B-131702, JUN. 17, 1957

B-131702: Jun 17, 1957

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DURING OCTOBER 1953 IT WAS ANNOUNCED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE THAT THE UNITED STATES PARTICIPATION IN NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN STATION PROGRAM WOULD NOT EXTEND BEYOND JUNE 30. THIS INFORMATION RESULTED IN RECRUITING DIFFICULTIES SINCE PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES WERE NOT INTERESTED IN EMPLOYMENT OF SUCH INDEFINITE NATURE. IT WAS NECESSARY TO SCHEDULE SOME THREE-MAN PATROLS INSTEAD OF THE NORMAL FOUR-MAN PATROLS. EMPLOYEES ON THE THREE MAN PATROLS WERE AUTHORIZED AN ADMINISTRATIVE WORKWEEK OF SIXTY- THREE HOURS (FORTY HOURS BASIC WORKWEEK AND TWENTY-THREE HOURS OVERTIME). APPROXIMATELY TWENTY HOURS WEEKLY IRREGULAR OVERTIME WAS AUTHORIZED IN ADDITION FOR LIQUIDATION BY COMPENSATORY LEAVE DURING IN PORT PERIODS.

B-131702, JUN. 17, 1957

TO THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE:

ON MAY 1, 1957, THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY REQUESTED OUR REVIEW AND DECISION UPON INFORMAL EXCEPTIONS OF OUR CIVIL ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING DIVISION TO PAYMENTS MADE TO CERTAIN EMPLOYEES OF THE WEATHER BUREAU IN EXCESS OF THE STATUTORY RATE LIMITATION OF SECTION 603 (B) OF THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES PAY ACT OF 1945, AS AMENDED, 5 U.S.C. 943.

IN EXPLANATION OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE QUESTIONED PAYMENTS, THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAYS THAT TO EFFECT UNITED STATES COMMITMENTS TO THE INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION, THE WEATHER BUREAU ASSIGNS EMPLOYEES TO COAST GUARD VESSELS FOR THE PURPOSE OF TAKING WEATHER OBSERVATIONS AT ATLANTIC OCEAN STATIONS. DURING OCTOBER 1953 IT WAS ANNOUNCED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE THAT THE UNITED STATES PARTICIPATION IN NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN STATION PROGRAM WOULD NOT EXTEND BEYOND JUNE 30, 1954. THIS INFORMATION RESULTED IN RECRUITING DIFFICULTIES SINCE PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES WERE NOT INTERESTED IN EMPLOYMENT OF SUCH INDEFINITE NATURE, AND THOSE CURRENTLY EMPLOYED MADE STRONG EFFORTS TO OBTAIN REASSIGNMENT AND THUS AVOID POSSIBLE REDUCTION IN FORCE. IN ORDER TO MAN ALL OCEAN STATIONS TO MEET INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS, IT WAS NECESSARY TO SCHEDULE SOME THREE-MAN PATROLS INSTEAD OF THE NORMAL FOUR-MAN PATROLS. HOWEVER, THE OBSERVATIONAL PROGRAM HAD TO REMAIN THE SAME. EMPLOYEES ON THE THREE MAN PATROLS WERE AUTHORIZED AN ADMINISTRATIVE WORKWEEK OF SIXTY- THREE HOURS (FORTY HOURS BASIC WORKWEEK AND TWENTY-THREE HOURS OVERTIME). ALSO, APPROXIMATELY TWENTY HOURS WEEKLY IRREGULAR OVERTIME WAS AUTHORIZED IN ADDITION FOR LIQUIDATION BY COMPENSATORY LEAVE DURING IN PORT PERIODS.

THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY ALSO SAYS THAT WHILE THE WEATHER BUREAU WAS AWARE OF THE MAXIMUM SALARY LIMITATION CONTAINED IN THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES PAY ACT OF 1945, AS AMENDED, IT WAS INTERPRETED TO APPLY ONLY TO "PAID" COMPENSATION AND NOT INCLUSIVE OF IRREGULAR OVERTIME THAT WAS TO BE COMPENSATED FOR BY "TIME-OFF" FROM DUTY. ALSO, THAT AT NO TIME DID ANY OF THE EMPLOYEES EXCEED AN ANNUAL SALARY THAT WAS IN EXCESS OF THE MAXIMUM ANNUAL SALARY LIMITATION.

THE WEATHER BUREAU HAS DEVELOPED ADEQUATE SCHEDULING TECHNIQUES TO INSURE THAT THERE WILL BE LITTLE OR NO POSSIBILITY OF EXCEEDING THE STATUTORY LIMITATIONS IN THE FUTURE.

THE LIMITATION FIXED BY SECTION 603 (B) OF THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES PAY ACT OF 1945, AS AMENDED, IS FOR APPLICATION TO EACH PAY PERIOD IN WHICH THE RATE RESULTING FROM OVERTIME EXCEEDS THE LIMITATIONS ON ANNUAL SALARY AND COMPENSATORY TIME MAY NOT BE SUBSTITUTED IN LIEU OF PROHIBITED OVERTIME. SEE 26 COMP. GEN. 750. HOWEVER, IN VIEW OF THE EMERGENCY CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE SERVICES WERE REQUIRED, AND THAT IN NO CASE DID THE AMOUNT ACTUALLY PAID ANY EMPLOYEE EXCEED HIS MAXIMUM ANNUAL SALARY LIMITATION, AND ALSO SINCE SCHEDULING TECHNIQUES HAVE BEEN INSTALLED TO INSURE COMPLIANCE WITH THE STATUTORY LIMITATIONS IN THE FUTURE, WE WILL NOT INSIST UPON REFUND FROM THE EMPLOYEES INVOLVED IN THE STATED CIRCUMSTANCES.

APPROPRIATE INSTRUCTIONS ARE TODAY BEING ISSUED TO OUR CIVIL ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING DIVISION TO EFFECTUATE THIS DECISION.