FEMA to Claw Back Overtime Pay From Employees After Record Number of Natural Disasters

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that employees who worked extra hours during a string of natural disasters this year will have to return some of their overtime pay.

According to Bloomberg, the claw-back is due to the fact that federal employees have a cap on premium pay, while agencies can demand money they paid beyond the maximum to be returned via the employees’ future paychecks. Given the multiple devastating hurricanes that hit the Gulf states, the subsequent flooding and the wildfires raging across the Western United States, FEMA has said it might have to start billing the employees who worked around the clock on those matters to reclaim the overtime pay they earned.

Earlier, FEMA had sent its employees a document explaining that workers who reached the maximum “may still be ordered to perform work without receiving further compensation,” though they would “continue to receive their regular base pay regardless of whether they exceed the annual premium pay cap or not.”

The agency issued a statement confirming the situation.

“This year’s unprecedented hurricane season led to a record-setting length of national activation,” a statement from the agency read. “Due to the extended work hours involved in supporting disaster recovery and response efforts for multiple storms, some employees have been affected by the annual maximum earnings limitation.”

One FEMA staffer told Bloomberg that clawing back the money could reduce the willingness of FEMA employees or other Homeland Security staff to sign up for future deployments. This confirms a November 30 statement by FEMA administrator Brock Long, who reported to members of a House Appropriations subcommittee that FEMA staff were “tapped out” after a record-setting season.

Here’s a look at some of what FEMA was up against this season: