The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Whistleblowers Point to DHS Employees for Overtime Abuse

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has released a letter detailing the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) routine abuse of a form of DHS specific overpay to the expense of up to $9 million annually. This overtime pay, known as Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, or AUO, can be invoked by certain employees that "must respond to criminal activity even if that means staying on duty beyond normal hours." These circumstances are meant to be occasional or irregular, and used in the case that an employee cannot schedule these hours in advance; however, whistleblowers have uncovered that certain DHS employees file AUO regularly, as many as ten hours a week every week.

The chief abusers reported have been Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees, namely the CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C. Much of the work at the headquarters is administrative in nature; despite this, employees claimed up to two hours of AUO after their shifts up to 89 percent of the time. Other cases involve CBP offices in California, Texas, and Georgia.

AUO was designed to allow CBP and other DHS employees to fulfill their duties whenever necessary without reprimand, much like overtime pay. For example, if a CBP employee was in the process of apprehending a suspect and the employee's absence would constitute as negligence, an employee could invoke AUO without penalty.

However, the OSC letter outlines cases of AUO filing where "no qualifying circumstances are likely to exist". Furthermore, those claiming AUO were often not fulfilling any formal duties whatsoever, and were reported by whistleblowers to be watching television, browsing online, or dealing with personal matters. These acts are in clear violation of federal AUO regulations.

In total, six whistleblowers have had their claims of abuse brought to the OSC for investigation. The allegations were referred to former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in January 2013.