Joel Dillard & Associates

Representing Working People

A Mississippi lawyer with experience with federal employees and federal employee unions

Since going into private practice, I've particularly enjoyed representing federal employees. It has been something of a homecoming for me.

In fact, my very first legal job was with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), General Counsel's office. And after that, while working in the Office of the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), I had the opportunity to write a federal employment decision for the Office of Federal Operations (OFO) - my first experience with judicial writing. And during my clerkship for Judge Dyk on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, I particularly enjoyed working on federal employee appeals from the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

Federal employees in Mississippi need a local lawyer that understands the special laws of their workplace.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this work for me is knowing that it fills an important need in this area.

Federal employment is not like other jobs, and employees need to find an attorney that understands this. In addition to the full body of constitutional law, including the Due Process Clause and the First Amendment, there is also a mountain of detailed and sometimes contradictory regulations issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the various federal agencies. For example, the Department of Defense and a number of other agencies have had statutory pilot programs and exceptions provided by Congress, which creates a totally new body of law just for one part or subpart of the government, while, for example, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Agriculture, and other agencies operate under a different set of OPM rules. For this reason, the OPM "rule of three" for merit selection doesn't apply to DOD - even though nothing on the face of OPM regulations would appear to indicate as much.

Complexity upon complexity: the example of FAA cases

Consider another example that is particularly baffling. Congress took a series of actions in the 1990s which created and eliminated various personnel programs for FAA employees. Then it partially restored the prior law, giving back authority to the Merit Systems Protection Board to hear appeals. But Congress somehow managed to create MSPB rights without giving the MSPB any meaningful power to protect employees - no back pay or attorney fees were available. See Gonzalez v. DOT, 551 F. 3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2009). The issue split the in banc Federal Circuit, which denied review of the panel decision by the narrowest possible margin, and with extensive opinions on each side.

Congress tried to fix the issue in 2012, again amending the law - retroactively - to restore the MSPB's authority to award back pay and attorneys' fees. But again, Congress somehow left something important out - this time attorneys' fees for appeals to the Federal Circuit itself. See Gallo v. DOT, 725 F. 3d 1306 (Fed. Cir. 2013). The result is that, if an employee loses at the MSPB, and then wins on appeal to the Federal Circuit, they don't get attorneys' fees for the time spent on their winning appeal, but they do get attoneys' fees for the time spent losing before the MSPB.

Meanwhile, the very same bizarre statutory provision resulted in what the Court of Claims considered an exclusion from an exemption to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime. The issue again split a panel of the Federal Circuit as to what Congress might have meant. See Abbey v. US, 745 F. 3d 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2014) Surprisingly, whereas in Gonzalez and Gallo the court read the statute literally, notwithstanding the anomalous result, in Abbey the court ignored the very same literal reading to consider the statute in its context - and the question whether this created or avoided an anomalous result is one that again split the court.

An experienced, Mississippi attorney for federal employees

For me, the challenge of a good puzzle like this is part of the fun of being a lawyer. It makes me very happy to use my experience and creativity to find the best solution to each employee's legal problem.


This site is for general information only, and creates no attorney-client relationship. Sending inquiries to the firm does not create an attorney-client relationship.

To get legal advice about an employment law, labor law, federal employee law, whistleblower protection, labor unions, worker cooperatives, immigration, discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, severance, or any related question, you must first have a conflicts check by the firm. We represent exclusively workers, worker cooperatives and unions, but we still must check for potential conflicts of interest, for example, between a supervisor and employee.

First provide the firm with your name, and the name of the person you are making claims against - and no other information. This allows the firm to check for such conflicts of interest. Until you receive confirmation from an attorney that there is NO CONFLICT, none of the information you provide will be considered confidential. Do NOT provide any confidential information before we have asked you to do so.

Once we have confirmed there is no conflict, you may discuss your matter with the attorney in a little more detail, and, if requested, make an appointment. If at your appointment the firm accepts you as a client in writing, then the attorney will be able to provide you with employment law advice.