B-128507, SEPTEMBER 7, 1956, 36 COMP. GEN. 204

B-128507: Sep 7, 1956

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POSTAL EMPLOYEES WHO ARE PERMITTED BY SECTION 403 OF THE POSTAL FIELD SERVICE COMPENSATION ACT OF 1955 TO RETAIN THE ANNIVERSARY DATE ESTABLISHED UNDER THE ACT OF JULY 6. ARE ENTITLED TO THEIR INITIAL STEP-INCREASE UNDER THE 1955 ACT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PAY PERIOD FOLLOWING COMPLETION OF FIFTY-TWO WEEKS OF SERVICE COUNTED FROM THE DATE OF THEIR LAST AUTOMATIC PROMOTION UNDER THE 1945 ACT. WHICH PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS: SEC. 401 (A) EXCEPT AS TO A SUBSTITUTE EMPLOYEE IN THE POSTAL TRANSPORTATION SERVICE WHOSE POSITION IS ALLOCATED TO SALARY LEVEL PFS 5 AS A DISTRIBUTION CLERK IN A RAILWAY OR HIGHWAY POST OFFICE. EACH EMPLOYEE WHOSE POSITION IS ALLOCATED TO THE RURAL CARRIER SCHEDULE. IF NO EQUIVALENT INCREASE IN BASIC SALARY FROM ANY CAUSE WAS RECEIVED DURING SUCH PERIOD OF FIFTY-TWO CALENDAR WEEKS.

B-128507, SEPTEMBER 7, 1956, 36 COMP. GEN. 204

POSTAL SERVICE - COMPENSATION - AUTOMATIC PROMOTIONS - DATE TO BE COMMENCED THE TERM "CALENDAR WEEKS" IN SECTION 401 (A) OF THE POSTAL FIELD SERVICE COMPENSATION ACT OF 1955, WHICH PROVIDES FOR AUTOMATIC SALARY STEP- INCREASES AFTER COMPLETION OF FIFTY-TWO CALENDAR WEEKS OF SERVICE, REFERS TO THE BEGINNING DAY OF A WEEK, AND, THEREFORE, SATURDAY, WHICH HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED AS THE FIRST DAY OF THE PAY PERIOD, MAY BE USED FOR COMPUTATION OF POSTAL SERVICE UNDER SECTION 401. POSTAL EMPLOYEES WHO ARE PERMITTED BY SECTION 403 OF THE POSTAL FIELD SERVICE COMPENSATION ACT OF 1955 TO RETAIN THE ANNIVERSARY DATE ESTABLISHED UNDER THE ACT OF JULY 6, 1945, FOR AUTOMATIC PROMOTIONS, ARE ENTITLED TO THEIR INITIAL STEP-INCREASE UNDER THE 1955 ACT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PAY PERIOD FOLLOWING COMPLETION OF FIFTY-TWO WEEKS OF SERVICE COUNTED FROM THE DATE OF THEIR LAST AUTOMATIC PROMOTION UNDER THE 1945 ACT.

TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, SEPTEMBER 7, 1956:

IN LETTER DATED JULY 3, 1956, FILE 800, THE DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL PRESENTS TWO QUESTIONS INVOLVING THE INTERPRETATION OF THE POSTAL FIELD SERVICE COMPENSATION ACT OF 1955, 69 STAT. 88, PUBLIC LAW 68.

THE FIRST QUESTION CONCERNS THE MEANING OF THE TERM "CALENDAR WEEKS" AS USED IN SECTION 401 (A) OF THE ACT, 69 STAT. 122, 39 U.S.C. SUPP. III, 981 (A), WHICH PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

SEC. 401 (A) EXCEPT AS TO A SUBSTITUTE EMPLOYEE IN THE POSTAL TRANSPORTATION SERVICE WHOSE POSITION IS ALLOCATED TO SALARY LEVEL PFS 5 AS A DISTRIBUTION CLERK IN A RAILWAY OR HIGHWAY POST OFFICE, EACH EMPLOYEE WHOSE POSITION IS ALLOCATED TO THE RURAL CARRIER SCHEDULE, THE FOURTH- CLASS OFFICE SCHEDULE, OR SALARY LEVEL PFS-9 OR A LOWER SALARY LEVEL OF THE POSTAL FIELD SERVICE SCHEDULE, WHO HAS NOT REACHED THE HIGHEST STEP FOR HIS POSITION, SHALL BE ADVANCED SUCCESSIVELY TO THE NEXT HIGHER STEP FOR HIS POSITION AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST PAY PERIOD FOLLOWING THE COMPLETION OF EACH FIFTY-TWO CALENDAR WEEKS OF SATISFACTORY SERVICE, IF NO EQUIVALENT INCREASE IN BASIC SALARY FROM ANY CAUSE WAS RECEIVED DURING SUCH PERIOD OF FIFTY-TWO CALENDAR WEEKS. THE BENEFIT OF SUCCESSIVE STEP- INCREASES SHALL BE PRESERVED, UNDER REGULATIONS PRESCRIBED BY THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, FOR EMPLOYEES WHOSE CONTINUOUS SERVICE IS INTERRUPTED BY SERVICE IN THE ARMED FORCES. ( ITALICS SUPPLIED.)

THE DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL STATES THAT YOUR DEPARTMENT CONSIDERS THE WORD "CALENDAR" AS DEFINING THE LENGTH OF THE WEEK RATHER THAN AS DESIGNATING THE BEGINNING DAY OF A WEEK AS REGISTERED ON A CALENDAR IN GENERAL USE, BUT THAT SOME DOUBT HAS ARISEN AS TO THE PROPRIETY OF YOUR VIEW BECAUSE OF OUR HOLDING IN ANSWER TO QUESTION 14 IN OUR DECISION OF JULY 28, 1945, 25 COMP. GEN. 121, 134. THAT DECISION DID NOT INVOLVE A CONSTRUCTION OF THE TERM "CALENDAR WEEK" ALTHOUGH WE HELD THEREIN THAT AN EMPLOYEE WHO COMPLETED HIS WAITING PERIOD FOR A WITHIN-GRADE SALARY ADVANCEMENT UNDER SECTION 402 OF THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES PAY ACT OF 1945, 59 STAT. 299, 5 U.S.C. 667 (A) (1946 USED.), ON SUNDAY WOULD NOT BE ENTITLED TO SUCH ADVANCEMENT UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF THE NEXT PAY PERIOD TWO WEEKS HENCE. THE DECISION WAS PREDICATED PRIMARILY UPON THE FACT THAT SUNDAY HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED ADMINISTRATIVELY AS THE BEGINNING OF THE WEEK FOR WORK AND PAY PURPOSES. HOWEVER, WE DO NOT REGARD THAT DECISION AS CONTROLLING UPON THE QUESTION YOU NOW PRESENT.

THE TERM "CALENDAR WEEK" NORMALLY IS REGARDED AS A BLOCK OF SEVEN DAYS REGISTERED ON A CALENDAR IN GENERAL USE BEGINNING WITH SUNDAY AND ENDING ON SATURDAY. SEE WORDS AND PHRASES, PERMANENT EDITION, VOLUME 6, UNDER THE HEADING " CALENDAR WEEK.' IT MAY BE STRONGLY ARGUED, THEREFORE, THAT SUCH IS THE CONSTRUCTION THAT SHOULD BE PLACED UPON THE TERM "CALENDAR WEEKS" AS USED IN SECTION 401 (A) OF PUBLIC LAW 68. WE NOTE, HOWEVER, A MARKED SIMILARITY BETWEEN THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 401 (A) OF PUBLIC LAW 68 AND THOSE APPEARING IN SECTION 701 (A) OF THE CLASSIFICATION ACT OF 1949, 5 U.S.C. 1121 (A), PROVIDING FOR WITHIN GRADE STEP ADVANCEMENTS FOLLOWING THE COMPLETION OF "EACH FIFTY-TWO CALENDAR WEEKS OF SERVICE.' ALSO AS POINTED OUT IN THE LETTER OF JULY 3, SECTION 25.11 (E) OF THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES PAY REGULATIONS PROMULGATED BY THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION DEFINES ,CALENDAR WEEK" AS A "TOTAL OF ANY 7 CALENDAR DAYS BEFORE, BEGINNING WITH, OR AFTER A SPECIFIED .' IT IS REASONABLE TO CONSIDER, THEREFORE, THAT THE CONGRESS IN ENACTING SECTION 401 (A) OF PUBLIC LAW 68 USED THE TERM "CALENDAR WEEKS" IN THE SAME SENSE THAT THE TERM "CALENDAR WEEK" HAD BEEN DEFINED UNDER THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES PAY REGULATIONS AND APPLIED IN CONSTRUING THE SIMILAR PROVISIONS CONTAINED IN SECTION 701 (A) OF THE CLASSIFICATION ACT OF 1949. HENCE, WE HAVE NO OBJECTION TO YOUR REGARDING SATURDAY--- THE FIRST DAY OF THE PAY PERIOD ESTABLISHED FOR THE POSTAL FIELD SERVICE BY THE POSTMASTER GENERAL IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 810 OF PUBLIC LAW 68, 39 U.S.C., SUPP. III, 951 NOTE--- AS THE FIRST DAY OF A CALENDAR WEEK FOR THE PURPOSE OF APPLYING THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 401 (A) OF THAT ACT. SEE, GENERALLY, B-126245, DECEMBER 29, 1955.

THE SECOND QUESTION CONCERNS THE ADJUSTMENT OF THE SERVICE CREDITS OF THE EMPLOYEES WHO RETAIN THEIR "ANNIVERSARY DATES" IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 403 OF PUBLIC LAW 68, 39 U.S.C., SUPP. III, 983. THAT SECTION IS IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

SEC. 403. IN ORDER TO RETAIN TO THE MAXIMUM POSSIBLE EXTENT PROMOTION CREDITS EARNED BY EMPLOYEES UNDER THE ACT OF JULY 6, 1945, AS AMENDED, AND IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE ADVANCEMENT BY STEP-INCREASES OF JUNIOR EMPLOYEES AHEAD OF SENIOR EMPLOYEES, EMPLOYEES WHOSE BASIC SALARIES ARE ADJUSTED ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE SCHEDULES IN THIS ACT SHALL ESTABLISH CREDIT TOWARD ADVANCEMENT BY STEP-INCREASES UNDER SECTION 401 IN THE FOLLOWING MANNER:

(1) EACH EMPLOYEE IN THE AUTOMATIC GRADES WHO HAD NOT REACHED THE MAXIMUM GRADE FOR HIS POSITION UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF JULY 6, 1945, AS AMENDED, SHALL RETAIN THE ANNIVERSARY DATE ESTABLISHED FOR HIS NEXT AUTOMATIC PROMOTION UNDER SUCH ACT UNLESS THE AMOUNT OF INCREASE IN BASIC SALARY WHICH HE RECEIVES UPON ADJUSTMENT TO THE APPROPRIATE SCHEDULE IS EQUAL TO OR GREATER THAN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SALARY FOR HIS AUTOMATIC GRADE AND THE NEXT HIGHER AUTOMATIC GRADE FOR HIS POSITION UNDER SUCH ACT.

OUR VIEW IS REQUESTED AS TO WHETHER UNDER THE QUOTED SECTION STEP INCREASES MAY BE GRANTED (1) AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST BIWEEKLY PAY PERIOD AFTER THE COMPLETION OF 52 CALENDAR WEEKS OF SERVICE COUNTED FROM THE DATE OF THE LAST AUTOMATIC PROMOTION UNDER PUBLIC LAW 134, 79TH CONGRESS, 39 U.S.C. 871, OR (2) AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST BIWEEKLY PAY PERIOD FOLLOWING THE DATE THE EMPLOYEE NEXT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENTITLED TO AN AUTOMATIC INCREASE HAD PUBLIC LAW 134 REMAINED IN EFFECT. WHILE A LITERAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE LANGUAGE "SHALL RETAIN THE ANNIVERSARY DATE ESTABLISHED FOR HIS NEXT AUTOMATIC PROMOTION UNDER SUCH ACT" ( PUBLIC LAW 134) LEADS TO THE CONCLUSION THAT AN AUTOMATIC STEP-INCREASE IN COMPENSATION UNDER SECTION 403 OF PUBLIC LAW 68 CAN BE GRANTED ONLY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PAY PERIOD FOLLOWING THE DATE ESTABLISHED AS THE CONSTRUCTIVE DATE OF AN EMPLOYEE'S NEXT AUTOMATIC PROMOTION UNDER PUBLIC LAW 134, WE DO NOT CONSIDER THAT THIS CONCLUSION IS REQUIRED.

THE DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL POINTS OUT THAT UNDER THE SECOND CONSTRUCTION OF SECTION 403 (1) 39 U.S.C., SUPP. III, 983 (1), AN EMPLOYEE WHO RETAINS HIS ANNIVERSARY DATE UNDER THAT SECTION WOULD BE REQUIRED TO SERVE AT LEAST ONE CALENDAR YEAR FROM THE DATE OF HIS LAST AUTOMATIC INCREASE UNDER PUBLIC LAW 134 TO QUALIFY FOR HIS INITIAL STEP INCREASE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE NEXT ENSUING PAY PERIOD. THIS WOULD RESULT FROM THE REQUIREMENT IN PUBLIC LAW 134 THAT AN EMPLOYEE MUST HAVE ONE YEAR'S SATISFACTORY SERVICE IN GRADE TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR AN AUTOMATIC PROMOTION. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE PERIOD OF SERVICE PRESCRIBED IN SECTION 401 OF PUBLIC LAW 68, 39 U.S.C., SUPP. III, 981, NECESSARY TO QUALIFY FOR A STEP- INCREASE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PAY PERIOD NEXT FOLLOWING COMPLETION THEREOF IS 52 WEEKS. ALSO, IT IS CLEAR THAT THE WAITING PERIOD OF THOSE EMPLOYEES WHO RETAIN THEIR ANNIVERSARY DATES UNDER SECTION 403 WILL BE, AFTER THEIR INITIAL STEP INCREASE UNDER PUBLIC LAW 68, 52 WEEKS FROM THE DATE OF THEIR PRECEDING STEP-INCREASE. HENCE, DESPITE THE LITERAL LANGUAGE OF SECTION 403 (1) THE INTENT OF THE AUTOMATIC ADVANCEMENT PROVISIONS OF TITLE 4 OF THE ACT, CONSIDERED AS A WHOLE APPEARS TO BE THAT SUCH ADVANCEMENTS WOULD IN ALL OTHERWISE PROPER CASES BECOME EFFECTIVE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST PAY PERIOD FOLLOWING 52 CALENDAR WEEKS OF SERVICE. IN THIS CONNECTION WE RECOGNIZE THAT ONE OF THE BASIC PURPOSES OF THE RECLASSIFICATION OF THE POSTAL FIELD SERVICE UNDER PUBLIC LAW 68 WAS TO REMOVE INEQUITIES AND SECURE GREATER UNIFORMITY IN BENEFITS BASED UPON THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK. A CONCLUSION THAT WOULD REQUIRE CERTAIN EMPLOYEES TO SERVE LONGER PERIODS THAN OTHERS TO QUALIFY FOR STEP-INCREASES AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PAY PERIOD NEXT FOLLOWING THE COMPLETION OF THE REQUIRED PERIOD OF SERVICE WOULD BE INCONSISTENT WITH THIS PRINCIPLE.

ACCORDINGLY, AND FOR THE OTHER REASONS SPECIFIED IN THE DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL'S LETTER, WE CONCLUDE THAT EMPLOYEES WHO RETAIN THEIR ANNIVERSARY DATES IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 403 OF PUBLIC LAW 68 ARE ENTITLED TO THEIR INITIAL STEP-INCREASE UNDER SUCH LAW AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PAY PERIOD FOLLOWING COMPLETION OF 52 WEEKS OF SATISFACTORY SERVICE COUNTED FROM THE DATE OF THEIR LAST AUTOMATIC PROMOTION UNDER PUBLIC LAW 134.