Sunday Premium Pay

Millions of Dollars in Sunday Premium Pay Are Paid to Employees on Leave Gao ID: GGD-95-144 May 19, 1995

The Sunday premium pay law provides that "an employee who performs work during a regularly scheduled eight-hour period of service ... a part of which is performed on Sunday is entitled to pay for the entire period of service at the rate of his basic pay, plus premium pay at a rate equal to 25 percent of his basic pay." A 1993 court decision held that federal workers who took leave on a Sunday for which they were scheduled to work were entitled to premium pay even though they did not work. The five agencies GAO reviewed--the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); the U.S. Customs Service; and the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Veterans Affairs--paid $146 million in Sunday premium pay in fiscal year 1994. At FAA, Congress banned payment of Sunday premium pay to employees on leave, which will yield an estimated $6 million in savings during fiscal year 1995. Additional savings could be achieved at other agencies if Sunday premium pay was limited to employees who worked as scheduled on Sunday.

GAO found that: (1) a 1993 court decision required federal agencies to pay premium pay to employees regularly scheduled to work on Sunday even if they were on leave; (2) Congress subsequently prohibited Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees in such circumstances from receiving premium pay, which saved about $6 million; (3) in FY 1993, the Departments of Defense (DOD), Justice (DOJ), and Veterans Affairs, and FAA paid $178 million in Sunday premium pay which comprised about 86 percent of the premium pay paid by all executive branch agencies during that year; (4) in FY 1994, the four agencies and the Customs Service paid $146.1 million in Sunday premium pay, of which $17.9 million went to employees on leave; (5) after OPM issued its premium pay guidance, leave usage on Sundays at three of the agencies increased from 0.5 to 2.7 percent whereas DOD Sunday leave usage decreased 2.3 percent; (6) there was not enough information available to determine DOJ leave trends; and (7) for FY 1994, the five agencies reviewed paid $760 million, $5.94 billion, and $419.2 million in night differential, overtime, and holiday premium pay, respectively.


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