Q & A Session – LWOP Transfer


Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.


My spouse is in the military. I was previously employed as a part-time NF02 Recreation Assistant at an Army installation for nine months. While I held that position, my spouse received orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) to another military installation. I took three weeks of leave without pay (LWOP) as a result of the move before I found new employment at our new installation; I was again employed as a NF02 Recreation Assistant, but now as a full-time employee. My hourly pay is approximately $4 less per hour than it previously was. My understanding is that an employee who is on LWOP status as a result of a PCS is entitled to the same pay upon return to duty and that the change of station is merely considered a transfer. The human resources office informed me that is “not how it works.” Am I stuck at this lower pay rate or do I have some recourse?


Compensation for positions under the Nonappropriated Fund pay scale, like other government pay scales, vary for positions of the same grade between geographic locations. See OPM’s Operating Manual: Federal Wage System – Nonappropriated Fund, Subchapter S8-3(a). For instance, an NF02 in Washington, DC, may legally receive a higher hourly wage than an NF02 in rural Montana.

While you have not disclosed your former and current pay stations, it appears likely to me that you have retained your grade but that your new duty station is in a locality where the hourly compensation scheme is somewhat lower than at your previous duty station. Generally, when a Nonappropriated Fund employee moves to a different wage area, he or she is not entitled to pay retention because such a move is considered to be at the employee’s own request. See OPM’s Operating Manual, Subchapter S9-4(a)(7). From the wording of your question, it appears to me that you did indeed request the transfer, albeit for important familial reasons.

If you were subject to a step decrease, please note that you were not entitled to grade retention. You had only been an employee for nine months, while eligibility for grade retention requires that, among other things, employees must successfully complete one year of employment at the higher grade level. See OPM’s Operating Manual, Subchapter S9-3.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.

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About Author

Debra Roth

Debra L. Roth is a partner at the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth, a federal employment law firm in Washington, D.C. She is general counsel to the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association, host of the “FEDtalk” program on Federal News Radio, and a regular contributor to Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show. Email your legal questions to lawyer@federaltimes.com.

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