5 CFR Appendix A to Part 2418 - Waiving Claims Against FLRA Employees for Erroneous Payments

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Appendix A to Part 2418 - Waiving Claims Against FLRA Employees for Erroneous Payments
Date: May 1, 2015.
Subject: Waiving Claims Against FLRA Employees for Erroneous Payments.
1. Purpose

This appendix establishes the FLRA's policies and procedures for waiving claims by the Government against an employee for erroneous payments of: (1) Pay and allowances (e.g., health and life insurance) and (2) travel, transportation, and relocation expenses and allowances.

2. Background

a. 5 U.S.C. 5584 authorizes the waiver of claims by the United States in whole or in part against an employee arising out of erroneous payments of pay and allowances, travel, transportation, and relocation expenses and allowances. A waiver may be considered when collection of the claim would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interest of the United States, provided that there does not exist, in connection with the claim, an indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault, or lack of good faith on the part of the employee or any other person having an interest in obtaining a waiver of the claim.

b. The General Accounting Office Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-316), Title I, section 103(d), enacted October 19, 1996, amended 5 U.S.C. 5584 by transferring the authority to waive claims for erroneous payments exceeding $1,500 from the Comptroller General of the United States to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB subsequently redelegated this waiver authority to the executive agency that made the erroneous payment. The authority to waive claims not exceeding $1,500, which was vested in the head of each agency prior to the enactment of Public Law 104-316, was unaffected by the Act.

c. 5 U.S.C. 5514 authorizes the head of each agency, upon a determination that an employee is indebted to the United States for debts to which the United States is entitled to be repaid at the time of the determination, to deduct up to 15%, or a greater amount if agreed to by the employee or a higher deduction has been ordered by a court under section 124 of Public Law 97-276 (96 Stat. 1195), from the employee's pay at officially established pay intervals in order to repay the debt.

3. Delegation

The Executive Director is delegated the authority to waive, in whole or in part, a claim of the United States against an employee for an erroneous payment of pay and allowances, travel, transportation, and relocation expenses and allowances, in accordance with the limitations and standards in 5 U.S.C. 5584.

4. Responsibilities

The Office of the Executive Director shall:

(1) Promptly notify an employee upon discovery of an erroneous payment to that employee;

(2) Promptly act to collect the erroneous overpayment, following established debt-collection policies and procedures;

(3) Establish time frames for employees to request a waiver in writing and for the Executive Director to review the waiver request. These time frames must take into consideration the responsibilities of the United States to take prompt action to pursue enforced collection on overdue debts, which may arise from erroneous payments.

(4) Notify employees whose requests for waiver of claims are denied in whole or in part of the basis for the denial.

(5) Pay a refund when appropriate if a waiver is granted;

(6) Fulfill all labor-relations responsibilities when implementing the provisions of this appendix; and

(7) Fulfill any other responsibility of the agency imposed by 5 U.S.C. 5584 or other applicable laws and regulations.

Additionally, the Office of the Executive Director may initiate a waiver application during the processing of a claim under 5 CFR part 2418.

5. Reporting Requirements

a. The FLRA shall maintain a register of waiver actions. The register shall cover each fiscal year and be prepared by December 31 of each year for the preceding fiscal year. The register shall contain the following information:

(1) The total amount waived by the FLRA;

(2) The number and dollar amount of waiver applications granted in full;

(3) The number and dollar amount of waiver applications granted in part and denied in part, and the dollar amount of each;

(4) The number and dollar amount of waiver applications denied in their entirety; and

(5) The number of waiver applications referred to the Executive Director for initial action.

b. The FLRA shall retain a written record of each waiver action for 6 years and 3 months. At a minimum, the written record shall contain:

(1) The FLRA's summary of the events surrounding the erroneous payment;

(2) Any written comments submitted by the employee from whom collection is sought;

(3) An account of the waiver action taken and the reasons for such action; and

(4) Other pertinent information such as any action taken to refund amounts repaid.

6. Effect of Request for Waiver

A request for a waiver of a claim shall not affect an employee's opportunity under 5 U.S.C. 5514(a)(2)(D) for a hearing on the determination of the agency concerning the existence or the amount of the debt, or the terms of the repayment schedule. A request by an employee for a hearing under 5 U.S.C. 5514(a)(2)(D) shall not affect an employee's right to request a waiver of the claim. The determination whether to waive a claim may be made at the discretion of the deciding official either before or after a final decision is rendered pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 5514(a)(2)(D) concerning the existence or the amount of the debt, or the terms of the repayment schedule.

7. Guidelines for Determining Requests

a. A request for a waiver shall not be granted if the deciding official determines there exists, in connection with the claim, an indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault, or lack of good faith on the part of the employee or any other person having an interest in obtaining a waiver of the claim. There are no exceptions to this rule for financial hardship or otherwise.

(1) “Fault” exists if, in light of all the circumstances, it is determined that the employee knew or should have known that an error existed, but failed to take action to have it corrected. Fault can derive from an act or a failure to act. Unlike fraud, fault does not require a deliberate intent to deceive. Whether an employee should have known about an error in pay is determined from the perspective of a reasonable person. Pertinent considerations in finding fault include whether:

(a) The payment resulted from the employee's incorrect, but not fraudulent, statement that the employee should have known was incorrect;

(b) The payment resulted from the employee's failure to disclose material facts that were in the employee's possession and that the employee should have known to be material; or

(c) The employee accepted a payment, that the employee knew or should have known to be erroneous.

(2) Every case must be examined in light of its particular facts. For example, where an employee is promoted to a higher grade but the step level for the employee's new grade is miscalculated, it may be appropriate to conclude that there is no fault on the employee's part because employees are not typically expected to be aware of and understand the rules regarding determination of step level upon promotion. On the other hand, a different conclusion as to fault potentially may be reached if the employee in question is a personnel specialist or an attorney who concentrates on personnel law.

b. If the deciding official finds an indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault, or lack of good faith on the part of the employee or any other person having an interest in obtaining a waiver of the claim, then the request for a waiver must be denied.

c. If the deciding official finds no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault, or lack of good faith on the part of the employee or any other person having an interest in obtaining a waiver of the claim, then the employee is not automatically entitled to a waiver. Before a waiver can be granted, the deciding official must also determine that collection of the claim against an employee would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interests of the United States. Factors to consider when determining whether collection of a claim against an employee would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interests of the United States include, but are not limited to:

(1) Whether collection of the claim would cause serious financial hardship to the employee from whom collection is sought.

(2) Whether, because of the erroneous payment, the employee either has relinquished a valuable right or changed positions for the worse, regardless of the employee's financial circumstances.

(a) To establish that a valuable right has been relinquished, it must be shown that the right was, in fact, valuable; that it cannot be regained; and that the action was based chiefly or solely on reliance on the overpayment.

(b) To establish that the employee's position has changed for the worse, it must be shown that the decision would not have been made but for the overpayment, and that the decision resulted in a loss.

(c) An example of a “detrimental reliance” would be a decision to sign a lease for a more expensive apartment based chiefly or solely upon reliance on an erroneous calculation of salary, and the funds spent for rent cannot be recovered.

(3) The cost of collecting the claim equals or exceeds the amount of the claim;

(4) The time elapsed between the erroneous payment and discovery of the error and notification of the employee;

(5) Whether failure to make restitution would result in unfair gain to the employee;

(6) Whether recovery of the claim would be unconscionable under the circumstances.

d. The burden is on the employee to demonstrate that collection of the claim would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interest of the United States.

8. Authorities

a. 5 U.S.C. 5584, “Claims for Overpayment of Pay and Allowances, and of Travel, Transportation and Relocation Expenses and Allowances.”

b. 31 U.S.C. 3711, “Collection and Compromise.”

c. 31 U.S.C. 3716, “Administrative Offset.”

d. 31 U.S.C. 3717, “Interest and Penalty on Claims.”

e. 5 CFR part 550, subpart K, “Collection by Offset from Indebted Government Employees.”

f. 31 CFR part 5, subpart B, “Salary Offset.”

g. Determination with Respect to Transfer of Functions Pursuant to Public Law 104-316, OMB, December 17, 1996.

9. Cancellation

FLRA Internal Regulation 2790, dated December 29, 1986, is superseded.