Yanko v. United States
869 F.3d 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
Authored by Lauren Farruggia
Statement of the Facts: Both part-time and full-time federal employees receive paid time off for weekday federal holidays. If part-time and full-time federal employees are required to work on holidays, they are entitled to premium pay, provided that their work is not in excess of eight hours and is not overtime work. Occasionally, however, federal holidays fall on days in which a federal employee is not scheduled to work. 5 U.S.C. § 6103(b)(1)(A) and Executive Order No.11,582, § 3(a), 36 Fed. Reg. 2957 (Feb. 11, 1971) provide “in-lieu-of” holidays for certain employees whose basic work-week of five workdays is Monday through Friday. Accordingly, these federal employees receive time off on Friday for holidays that occur on a Saturday, and receive time off on Monday for holidays that occur on a Sunday. Employees entitled to in-lieu-of holidays who are required to work on those holidays earn premium pay. The Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) regulations interpreting the statute and Executive Order prohibit part-time employees from receiving in-lieu-of holidays if the holiday falls on the part-time employee’s non-workday.
Plaintiff Michael Yanko (“Yanko”) has worked as a part-time federal employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for six years. He regularly works five days per week, from Sunday through Thursday. As a part-time employee, Yanko does not receive in-lieu-of holidays that fall outside of his ordinary workweek. Yanko brought a class action complaint in the Court of Federal Claims on behalf of himself and all similarly-situated part-time GS and WG federal employees, alleging that part-time federal employees are entitled to premium pay for work performed on an in-lieu-of holiday. Yanko alleged that OPM’s regulations are contrary to the statute and the executive order, and sought the premium pay to which he would have been entitled had he been credited with in-lieu-of holidays for the past six years of his employment.
Procedural History: The U.S. Court of Federal Claims rejected Yanko’s claim, holding that the governing statute and Executive Order fail to provide part-time employees with a right to in-lieu-of holidays when federal holidays fall on days outside the employees’ normal workweek. In so holding, the Court of Federal Claims determined that the statute and Executive Order’s use of the term “basic workweek” refers only to full-time employees. Yanko challenges on appeal the construction of the statute and the executive order.
Questions Presented: Whether under section 6103(b) and Executive Order 11,582 part-time federal employees are entitled to in-lieu-of holidays when federal holidays fall on days on which they are not scheduled to work.
Holdings: The Federal Circuit affirmed the Court of Federal Claims and held that the relevant statute and Executive Order do not unambiguously apply to part-time employees. The court held that OPM’s interpretation that basic workweek applies only to full-time employees was reasonable.
Reasoning: The Federal Circuit first struck down Yanko’s argument that part-time federal employees are employees within the meaning of the relevant statute and Executive Order providing for premium pay during in-lieu-of holidays. The Federal Circuit determined that basic workweek refers to a standard 40-hour workweek worked by full-time employees, finding support, first, in the Federal Employees Pay Act of 1945, Pub. L. No. 79-106, 59 Stat. 295, which contained the core provisions governing the establishment of a basic administrative workweek of 40 hours for full-time federal employees. Next, the Federal Circuit looked to Executive Order No. 10,358, which provided in-lieu-of holidays to federal employees for the first time. The Federal Circuit noted that this Executive Order did not explicitly apply to part-time employees. Additionally, the Federal Circuit found dispositive an opinion drafted by the Comptroller General with respect to Executive Order No. 10,358, which determined that the Executive Order’s holiday benefit provisions apply only to full-time employees. Further, the Federal Circuit was persuaded by the Comptroller General’s finding that basic workweek related only to employees who regularly work a 40-hour workweek. These early measures established the framework for the challenged statute and Executive Order; accordingly, the Federal Circuit found no historical support for Yanko’s contention.
The Federal Circuit also afforded Chevron deference to OPM’s interpretation of the statute and Executive Order as only applicable to part-time employees. The Federal Circuit found that OPM’s position was long-standing and consistent and should accordingly be afforded broad deference.