Supreme Court Accepts $3,000 Case Involving Federal Employee Pay

A federal case involving about $3,000 plus interest for a six-day furlough reached the Supreme Court? This federal employee appeal reveals complexity of the processes.

11 Years On, Federal Employee Case Reaches Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court granted a petition to review the case of a federal employee involving a six-day furlough action in 2013. While extensive, complex appeal procedures are available to federal employees, and they can take a long time to get a final decision; very few cases like this ever get to the Supreme Court. Even with the complex appeal process available to federal employees, 10 years is a long time for a resolution.

Stuart Harrow, an employee of the Defense Contract Management Agency—who has experienced unusual success in getting his case before the Supremes—will learn whether a misdirected email will end his 11-year quest to receive $3,000 in pay (plus interest).

Harrow contends his salary was wrongly withheld during 2013 budget cuts mandated by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act amendments. He had requested to be exempted from the furlough because of financial hardship.

After being furloughed, Harrow filed an appeal with an administrative law judge. His appeal to the ALJ was dismissed, and Harrow filed an appeal of the decision with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). There was not a quorum at the MSPB and his case languished for five years.

In the years Harrow’s appeal was pending at the MSPB, the Department of Defense changed email servers. Harrow did not notify the Board of his new email address, and the final Board decision was sent to his old address. While the decision was issued on May 11, 2022, Harrow contended he did not learn of the decision until August 30, 2022.

He filed his appeal with the Federal Circuit outside of the 60-day time limit for filing an appeal. In his appeal, he argued he missed the filing deadline, but it was not his fault as he did not know about the decision issued by the MSPB.

While Harrow represented himself in much of the litigation, he did not represent himself in his case at the Supreme Court including law Professor Scott Dodson:

Strongest Supporter on the Court

According to the Wall Street Journal, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch appears to be Harrow’s strongest supporter among the Justices:

“Gosh, I mean, waiting seven years to rule on this fellow’s claim and then sending him an email to an old email address and he acted as fast as he could,” the justice pressed the government. “It’s not wholly inconceivable the government might, in its magnanimity, choose to waive this defect?” 

Undoubtedly, this federal employee will eagerly await the decision to be issued by the Supremes.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47