Nice work if you can get it
A recent audit of the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that eight employees were paid more than $1 million to stay home on paid leave. Four of the eight were off for at least a year while two are in their second year collecting their salaries for not working.
The total cost to taxpayers was $1,096,868 for a total of 20,926 hours from January 2010 through September 2013. This total outlay doesn’t count the build up of pensions and the accumulation of sick days and vacations. In addition these employees moved up the federal scale based on longevity.
The EPA’s response was carefully worded. The agency “has carefully exercised its discretion in placing certain employees on administrative leave in cases of alleged serious misconduct.”
In addition to the eight on long-term leave the EPA was found to have paid out $17,550,100 to 69 employees who were on paid leave for at least one month between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2013.
This is by no means confined to the Environmental Protection Agency. Across the government the Government Accountability Office found that during a three-year period more than 57,000 were sent home for a month or longer. The total cost: nearly $750 million in salary alone.
Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) responded in a written statement. “Taxpayers are paying for a fully functioning workforce, and they should get it.” Grassley was one of the lawmakers who requested the GAO report.
“The EPA should explain why these employees were on leave for so long,” Grassley said. “Too often, extended paid leave is an excuse for managers to put off making a decision on whether an employee should be on the job while an administrative action is pending.”
The extensive use of administrative leave continues despite government personnel rules that limit paid leave for employees facing disciplinary action to “rare circumstances” in which the employee is considered a threat.
GAO auditors found that supervisors used wide discretion in putting employees on leave, including for alleged violations of government rules and laws, whistleblowing, doubts about trustworthiness, and disputes with colleagues or bosses. Some employees remain on paid leave while they challenge demotions and other punishments.