Leahy Requests Answers From Patent and Trademark Office About Potential Time And Attendance Abuse

Responding to an Inspector General report outlining potential time and attendance abuse and resulting government waste by patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are seeking information about how the agency protects against time and attendance abuse.

“The PTO plays an essential function in our economy, promoting innovation and supporting our Nation’s economic growth,” Leahy and Grassley wrote in a letter to Michelle Lee, the Director of the PTO.  “The PTO’s telework program and other staff management innovations have long been cited as a model of increased work flexibility in the federal government.”

The Inspector General’s report thoroughly analyzed available data to account for work hours by patent examiners and found that PTO was unable to account for 288,479 hours of work over a 15-month period.  That unaccounted for work may have resulted in more than $18 million of waste.  The report follows previous IG reports and press accounts raising concerns about the PTO’s workforce management, including a report that identified extensive time and attendance abuse by one patent examiner.

“The agency repeatedly points to these programs as integral to attracting the specialized workforce necessary to fulfill the agency’s statutory mandates,” the Senators wrote.  “We are confident that you share our belief that concerns about time and attendance at the PTO must be taken seriously, and that any potential abuses are addressed.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has oversight authority for the PTO, and Leahy and Grassley have previously sent letters to the agency seeking information about telework and workforce management-related issues.

A copy of the Leahy-Grassley letter to the Director of the PTO can be found online HERE.

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