Chapter 4: Human Resource Management
Allow State Agencies to Grant Compensatory Leave For Work Performed from Home
The 1997 Legislature enacted a prohibition against the earning of compensatory time for work performed at personal residence. This ban has made it difficult for some employees to perform their duties and may be more costly to the state than previous practices. State law should be amended to require state agencies to develop policies identifying situations in which an employee may accumulate compensatory time for work performed at home.
Telecommunications technologies are helping to make alternative work arrangements far more common; today, many employees can perform their job functions equally well from a variety of locations.
Many state employees sometimes work from their homes, either through telecommuting arrangements or for a variety of other reasons. Before September 1, 1997, such employees could accrue compensatory time while working at home. The federal Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) requires certain state employees to accrue compensatory time on an hour-for-hour basis whenever their combination of paid leave and hours worked exceeds 40 hours in a week.
The 1997 Legislature enacted a prohibition against the earning of compensatory time for work performed at personal residences. This ban was carried over by the 1999 Legislature and codified in Section 659.018 of the Texas Government Code, which states that an employee’s personal residence may not be considered a regular or temporarily assigned place of employment for purposes of compensatory time.
This ban has made it more difficult for some employees to perform their duties, particularly those who have on-call duties, respond to public safety situations, travel frequently in the field, or have other special needs. Furthermore, because employees now must travel to their offices to be credited for after-hours work, and some agencies include travel time from home to office in compensatory time accrual, the ban has actually increased the amount of compensatory leave accumulated by some employees.
Employees working at home who were able to earn compensatory time before the ban included:
Telecommuters who work for all or some portion of the week at their residence.
Information technology personnel who perform a variety of tasks after hours and on weekends. These tasks often can be performed on-line from home computers.
Employees whose jobs require them to travel around the state, who often find completing paperwork and reports at home to be more convenient and less time-consuming than journeying to a distant office.
Employees engaged in public safety activities, such as highway construction and maintenance or emergency response. Some examples of these employees include public information officers responding to emergency situations by phone; employees purchasing emergency items for field crews (sand for oil spills, fuel, etc.); employees updating “Highway Condition Reports” by remote access; and supervisors coordinating maintenance employees, law enforcement, or emergency services in emergency situations.
Employees facing tight deadlines.
The ability to allow employees to earn compensatory time for work performed at home increases their efficiency, effectiveness and morale, and often decreases the amount of compensatory time they must claim.
In certain situations, state employees should be allowed to perform their duties in the most effective and efficient manner. An on-call programmer who receives a call at 1:00 a.m. and performs a vital job from a home computer should receive compensatory time without the need to travel to an office across town. Field employees should be allowed to complete paperwork and reports at home without returning to the office. Many state employees can perform vital functions more efficiently from their homes, and opt to do so without hope of compensatory leave. In effect, state law punishes them for their diligence.
Section 659.018 of the Texas Government Code should be amended to allow state agencies to develop their own policies relating to earned compensatory time.
State law currently specifies that:
“Except under circumstances specified in the General Appropriations Act, an employee of a state agency as defined by Section 658.001 may not, for hours worked during any calendar week, accumulate compensatory time off under Section 659.015(f) or 659.016 to the extent that the hours are attributable to work performed at a location other than the employee’s regular or temporarily assigned place of employment. The employee’s personal residence may not be considered the employee’s regular or temporarily assigned place of employment.”
By adding the following clause, agencies will have greater flexibility in managing the use of employees’ time:
“Unless the employing agency has adopted a policy approved by the agency head identifying situations in which an employee may accumulate compensatory time at the employee’s personal residence under Section 659.015(f) or 659.016.”
The statute should be further modified to include:
“This policy must be established in writing and be made available for review at the request of the State Auditor’s Office. A state agency shall notify its employees of the policy on earning compensatory time at the employee’s personal residence only for the agency-defined situations.”
This change would make each state agency responsible for developing a policy that meets its own needs. Each agency's policy should include a limitation on the amount of compensatory time an employee can earn. The State Auditor’s Office has authority over employee leave provisions; therefore, its audit reports could be used to monitor each agency’s compliance with the intentions of the statute. Each agency head should be responsible and accountable for compliance with this provision.
This recommendation would have no direct fiscal impact. It may reduce the amount of compensatory leave granted to state employees, since some agencies include travel time from home to work in calculating compensatory time. This might also produce a small, undetermined positive fiscal impact, since some state agencies are authorized to pay for compensatory time earned when granting leave would disrupt normal business functions. This authority has been extended to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Center for Infectious Disease of the Texas Department of Health, the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the Employee Retirement System of Texas, and all state employees engaged in public safety activities.
 E-mail communication with Patti Ball, Texas Department of Transportation, March 2, 2000.