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Office of the General Counsel

Date: November 17, 2000
Matter of: [Claimant]
File Number: 001297

OPM Contact: Jo-Ann Chabot

A federal employee claims that he should have received locality pay while he was on a two-year detail to a state government under the provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA), 5 U.S.C. '' 3371-3376. The claim is denied for the reasons stated below.

The claimant agreed to accept a detail from a position with a regional office of his employing federal agency to a position with a state government. He signed the IPA Agreement on June 10, 1997, and a representative of the agency IPA Coordinator signed it on June 23, 1997. The Agreement and the Standard Form (SF) 50 both show that the detail began on July 1, 1997 and ended on June 30, 1999. The SF-50 shows that the claimant was detailed from a position in a locality pay area to a position that was not in a locality pay area, and that the agency paid travel and transportation expenses for the claimant, his immediate family, and his household goods. The SF-50 shows, in addition, that the agency approved the IPA detail on June 23, 1997, and that the detail became effective on July 1, 1997.

In an October 28, 1997 letter to the claimant, the Acting Assistant Regional Administrator for Management noted that the agency had drafted, but not yet issued, a revision of its 1987 IPA policies and procedures manual at the time that regional officials were processing the paperwork for his detail. The Acting Assistant Regional Administrator for Management noted that, because its 1987 IPA manual did not address locality pay, regional officials sought advice from the agency IPA Coordinator who instructed them to apply the guidance in the draft manual. The agency approved the new edition of its IPA manual on June 30, 1997, the day before the claimant's detail became effective. In addition, a March 30, 1995 audit report from the agency Inspector General concerning agency administration of IPA assignments noted that differing approaches to applying locality pay for IPA assignments existed within the agency and that agency officials had agreed to adopt a consistent policy regarding locality pay. The report noted further that the agency central office computed locality pay on the basis of the permanent duty station location, while at least one of its regional offices computed locality pay using the permanent duty station as the basis for short term assignments and the temporary duty station as the basis for long-term assignments.

The claimant questions the agency application of the 1997 version of its IPA manual to his detail, rather than the 1987 version, on the basis that he signed the IPA Agreement before the agency approved the 1997 IPA manual. The 1987 IPA manual, provides that an employee's pay, allowances, privileges, rights, seniority, and other benefits are preserved and remain in effect while on the assignment.@ The claimant notes that the 1997 IPA manual includes the same provision.

The 1997 IPA manual provides generally that an employee's pay, allowances, privileges, rights, seniority, and other benefits are preserved and remain in effect while on the assignment. The 1997 IPA manual, however, includes specific procedures for paying locality pay while an employee is on an IPA mobility assignment. It provides in pertinent part:

The following prescribes [the agency's] policy for determining an employee's rate of locality pay under the circumstances described:

* * *

Employees detailed for more than one and up to two years will be paid a locality rate determined by whether they will receive per diem travel rate, or be paid for relocation of their temporary duty site. The determination of whether per diem or relocation is paid will derive from the Agency's calculation of the most advantageous cost benefit on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, one of the following two possibilities will pertain:

(i) if the Agency determines that it is less expensive to pay to relocate the employee for the duration of the temporary assignment or detail, the employee will be paid a locality rate of pay applicable at the area of the temporary assignment;

* * *

The detail became effective on July 1, 1997, one day prior to the date that the 1997 IPA manual became effective. Therefore, the detail is governed by the provisions of the 1997 IPA manual. Moreover, the agency reliance on the draft of the 1997 IPA manual was reasonable in view of its desire to achieve consistency in computing locality pay for IPA assignments and its official approval of the 1997 manual shortly after processing the detail, but prior to the effective date of the detail. Although the 1997 IPA manual includes a broad, general statement concerning the preservation of an employee's pay and benefits, that statement does not take precedence over the provision that specifically concerns locality pay. It is an established rule of statutory interpretation that specific provisions take precedence over general provisions. Morales v. Trans World Airlines, 504 U.S. 374 (1992). Applying that rule by analogy, the more narrowly drawn, specific provision concerning locality pay takes precedence over the broader, general provision concerning the preservation of pay.

Finally, the claimant states that his regional office relied, at least in part, on an Office of Personnel Management interim regulation in processing his claim. See 62 Fed. Reg. 25423 (May 9, 1997). The interim regulation concerns locality pay when agencies authorize temporary changes of station in connection with extended assignments (from six to 30 months) in another location. A General Services Administration regulation specifies that employees on IPA mobility assignments to or from state or local governments are ineligible for temporary changes of station. 41 CFR 302-1.203(b). The OPM Handbook on the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program, issued in 1998, also states that agencies may not authorize a temporary change of station to transfer employees on IPA mobility assignments to the assignment location.

The specific provision in the agency IPA manual concerning agency determinations on rates of locality pay describes the agency method of making such determinations as agency policy and does not include any citation to the OPM interim regulations. Moreover, the OPM Handbook specifies that the federal pay rate, including locality pay, for employees on IPA details should be based on their travel status and benefits. The Handbook further specifies that, when an employee on an IPA detail receives relocation allowances, the employee's official duty station for pay purposes is the duty station of the IPA assignment. The policy described in the OPM Handbook on determining locality pay is the same policy that the claimant's employing agency adopted in its 1997 IPA manual. Thus, the agency policy on determining rates of locality pay for employees on an IPA detail and receiving relocation allowances, as stated in its 1997 IPA manual, is correct. The claim for locality pay is denied.

This settlement is final. No further administrative review is available within the Office of Personnel Management. Nothing in this settlement limits the claimant's right to bring an action in an appropriate United States Court.

Control Panel