Lawsuit filed against agencies for merit pay - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Lawsuit filed against agencies for merit pay

Posted: Updated:

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - While there's been news in recent weeks of bonuses being given to employees of select government agencies, a class action lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court today representing the best government workers.  The workers, who have received superior performance ratings, are asking a judge to order the government to pay them what is mandated by law.

Alleging the government has failed to follow the law for nearly two decades, a class action lawsuit was filed today against the directors of the Department of Administration and all of the autonomous agencies in the government.  Marylou Gogo is one of hundreds of government employees entitled to what's known as the Meritorious Bonus Award. 

Gogo's attorney, Mike Phillips, said, "Under this program, any employee who receives an outstanding rating upon review is automatically entitled to the bonus, 3.5% of that year's base salary."  The law was introduced 19 years ago by then-senator Carl Gutierrez and states that upon a superior rating evaluation, the Merit Bonus would be automatic.

But since the law was passed almost two decades prior, government agencies and each administration has failed year after year to comply with the mandate.  Said Phillips, "This case is very similar to the COLA case where the government says, 'Yeah, we know there's a law, but we don't think it's a good one and we can't afford it, so we won't follow the law'. That's the situation we find ourselves in here."

The lawsuit is asking a Superior Court judge to command the executive branch to follow the law and provide the merit bonuses to the employees who received superior reviews.  While several agencies and their directors recently received special achievement bonuses, Attorney Phillips says the major difference is that those bonuses are discretionary while the 3.5% merit bonuses are mandated by law.

"Both me and my clients don't begrudge others that are receiving bonuses," he explained.  "It's not in reaction to that or in competition at all.  It's just that this act has not been followed and it's time the Executive Branch complies with the law."

There's even a Superior Court case wherein a Guam Waterworks Authority employee, Gregorio Quichocho, went to court to receive the Merit Bonus and the judge ordered the agency to pay the bonus for fiscal years 1995 and 1996.  "The Executive Branch chooses not to follow the law, even with the court case and even with the attorney general's opinion," Phillips continued.

DOA contends budget laws over the years have frozen the bonuses - in 1996, 1997, and from 2002-2004 - the same time the author of the bill was governor.  The bonuses were restored in 2005 but still haven't been paid out.  It's estimated the government owes upwards of $8 million to hundreds of public sector staffers who have relied on the assurances of their directors for years, but their delay in taking the matter to court could limit the number of years they'll actually receive compensation.

"We feel very secure we can go back at least three years, although we believe that because of the behavior of the government there's at the very least a moral obligation to the employees who have been very, very patient to compensate them from the date of the enactment, which was late 1991," the attorney noted.

Meanwhile, Rose Cruz with the Department of Administration says it's incumbent upon the individual departments to provide the agency with a request for personnel action for the Merit bonuses. Additionally, she adds that even though there have been superior ratings given at the agency, the law hasn't been implemented because of a lack of funding.

  • NEWS HEADLINESMore>>

  • Derrick Baza Hills back in court for theft

    Derrick Baza Hills back in court for theft

    Back in court - this time, for theft charges. A violation notice was filed in the District Court of Guam against Derrick Baza Hills. Back in December 2017, the former senatorial and Agat vice mayoral candidate reportedly stole less than $100 worth of items from the Navy Exchange. He already faces several other charges involving prescription drugs and theft in the local court. He'll make his first appearance in federal court on March 6.More >>
    Back in court - this time, for theft charges. A violation notice was filed in the District Court of Guam against Derrick Baza Hills. Back in December 2017, the former senatorial and Agat vice mayoral candidate reportedly stole less than $100 worth of items from the Navy Exchange. He already faces several other charges involving prescription drugs and theft in the local court. He'll make his first appearance in federal court on March 6.More >>
  • Dededo students march for world peace

    Dededo students march for world peace

    Rain or Shine, these Roadrunners want World Peace. Benavente Middle School hosted their 8th annual March for Peace Thursday morning. Students, along with Superintendent and members of the Board, marched to Maria Ulloa and Wettengel Elementary, with signs promoting peace. Principal Patrick Egrubay said, "Peace is something that each of us should strive for, especially more recently we know that there's tragedy that's going on across the country and around the world, we want our s...More >>
    Rain or Shine, these Roadrunners want World Peace. Benavente Middle School hosted their 8th annual March for Peace Thursday morning. Students, along with Superintendent and members of the Board, marched to Maria Ulloa and Wettengel Elementary, with signs promoting peace. Principal Patrick Egrubay said, "Peace is something that each of us should strive for, especially more recently we know that there's tragedy that's going on across the country and around the world, we want our s...More >>
  • Bomb threat made to Guam High

    Bomb threat made to Guam High

    Guam High School and surrounding homes at Naval Hospital have been evacuated after a bomb threat is called in Thursday afternoon. The threat specifically targeted the school. GPD and Navy police are sweeping the area with K-9 units. The Naval Base Guam Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit is standing by in the event anything is found. Guam Homeland Security officials say all measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the public and first responders involved.

    More >>

    Guam High School and surrounding homes at Naval Hospital have been evacuated after a bomb threat is called in Thursday afternoon. The threat specifically targeted the school. GPD and Navy police are sweeping the area with K-9 units. The Naval Base Guam Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit is standing by in the event anything is found. Guam Homeland Security officials say all measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the public and first responders involved.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly