Fourteen U.S. Secret Service employees have brought a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. According to reports from Law360 (subscription required), the plaintiffs, who work in IT and telecom positions, claim that they were ordered to keep their administratively uncontrollable overtime (AUO) pay hours to 20 or fewer per two-week period, yet forced to work extra hours without proper compensation or documentation of their overtime.
The complaint further accuses the agency of inaccurate recordkeeping, as well as incorrectly determining the typical hours or occasional overtime work often required by employees receiving AUO. The plaintiffs, both exempt and non-exempt employees, seek back pay, liquidated damages, and other costs.
AUO hours are in place to clarify government payroll obligations in extreme circumstances, such as when employees’ hours become unpredictable. For example, the Office of Special Counsel cited Border Patrol agents as a recipient of AUO, because they may have to remain on duty beyond normal hours.
But AUO hours have become a source of controversy. According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, whistleblowers’ reports of widespread AUO abuse were the catalyst for reforms that saved the U.S. Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) $83.7 million in 2014.
Other whistleblowers have reported mishandling of AUO payments in several DHS offices. Following investigations, the DHS has responded to a trend of misuse by suspending AUO payments for certain employees, including training instructors and some employees at the headquarters of department agencies. One investigation found that unjustified AUO claims at six DHS offices have cost the government as much as $9 million annually.
Government employees, as well as private sector exempt and non-exempt employees, are all due proper wage and overtime compensation according to the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws. The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Employment Litigation Group have represented thousands of plaintiffs in FLSA lawsuits, and are prepared to answer any questions regarding your employment rights. Please contact us today.