By David McGlinchey

Four months after the Office of Personnel Management implemented regulations on compensatory time off for travel, the benefit has not been applied uniformly across the government.

The 2004 Federal Workforce Flexibility Act, signed into law last October, directs agencies to compensate Title 5 employees with time off for business travel they conduct outside of normal working hours. On Jan. 28, OPM issued its interim regulations - which went into effect immediately - allowing federal workers to receive equal time off in exchange for authorized work-related travel outside of regular business hours. Reports have trickled in, however, of offices or federal units that have denied the benefit to their employees.

One such group is the audit division at the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General.

"As of Jan. 28, it became law," said one frustrated employee in the office. "It's not a regulation. It's not a 'whatever.' It's a law, it's a public law. It's kind of ironic because we are usually the ones blowing the whistle on everyone else."

Although some agencies were not able to immediately develop their own guidance, personnel officials often directed employees to keep thorough records of their travel for future compensation. According to the employee, no such steps have been taken in the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General. The Justice Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the issue.

According to the employee, however, OIG officials have said that they do not recognize personnel guidance issued by Justice Department management. Audit division officials reportedly told employees that they will not be eligible for the new benefit until managers have completed a review of the law and issued specific directives.

OPM officials have been clear on this in the past - the law is not optional. If a federal employee is eligible under OPM guidelines and embarks on authorized, uncompensated travel outside of regular business hours, then that employee is owed compensatory time off. This rule applies to all travel taken after Jan. 28, but it is unclear how employees will redeem this time off if they have not kept meticulous records of their trips.