Federal Daily News

Groups fire back in DHS suspension of overtime

Federal employee groups are pushing back against a Department of Homeland Security decision to suspend the use of administratively uncontrollable overtime (AUO) for some employees, including component headquarters personnel and full-time training instructors.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on Jan. 27 signed a memo directing the suspension of AUO for certain categories of employees who internal investigators determined had been inappropriately receiving AUO. That memo was issued in advance of a Jan. 28 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing to examine abuse of AUO.

But the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association has announced its opposition to the suspension of AUO for headquarters and training personnel, charging that DHS leadership "buckled to congressional pressure" and put "numerous law enforcement officers immediately under economic duress."

"The work performed by both headquarter personnel and training components is vital to the sustained operations and level of preparedness for DHS," FLEOA National President Jon Adler said in a statement. "By arbitrarily eliminating their AUO pay, DHS is giving itself two flat tires."

FLEOA noted that in a Jan. 28 message to Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, ICE acting Director Sandweg stated that "although the internal review is still pending, DHS has taken an initial important step by ordering the suspension of AUO for the following categories of employees (HQ and Training Personnel)." In response to that statement, FLEOA questioned why—if a comprehensive review and assessment of AUO and the impacted positions is still pending—the agency felt compelled to forgo "the sanctity of due diligence" and take "money from law enforcement officers' pockets."

"Rather than prematurely suspend the financial lifeline for many law enforcement officers, DHS should have first completed a thorough review of the system and its oversight as relates to AUO," FLEOA said on its website.

The law enforcement employee group said it acknowledges the importance of findings by the Office of Special Counsel that AUO is sometimes abused, but maintains that DHS "should have implemented better oversight on the AUO process rather than cower to Congress and simply eliminate pay from the impacted groups."

FLEOA is urging DHS Secretary Johnson to rescind the suspension of AUO pending the results of the review.

Like FLEOA, the American Federation of Government Employees, which said it represents about 78,000 DHS employees, also faulted DHS for bypassing procedures in making the decision to suspend AUO.

"DHS has statutory collective bargaining obligations, consultation obligation, and commitments to engage in pre-decisional involvement with AFGE, as well as notification requirements established under law," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. wrote in a letter to Johnson. "In ignoring all of these, the department asserts that it has no commitment in honoring its obligations to DHS employees and their exclusive bargaining representatives."

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