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Overtime for Postal Service employees increased by a third over 2014-2019 with the number of employees earning more in overtime pay than in their regular salaries rising to 4,008 from 758, an IG audit has found.

During that period annual overtime costs increased from $3.7 to $5 billion annually while overtime hours increased from 99 million to 130 million hours, some of which was for “penalty” overtime, which is double salary rather than time and a half, that is paid under certain conditions.

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The IG noted that the audit was done before the pandemic—as well as before the installation as postmaster general Louis DeJoy, who soon ordered a number of operational changes designed in part to reduce overtime costs. He since has put many of those changes on hold through the elections, in light of concerns about resulting delays in deliveries and the potential impact on an expected surge of voting by mail.

The IG said that management “needs to strengthen controls over managing overtime to successfully contain these costs. Although package volume grew, overtime costs and hours trended upward and consistently exceeded their planned overtime budgets from FY 2014 to FY 2019, despite declining mail volume and increased employee levels.”

It said that although various factors can affect the level of overtime use, “the primary factor was management not always maintaining adequate staffing levels to support workload demands . . . If the Postal Service does not adequately staff their operations, management will continue to incur increased operating expenses.”

The IG also found that management “did not always effectively manage their unauthorized overtime or ensure they had complete, accurate, and reliable employee payroll workhour data.”

It cited the case of one mail handler who in 2018 earned more than $140,000 in overtime for total pay of more than $200,000. To work the number of hours needed to earn that much “would have required this employee to work an average of 17-hour days, consisting of eight regular workhours and about nine overtime hours every day for 365 days a year.”

Other cases it identified included a maintenance mechanic with more than $124,000 in overtime pay and three mail handlers with more than $113,000.

It further cited an independent study that concluded that “employees become dependent on the additional income as a source of their regular pay when overtime levels are constantly high. Additionally, it showed long workhours and prolonged high overtime levels led to reduced sleep, adversely affected employee health, and increased the risk of occupational injuries and errors.”

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2020 Federal Employees Handbook