Oil-rich Kuwait has made a $21,300 out-of-court settlement with 18 federal employes who claimed they were made ill by auto exhaust fumes in the Columbia Plaza building the government leases from the Persian Gulf sheikdom.

Uncle Sam pays $2.3 million a year in rent on the 12-story building near the Watergate complex. It houses about 1,000 U.S. employes from half a dozen agencies. The majority of the workers are with the headquarters operation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The settlement went to EEOC workers whose union had sued for damages allegedly caused by fumes seeping into the building from an underground garage.

Payments to individual workers in the settlement range from $150 to $5,200. It covers, in whole or part, damages claimed for time lost from work, medical and doctor expenses, and transportation to hospitals and doctors' offices. The employes signed an agreement not to sue Kuwait over the auto exhaust situation.

The settlement was won by the American Federation of Government Employes union local at the EEOC. It has established an extensive health and safety monitoring operation in the building to spot problems, and catalog complaints.

Exhaust fumes are not the only problem at the building, according to some staffers. On Sept. 21 this column reported that water leaks had produced a fast-growing mold in some offices. The greenish-black stuff got on desks, telephones and equipment. It and water damage made some offices uninhabitable. There are no mold settlements in sight.

Before The Guidelines: Some federal workers, angry at having their pay raises "capped" at 5.5 percent, wonder what the White House is doing in the financial belt-tightening department. Last year 48 aides there got raises worth about $400,000. The White House said it was a bargain, since the boosts it made could have been nearly $200,000 higher.

Individual pay increases ranged from $8,000 to $12,000 a year. Many of them went to people who helped draft the president's program of wage-price restraints. What a difference a year makes.

Or How About Health Premiums? ... Although many government employe health premiums for 1979 will remain about the same, some plans have been given the okay to raise prices from 17 percent to 30 percent. Federal officials say the contracts were negotiated BEFORE the president's pricepay plans were formulated, and that they are needed to meet the rising cost of health care.

And Parking Fees? ... Federal workers in a number of lots, which are partially subsidized by the government, anyhow, say they've been hit with raises of from 10 percent to 20 percent in rates since Dec. 1. Payprice czar Alfred Kahn, where are you?

End of An Era: The Civil Service Commission will have its 95th -- and final -- awards ceremony today. CSC is going out of business ealy next year. It will be replaced by three new agencies as part of President Carter's reorganization of the bureaucracy.

Thirty-two employes who helped develop the civil service reform package dissolving their agency -- and who helped sell it to Congress and the public -- will be honored with the Commissioner's Award, CSC's version of the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is a good group. They are:

Jean M. Barber, Eleanor A. Barlas, Jonathan P. Bellis, Arthur L. Burnett, David Caldwell, Gilbert Colon, Nancy W. Dalton, Kathleen M. Davis, David S. Dickinson, M. Gale Dugan Barbara L. Fiss, Myrtle I. Gartman, Sally H. Greenberg, Lenora L. Guarraia, Joseph W. Howe, Anthony F. Ingrassia, Gilda H. Jacobs, Reginald M. Jones Jr., Nancy R. Kingsbury, George J. McQuoid, Thomas F. Moyer, Paul W. Newton, Thomas F. O'Connor Jr., Joseph E. Oglesby, Marianne E. O'Sullivan, Arch S. Ramsay, and Genevieve C. Sims.

Also getting the commissioner's award at today's State Department ceremony are Mary M. Sugar, Shigeki J. Sugiyama, H. Patrick Swygert, John W. Vincent and Raymond C. Weissenborn.

Special citations will be given Harry L. Clark and Dona R. Thurston, Allan D. Heuerman Jr., Armando Martinez, Donald K. Merrell, Jeanne M. Monk, Mary Anne Nester and both the publishing section and the messenger staff of the commissioner.