Fedweek

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Two top Republican leaders of the House have raised questions about whether teleworking employees of the Labor Department are being paid at too high a rate, an issue that could arise regarding other agencies, as well.

The underlying issue is that while an individual’s locality pay rate is based on the location of the official duty station, for nearly two years many federal employees have been working exclusively, or nearly so, from other places—in some cases where the locality pay rate is lower, yet they continue to receive the higher rate.

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The top Republicans on the Oversight and Reform and the Education and Labor Committees, Reps., James Comer of Kentucky and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said they are “very concerned that DoL is paying employees working from alternative work sites at locality-pay rates that do not align with their physical work locations.”

They said that information the department provided in response to an earlier letter “suggests that DoL has paid some of these employees improperly since March 2020, is doing so now, and will continue to do so until March 7, 2022, due to a failure to acknowledge the true location of DoL employees’ worksites.”

The March 7 date is the department’s projected date for the department to finish a phased-in “reentry” that is to start in early January.

They asked for “an explanation of whether DoL has ensured all employees are being paid in accordance with the locality in which they reside and from which they work instead of where their duty station of record is” as well as for further details on the reentry plan.

They added that the earlier response “implies DoL will address this issue regarding locality pay only for workers with formal and permanent ‘remote work arrangements,’ not for any expanded number of teleworkers that DoL intends to allow going forward. This situation is very concerning to us on both counts, as it should be to all taxpayers.”

In contrast to telework, employees with “remote” work arrangements are not required to report to a regular agency worksite on a regular schedule and the remote location is their official duty station. The numbers in that category are far below those of teleworkers.

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