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.
I have three questions related to compensatory time for travel. My normal tour of duty is 0730-1700, Monday through Thursday with alternating Fridays off. I travel overseas often for my work. My questions are as follows:
First, after our supervisor took his position, he told us that we should all forfeit our compensatory time off for travel. Our previous supervisors had directed us to submit a log of travel comp time to them rather than enter it on our time cards; we submitted our time in accordance with office policy. Our new supervisor thinks this method was improper and thus our compensatory time off for travel should be forfeited. Can he cancel our compensatory time off for travel that easily?
Second, I was recently required to travel to Korea for business. I left the USA at 0730 and arrived at 0715 the next day USA time (2115 Korea time). When I arrived in Korea, I went to my hotel and went to bed – even though the work day was just beginning in the United States, it was not normal business hours in Korea. I calculated my travel time and then deducted the nine hours which were part of my normal tour of duty to arrive at my compensatory time off for travel. My boss says that since I went to bed instead of working the day of my arrival, I had to deduct another nine hours from my comp time. Is he correct?
Third, my boss says that when I am at a temporary duty station and there is no work to be done on what is, for me, a normal work day, I am required to take leave. For instance, if I go to a particular country where my foreign partners do not wish to conduct business with me on a Wednesday, my boss says I must take leave on that Wednesday. Is that right? Can he require me to take leave in that fashion?
Please help with these questions. I want to follow the rules, but I need to know the rules first.
I will assume for the purposes of answering your questions that you are a federal employee.
As to your first question, no, your supervisor cannot simply require you to forfeit all of your compensatory time. If hours were improperly logged, you should contact your human resources office or timekeeper and have your logs amended appropriately. Your supervisor may feel that you “should” forfeit the time, but you are not required to if you earned your compensatory time off. See 5 CFR § 550, subpart N.
As to your second question, you were not entitled to continue earning compensatory time off for travel once you arrived at your temporary duty station in Korea, and your work schedule the next day is irrelevant as to the calculation. You should simply calculate the amount of time which you were in a travel status, and then subtract any time for which you were otherwise compensated during the travel. You and your boss may have arranged for a schedule adjustment or other modifications in light of the time change, but that is a separate matter from the calculation of your compensatory time off for travel. Your travel time appears to have only been interrupted by 9 hours, not 18 hours, of regular compensation.
As to your third question, I am aware of no provisions in the Federal Travel Regulations which requires you to take leave simply because your foreign partners do not work on a certain day or because there is little work to be done on a given day. There are some provisions which require an employee to take leave if his or her actions have precluded them from working, but none which I am aware of which penalize an employee for a foreign government’s inability to meet with the employee. It may be possible that your schedule is temporarily rearranged while you are on travel so as to elongate and shorten your hours as appropriate and fitting to the agency’s needs, or that you could be required to attend to other duties when foreign officials cannot meet with you, but I do not believe you are not required to take annual leave.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.
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