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Washington v. District of Columbia

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

April 28, 2016

CYNTHIA N. WASHINGTON, Appellant,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellee.

Argued February 10, 2016

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CAB-7237-12) Hon. Thomas J. Motley, Trial Judge

J. Michael Hannon for appellant.

Jason Lederstein, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before Glickman and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Farrell, Senior Judge.

JUDGMENT

This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the Superior Court's decision granting summary judgment in favor of the District of Columbia is affirmed.

OPINION

Stephen H. Glickman Associate Judge

A District of Columbia statutory provision, D.C. Code § 51-119 (f) (2012 Repl.), provides that when an employer "makes an award of back pay" to a claimant, the employer must withhold from the award an amount equal to any unemployment benefits the claimant received during the period covered by the back pay award. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure the solvency of the District Unemployment Fund by recovering benefits the employee received as a substitute for the back pay. The chief question before us in this appeal is whether this statutory withholding requirement applies when an employer voluntarily settles a back pay claim, or only when an employer makes the payment pursuant to a formal decision by a court, administrative tribunal, or arbitrator. We construe § 51-119 (f) to apply to settled as well as adjudicated claims for back pay and, accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

I.

Appellant Cynthia Washington is a correctional officer who was terminated by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections on January 17, 2008. She challenged her termination, and on June 22, 2009, an administrative judge of the Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) reversed it and ordered the District government to reinstate her with back pay. The OEA Board and the Superior Court affirmed that decision, and the District appealed to this court.

While the appeal was pending, on January 29, 2012, the District restored appellant to her former position. Thereafter, on March 5, 2012, appellant and the District finalized a settlement agreement. The agreement required the District to pay a "settlement sum" totaling $150, 000. A portion of this amount, $35, 006.78, was deposited with the Office of Personnel Management to fund appellant's retirement annuity. The agreement required the District to issue a check to appellant for the remaining balance of $114, 993.22 "less applicable withholdings." This payment, the agreement stated, represented appellant's "compromise on back salary and benefits for the period of January 17, 2008, through January 28, 2012." The agreement did not specify what the "applicable withholdings" were to be.[1]

The check that the District subsequently issued to appellant was in the amount of $41, 559.63. This was substantially less than she anticipated. While she expected the District to withhold state and federal taxes, which it did, appellant did not foresee that the District would withhold an additional $40, 306, representing an amount equal to the ...


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