The Federal Emergency Management Administration reportedly told its employees that some might have to pay back their overtime after hitting an annual earnings limit, the result of the extended hours required by 2017's unprecedented hurricane season.
The extended hours appeared to prompt FEMA — just after its administrator, Brock Long, said his staff was “tapped out” — to use a federal provision allowing agencies to take money from employees' future paychecks if they exceeded a ceiling on annual compensation.
“FEMA was never designed to be the first or only respondent in a disaster, but we often find ourselves in that situation,” Long said, according to Bloomberg on Tuesday.
Because that ceiling is statutory, Office of Personnel Management can't alter employees' compensation.
In a “Frequently Asked Questions” document sent to employees last month, FEMA explained that employees may need to work without compensation.
“A bill will be determined and established for any premium pay amounts over the annual premium pay cap and the employee will be notified and billed in 2018 for that amount,” it also said.
FEMA is currently monitoring 500 employees at risk of exceeding the earnings limit and will contact employees when they earn more than the annual pay cap.