Sinema introduces bill to give border agents overtime pay

Yuma Sun

Because of the difficulty hiring and retaining agents, United States Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Ariz., has introduced the Border Patrol Pay Security Act, which would allow  Border Patrol agents the chance to earn time and a half overtime for working between 80 and 100 hours in a two-week period.

Border Patrol spokesperson Jose Garibay said that the standard for Border Patrol agents is working 100 hours in a 14-consecutive-day period.

Some officers get the option of selecting whether they work an eight-, nine- or 10-hour shift in a day, but Garibay said those options apply mostly to special circumstances. “That’s not an option for 99% of the officers,” Garibay said about the shift selection.

Instead, most officers work a 10-hour shift at their designated station for the day. A typical work week reaches 50 hours.

Border Patrol agents currently receive compensation time when they work more than a 10-hour shift. That overtime is compensated with time that counts towards their hours of leave. Garibay explained that it’s similar to accumulating vacation time, except that vacation time is typically generated by working regular hours rather than extra hours.

The compensation time matches the extra time they worked exactly rather than in hour or half-hour blocks. An agent who works 10 minutes overtime gets 10 minutes of compensation time.

Garibay said that those situations are few and typically happen when an agent has to remain at their station for an unforeseen reason, and agents don’t generate much compensation time.

The Senate bill that Sinema introduced along with Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, in mid-January intends to improve recruitment and retention for Border Patrol.

“Strengthening the Border Patrol’s recruitment and retention helps secure our border and keeps Arizonans safe and secure,” Sinema said in a statement about the bill.

To do this, the bill would incentivize Border Patrol with an additional benefit and amend the Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938, the governing labor rights law, to include for Border Patrol agents an overtime slot between 80 and 100 hours.

According to the bill’s text, Border Patrol would have to pay agents who are working between 80 to 100 hours in a 14-consecutive-day period 150 times their regular rate, which is typical time and a half overtime.

Work beyond the 100 hours in that two-week period isn’t covered with overtime pay by the Senate bill, but the bill does add the overtime pay to their compensation time. Border Patrol agents working 80 to 100 hours would receive overtime pay, and agents working more than 100 hours in a two-week period would receive compensation time.

The bill was introduced on Jan. 15 and has since sat in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

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