Fitzgerald_v_DHS_No_20153154_2016_BL_308804_Fed_Cir_Sept_20_2016_.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)