The past year has brought multiple natural disasters that have taken a toll on many of the resources available, including the hours put in by emergency responders. Now, there are several hundred FEMA workers who may be asked to give even more as they may have exceeded the salary caps that dictate payment for excessive hours worked. If this becomes a requirement, it may affect California residents who work for the federal agency.
According to a memo that was issued to hundreds of federal employees, they may have exceeded the amount of pay that the caps have established. An estimated 500 workers may now be required to make arrangements to repay the amounts that were purportedly overpaid. While there are waivers that can be applied, it is unknown whether FEMA officials will seek these waivers for the affected workers.
FEMA reminded the affected workers that they would continue to receive their base salary regardless of the cap. However, workers were told that they may be required to respond to emergency deployments without receiving compensation for their extra hours. The memo further stated that the employees who exceeded their caps will likely be sent a bill detailing the amount that they may be required to reimburse the government beginning in 2018.
A legal representative stated that the government agency could address the issue -- if it desired -- that would waive the repayment requirement when overtime caps are exceeded. There is currently a bill awaiting legislative action that would raise the caps that apply to Secret Service personnel. A spokesperson with the Office of Personnel Management stated that each agency could waive the repayment portion, but doing so may draw the scrutiny of the inspector generals of the departments.
According to the way the system is structured, Homeland Security could waive repayment if it is in the best interest of the country and if reimbursement would be counter to equity and good conscience. It is unclear at this time if the staff who have exceeded the caps will be billed for the overtime compensation. California workers who find themselves involved in a payment or other employment related dispute may seek the advice of an experienced employment law professional in order to resolve the matter in a timely and efficient manner.
Source: Bloomberg, "FEMA Staffers Told They Might Be Billed for Working Too Much", Josh Eidelson, Dec. 5, 2017