B-240657, Feb 6, 1991

B-240657: Feb 6, 1991

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CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Compensation - Overtime - Eligibility - Travel time DIGEST: Employees who must travel within their official-duty station after their scheduled tour of duty are entitled to over-time under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5542 (1988) if the travel is to complete an assigned task. Panama Canal Commission employees whose duty station is the entire Canal. Are entitled to overtime compensation for extra hours worked when they must travel from their usual work site at Balboa to Cristobal to perform work and then return to Balboa to record data before proceeding home. We hold that they may since the travel is to complete an assigned task. Admeasurers are expected to begin and end their shifts at the Pacific side of the canal (Balboa).

B-240657, Feb 6, 1991

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Compensation - Overtime - Eligibility - Travel time DIGEST: Employees who must travel within their official-duty station after their scheduled tour of duty are entitled to over-time under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5542 (1988) if the travel is to complete an assigned task. Therefore, Panama Canal Commission employees whose duty station is the entire Canal, are entitled to overtime compensation for extra hours worked when they must travel from their usual work site at Balboa to Cristobal to perform work and then return to Balboa to record data before proceeding home.

Panama Canal Commission Employees:

The Acting Administrator of the Panama Canal Commission requests our decision whether employees who travel within their official duty station but outside of their regularly scheduled hours of work may be paid overtime. We hold that they may since the travel is to complete an assigned task.

BACKGROUND

The Commission employs approximately 15 "admeasurers" to measure and record ships' tonnage in order to assess the proper tolls. Admeasurers are expected to begin and end their shifts at the Pacific side of the canal (Balboa), which is where their measurements must be recorded. The employees' official-duty station includes the entire canal area. About once every 2 weeks, admeasurers must travel to the Atlantic side of the canal (Cristobal) to take measurements and then return to Balboa to record them. On those occasions, the Commission provides official vehicles, sometimes chauffeured, for their transportation. Although the employees usually accomplish these trips within their 8-hour workdays, the Commission gave the following example of an ongoing problem: An admeasurer starts his shift at Balboa at 8 a.m. and travels to Cristobal to take measurements that are completed by 2:30 p.m.However, for some unavoidable or unanticipated reason, the admeasurer cannot get transportation back to Balboa until 3 p.m. Consequently, allowing just over an hour for traveltime and 10 minutes to record his measurements, the employee is not finished working until 4:45 p.m., 45 minutes past his scheduled tour of duty.

In the past, the Commission has denied the admeasurers' requests for overtime compensation on several grounds: (1) our decisions hold that employees may not be paid for time spent traveling to and from their places of work, (2) apart from the traveltime, the time necessary to record the measurements at Balboa is too insignificant to justify an overtime claim, and (3) there is a statutory bar to overtime compensation for travel unless it cannot be administratively controlled.

The Commission has reconsidered its position and has come to the conclusion that, since the admeasurers are performing their regular assignments and are not away from their official duty station, the statutory bar does not apply. It also concludes that the hours traveling should be considered as hours of work, and that the employee has not completed his work assignment until he returns to Balboa and records the necessary data. The Acting Administrator asks our agreement with these conclusions so that the Commission may pay overtime in this situation.

ANALYSIS

Payment of overtime is authorized by 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5542 (1988). /1/ Subsection (a) authorizes overtime payments for work in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week that is "officially ordered and approved." The statutory bar to which the Commission refers, section 5542(b), generally excludes from an employee's compensable hours of work time spent in a travel status away from the employee's official duty station unless the travel results from an event that could not be administratively controlled. Thus, that exclusion and its exception apply only to travel outside of an employee's official-duty station, and not to travel within an official-duty station, as is the case here. Vernon H. Moss III, B-188955, Nov. 23, 1977; John B. Cleveland, B-221088, Sept. 11, 1986.

As the Commission pointed out, there also is a well-settled rule that employees may not be compensated for their travel-time between their homes and their places of work, even when the travel is in connection with overtime work. Vernon H. Moss III, B-188955, supra. This rule also applies when the employee uses government transportation for all or part of the commute. For example, in John B. Cleveland, B-221088, supra, we denied an overtime claim for traveltime to a worksite in a government vehicle where the employee drove his personal vehicle to his duty station and then drove a government vehicle the remaining 28 miles to his designated worksite. We reasoned that the employee's entire traveltime was part of his normal commute and thus not compensable.

The Cleveland decision would bar compensation for an employee who, upon completing his tour of duty at Cristobal, used a government vehicle to return to Balboa to pick up his personal vehicle and proceed home. However, in the example presented for our review, the employee is returning to Balboa to complete an assigned task. Under these circumstances, the employee remains on duty until the task is completed. Consequently, the employee in the Commission's example may be compensated for the entire 45 minutes worked beyond his scheduled tour of duty, which includes time for both travel and recording tasks. Therefore, we need not reach the question whether the time spent recording the measurements, standing alone, is too insignificant to compensate.

Accordingly, we agree with the current conclusions of the Commission that the rules and decisions it cited do not bar overtime compensation under the circumstances described in its example.

/1/ Most government employees are covered by the provisions for premium pay in title 5, United States Code, including overtime, unless excluded by the definition of an "employee" in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5541(2). One such exception includes the Commission's vessel employees. 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5541 (2)(xii). The Commission has informally advised us that admeasurers are not classified as vessel employees and, therefore, are covered by the premium pay provisions in title 5.