Godwin v. Dept. of Defense

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Writing for the CourtBefore BRYSON, LINN and DYK; BRYSON
Citation228 F.3d 1332
Parties(Fed. Cir. 2000) MARGARET GODWIN, Petitioner, v. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Respondent. 99-3333 DECIDED:
Decision Date03 October 2000

Page 1332

228 F.3d 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2000)
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
DECIDED: October 3, 2000

Appealed from: Merit Systems Protection Board

Page 1333

E. Taylor Poston, Armstrong, Poston & Lowe, P.A., of Tulsa, Oklahoma, argued for petitioner.

Joseph Trautwein, Attorney, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, Department of Justice, of Washington, DC, argued for respondent. On the brief were David W. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General;

Page 1334

David M. Cohen, Director; and Kathryn A. Bleecker, Assistant Director; and Deborah P. Samuel, Trial Attorney.

Before BRYSON, LINN and DYK, Circuit Judges.

BRYSON, Circuit Judge.

Margaret Godwin appeals from a decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board denying her petition to have her original appeal reinstated on the ground that the agency materially breached the terms of a voluntary settlement agreement. We sustain the Board's decision that the agency did not breach the terms of the settlement agreement and therefore affirm.


Ms. Godwin worked as a GS-7 civilian paralegal specialist in the legal office of the Defense Logistics Agency at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. The agency removed her from her position because she allegedly made false statements in a claim for worker's compensation benefits. Ms. Godwin appealed her removal to the Board, but before the appeal was decided, Ms. Godwin and the agency entered into a voluntary settlement agreement under which she withdrew her appeal and the agency allowed her to resign.

Ms. Godwin subsequently filed a petition to reinstate her appeal, contending that the agency had violated the settlement agreement. The following paragraphs of the settlement agreement are at issue:

5.Appellant will be carried in a leave without pay status from December 18 1995 until the effective date of her resignation, or until she secures other employment, whichever occurs first.

7.No break in service will provide a continuation of benefits during the period of no break in service, including health benefits, retirement benefits and all other benefits associated with no break in service.

8.The agency will remove all negative information from Appellant's personnel file for the period of her employment with the Defense Logistics Agency and will forward a copy of the personnel file to Appellant's attorney.

10.Appellant will direct any potential future employers seeking an employment reference on Appellant to contact Nancy Rusch, Esq., Counsel to DDRW or Ms. Rusch's designee.

11.In response to any request(s) for reference(s) by any potential future employers, Nancy Rusch or her designee will advise that Appellant resigned from the agency for personal reasons, and that Appellant was rated at the highly successful level. No negative statement will be made.


Ms. Godwin first argues that the agency breached paragraph 7 of the agreement by failing to credit her with annual and sick leave and failing to make Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions on her behalf for the period she was carried on leave without pay status pursuant to paragraph 5 of the agreement. She contends that the "retirement benefits" to which she was entitled under paragraph 7 include TSP contributions and that the "other benefits associated with no break in service" referred to in paragraph 7 include the accrual of annual and sick leave.

The interpretation of a settlement agreement is an issue of law as to which we exercise plenary review. See Pagan v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 170 F.3d 1368, 1370 (Fed. Cir. 1999). Under the applicable regulations, persons who are in leave without pay status are not entitled to the accrual of leave. See 5 C.F.R. 630.202-204 (employees earn leave "while in pay status"). Moreover, contributions to a government employee's TSP account are based on the employee's pay, and because Ms. Godwin was on leave without pay status,

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she was not entitled to have the agency make contributions to her TSP account. See 5 C.F.R. 1600.8. Nothing in paragraph 7 of the agreement provided that those rules would be altered in Ms. Godwin's case. Instead, paragraph 7 simply provided that Ms. Godwin would be accorded a continuation of those retirement, health, and other benefits associated with "no break in service" status. That is, she would continue to enjoy health benefits and life insurance coverage, and she would continue to accrue service credit toward her retirement eligibility. Because paragraph 5 made it clear that she would not be on pay status between December 18, 1995, and the time of her resignation or the time she obtained other employment, she was not entitled to those benefits that are reserved for pay status employees.


Ms. Godwin's second contention is that the agency breached paragraph 8 of the agreement, which required the agency to "remove all negative information from [Ms. Godwin's] personnel file for the period of her employment with the Defense Logistics Agency." Ms. Godwin does not contend that the agency failed to remove all negative information from her personnel file, but instead complains that the agency also removed positive information from her file, such as awards, positive performance evaluations, and credit for work performed outside her duties, and that by doing so the agency breached the agreement.

The administrative judge found that the agency fulfilled its obligations under the settlement agreement by removing all negative information from Ms. Godwin's personnel file. The agreement was silent as to the disposition of other information in the file. The removal of that information therefore did not violate the settlement agreement. Moreover, a government representative explained in the proceeding before the administrative judge that it was standard procedure for...

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3 cases
  • U.S. v. Williams, 06-15318.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • May 16, 2008
    ...holding that Garrison and Mills did not compel us to find that only a federally insured bank could be a victim in a bank fraud scheme. 228 F.3d at 1332. Taking a more reasonable approach, we instead held that "more than one person could, depending on the case's facts, be the victim who repo......
  • Rebish v. United States, 14-1022C
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • September 25, 2017
    ...which has led it to admonish that such provisions should be construed "strictly according to their terms." Godwin v. Dep't of Def., 228 F.3d 1332, 1336, 1338 (Fed, Cir. 2000); Pagan v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 170 F.3d 1368, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 1999); Thomas, 124 F.3d at 1442; Holmes, 58 F.3d......
  • Barkett v. Department of Commerce, No. 05-3137 (Fed. Cir. 10/6/2005), 05-3137.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • October 6, 2005
    ...with prior precedent, we construe this provision strictly and according to its express terms. See generally Godwin v. Dep't of Def., 228 F.3d 1332, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (discussing differences in confidentiality provisions and holding that, because an agency's misrepresentation of its true......

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