Expert's View

Most retirees know that if they return to work for the government, the odds are good that the salary of their new position will be offset by the amount of their annuity. However, what happens if you apply for a job, ask point blank if that will happen to your salary, are told that it won’t, but later find out that it does? That’s the situation Paul A. Piper found himself in when he accepted a job with the Transportation Security Administration.

ADVERTISEMENT

Piper was assured – and here I quote from the decision rendered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit – “that TSA’s hiring process was different from other agencies and that his TSA salary would not be impacted by his retirement pay.”

Three months after coming on board, he learned that his salary would be reduced by the amount of his annuity. He was told that while waivers of this requirement had been granted in the past, the practice had ended. Finding it financially impractical to continue working, he resigned and filed suit against TSA in the Court of Federal Claims, arguing that TSA’s failure to inform him was a breach of contract and, among other things, had lost him both pay and relocation expenses. The government filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and the motion was granted.

The court of appeals agreed, finding that there wasn’t any contract in this case. Instead “federal employees derive the benefits and emoluments of their positions from appointment rather than from any contractual or quasi-contractual relationship with the government.”

This isn’t the first time that someone has been told one thing by a hiring official only to find that another is actually the case. And it won’t be the last. Therefore, when something important is at stake, you should not only ask a question but on receiving an answer ask to see it in writing.

ADVERTISEMENT