Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
Q: If the government compensates an employee, who earns Law Enforcement Availability Pay (L.E.A.P.), overtime wages which the government now claims the employee is not entitled to, may the government recoup the unauthorized payments by withholding funds form a federal employee’s paycheck?
A: Any federal law enforcement officer who receives availability pay (L.E.A.P.), generally may not receive any additional payment for unscheduled duty hours, or overtime. As such, any payment received for the unscheduled duty hours, or overtime, worked is unauthorized. Because that payment was improperly made, an employee is not entitled to the money, and has no property interest in money that he/she is not entitled to. Conversely, the government has the authority to recoup that overpayment, and is not prevented from doing so by clerical mistakes that caused the improper payment. Furthermore, the government may recoup the money in intervals by deductions from the employee’s paycheck. However, the amount deducted may not exceed 15% of his/her disposable pay without the employee’s written consent.
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