The Time & Attendance Solution for US Customs & Border Protection Employees

It’s official. I’m a time and attendance nerd. I came to this realization the other morning when I heard the story “Overtime System At Customs and Border Protection Investigated” on NPR during my daily commute.

According to the investigation, whistleblowers are saying that Customs and Border Protectionemployees are misusing an overtime program known as Administratively Uncontrolled Overtime (or AUO).  AUO was established by Congress in 1966, and according to the Department of Homeland Security, AUO is “a payment mechanism that allows the compensation of certain employees for irregular, unscheduled, but necessary overtime.” The law states that the employee has to be in a position in which his or her hours cannot be controlled administratively, and the employee’s job must require large amounts of irregular overtime work. In addition, the law supports employees who have to be responsible for recognizing the circumstances that would require an individual to remain on duty and access AUO.

It’s an interesting story, and it’s worth a listen when you have a few minutes, particularly the statements employees are making about the compensation they were promised when they originally accepted their jobs (and how much of that compensation was pre-determined as being AUO). But I’d like to get back to my original point which was that I’m a time and attendance nerd.

As I listened to both sides of the story, my mind was flooded with questions:

  • How are these employees tracking their time?
  • Who is approving the timecards?
  • Is anyone auditing CBP’s payroll process?
  • What mechanisms are in place to signify which employees qualify for AUO privileges?

I’m known for going into “fix-it mode,” and this moment was no exception. How simple could it have been for those AUO-eligible employees to be part of a labor level that would grant them access to such pay policies? With the technology of automated time and attendance, regular audits could be run by administrators to ensure that all overtime hours (and funds) were being allocated appropriately.

All month long, we’ve been talking about employee engagement and what automated and self-service HR systems can do to boost that employee engagement and ultimately help support organizations’ bottom lines. The whistleblowers at CBP spoke up, but after how many months or years of feeling like their co-workers were receiving unnecessary special benefits? Moving forward, how does an organization “make good” with all employees and foster a culture of trust?

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