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If you are a federal employee who left your agency to serve in the U.S. military in connection with operations relating to fighting international terrorist groups and the countries that harbor them, you may be entitled to additional paid military leave, thanks to a recent court ruling.
O’Farrell v. Department of Defense, recently decided in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, creates a broad interpretation of what qualifies as support for contingency operations for federal employees who served in the military after September 11, 2001.
Michael O’Farrell, Jr. had been working as a general attorney in Defense Logistics Agency. He used his 15 days of paid military leave, as well as most of his accrued annual leave and advance annual leave, during a 162-day assignment to the U.S. Navy’s Naval Surface War Center (NSWC).
O’Farrell requested 22 additional days of paid military leave from the Department of Defense, stating it was because he was supporting the military’s operation in Afghanistan. The agency denied the request and said his active duty was not in support of a contingency operation.
The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) upheld the Department of Defense decision, but the Federal Circuit overturned it on the basis of the MSPB’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.
The Federal Circuit court ruled in February, 2018 that O’Farrell was in fact entitled to 22 additional days of paid military leave from the Department of Defense for serving at the NSWC in 2013.
This ruling 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—similar to the thousands of federal employees who received additional paid military leave following a similar ruling in Butterbaugh v. Department of Justice in 2003.
File your claim
Federal employees can file claims with the MSPB to receive additional paid military leave that they are entitled to for serving in military operations against terrorist groups. If the claim is successful, employees will receive relief in one of two ways: 1) personnel still employed by the same federal agency will receive restored annual leave and 2) retired or separated federal employees will receive a lump-sum payment for the lost leave, which will be paid at the rate they were earning at the time of retirement or separation.