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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

DHS Ends Extra Overtime for Many Employees

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Sorry, “desk jockeys”: No more undeserved overtime for you.

The Homeland Security Department is scrapping a controversial overtime program for certain employees, caving to pressure from congressional leaders who drew attention recently to its reported abuse.

DHS will now ban employees who work in headquarters offices and do not qualify for the overtime, full-time instructors and others receiving extra pay inappropriately from taking “administratively uncontrollable overtime.”

AUO is a designed to provide bonus payments to law enforcement personnel, such as Border Patrol agents, who are forced to work more than eight-hour shifts because they are chasing down a criminal or stationed hours from their base office, for example. A 2013 report from the Office of Special Counsel found BP employees at six offices who abused the program to the tune of $9 million annually.

The announcement came ahead of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing to examine the abuse, and after a similar November hearing in the House.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a bill in November to overhaul the pay system at Customs and Border Protection, which would change  Border Patrol agents’ work schedule from eight-hour to  10-hour shifts. Under the plan, agents would receive base pay for 100 hours per pay period, and anything exceeding that would be rewarded through compensatory time off.

Though the proposal is less generous than the current AUO package, the union representing BP agents accepted it as a fair compromise.

“While I am pleased to see DHS taking action, it is long overdue,” Tester said at the hearing Tuesday. “We all greatly appreciate the work being done by the men and women at the Department of Homeland Security, however the employee actions and misuse of public funds are unacceptable. We need to learn more about how DHS is responding to the recent investigative report and what disciplinary actions are being taken.”

Pay Raise

The Office of Personnel Management has made the pay raise for Wage Grade employees official.

In a governmentwide memorandum, OPM spelled out the details of the salary bump for 230,000 blue-collar workers awarded in the fiscal 2014 appropriations bill recently signed into law by President Obama.

OPM’s memo clarified hourly employees’ raise cannot be less than that received by General Schedule workers, meaning -- as expected -- nearly all feds will receive a 1 percent boost. The raises of some Wage Grade employees could differ based on their location, OPM said.

Pay Freeze

While the spending bill brought pay parity between blue-collar and white-collar federal employees, not every individual employed by a federal agency will receive a raise in 2014.

Top administration officials, including the vice president and senior political appointees, will face a pay freeze this year, which OPM detailed in a separate memo this week. OPM said any executive who received a salary bump in early January, before the appropriations bill became law, is entitled to keep that money.

The freeze will expire at the end of the last pay period that begins in 2014, meaning it will end Jan. 10, 2015. Any 2015 raise would assume a 2014 increase, OPM said.

No career employees will be affected by a pay freeze this year. 

Eric Katz joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 after graduating from The George Washington University, where he studied journalism and political science. He has written for his college newspaper and an online political news website and worked in a public affairs office for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Most recently, he worked for Financial Times, where he reported on national politics.

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