The Defense Department has been hit with a dollars-and-damages suit for holding up small pay raises due 26,000 of its lowest paid workers. Many of the employes are getting only the minimum wage.

Approximately 4,400 of the NAF (for nonappropriated fund) employes live and work here. They are not considered white-collar or blue-collar civil servants. NAF personnel perform service, support and cleaning jobs on military bases, in PXs and other on-post stores.

By law the NAF workers are supposed to get raises based on Defense Department estimates of the going rate for similar jobs in local industry. The Washington area raise was due in October.Defense has not revealed the amount, but it is said to be worth only pennies per hour for the average employe.

Raises for other NAF workers that came due in October, November and December have been held up by the Pentagon. It wants a ruling from the government as to whether the increases can be made in light of President Carter's "voluntary" wage price controls program.

White-collar federal workers were held to a 5.5 percent raise on Oct. 1 by presidential direction.That was in spite of government data showing they were due catch-up-with-industry raises of about 8.4 percent.

Congress also acted to put a 5.5 percent limit on federal blue-collar wages for the remainder of this fiscal year.

The National Federation of Federal Employes, which brought the suit in U.S. District Court here, argues that the Defense action is illegal and improper. While agreeing that President Carter and Congress had the right to limit pay raises, the independent union says Defense has no right to withhold the NAF raises. If allowed to stand, the NFFE says, the president and Congress next year could simply "volunteer" other federal employes for lesser raises, or no raise at all, without going through the legal machinery.

In its suit the NFFE is asking for back pay for the workers from the due date, interest payments at going bank rates and payment of all legal and court costs.

Office Blues: Most American workers are happy with the look and design of their offices, according to a new Harris Associates survey. It was made for Steelcase Inc., a Michigan office equipment firm.

The Harris poll found only one large group of office workers who were negattive about the furniture and design around them: federal employes. People in banking, manufacturing, health, education and insurance generally approved of their offices. Federal employes responding to the survey indicated, by a 56-to-44 margin, they were unhappy. That figure is probably significant, but now we need a poll to determine what all this means.

Office of Alien Property: Although the outfit was abolished in 1966, veterans of the unit still meet during the Christmas season to talk over old times and find out what friends and former coworkers are up to. This year's session is Dec. 7 (of all days) at noon at the Flagship. Call Ricki Gottlieb Monday at 724-7415 for details.

Federal Correspondents Association meets Monday at the Golden Ox. Luncheon speaker is Howard McClennand, president of the Firefighters Union and AFL-CIO's Public Employes Department.