FEMA may ask employees to pay back overtime pay

FEMA may ask employees to pay back overtime pay
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has reportedly told some employees who pulled in beefier paychecks after working overtime to respond to the series of natural disasters that hit the U.S. earlier this year they may need to return part of their extra pay.

FEMA said the "unprecedented hurricane season" may lead them to fall back on federal law caps that limit some federal employees from earning more than a maximum amount of overtime spelled out in statute. The agency could reach in and retrieve the excess pay from future paychecks, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

“This year’s unprecedented hurricane season led to a record-setting length of national activation,” FEMA said in an emailed statement, according to the report.

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“Due to the extended work hours involved in supporting disaster recovery and response efforts for multiple storms, some employees have been affected by the annual maximum earnings limitation.”

The agency reportedly sent a Frequently Asked Questions document to employees last month that warned that those who reached their cap “may still be ordered to perform work without receiving further compensation,” as well as “continue to receive their regular base pay regardless of whether they exceed the annual premium pay cap or not.”

The FAQ also said the employee would receive a notification about the overpay amount and be billed to repay it sometime next year.

“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."

The request comes after FEMA had to do a lot of the early work in responding to a large number of natural disasters.

About 500 FEMA employees are at risk of passing the maximum of their premium, which the agency says it is monitoring, according to the report.

FEMA administrator Brock Long told a House Appropriations subcommittee late last month that agency staffers were "tapped out" because "FEMA was never designed to be the first or only respondent in a disaster, but we often find ourselves in that situation."