CoA Institute Investigates Employee Telework Fraud at U.S. Patent Office

Washington D.C. – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) after details emerged about extensive attendance and telework abuse by agency employees. The FOIA request seeks records to clarify whether disciplinary action has been taken against those who claimed hours they did not work.

The Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report in August 2016 that found USPTO telework employees were paid for nearly 300,000 unsupported hours of work over a 15-month period. These hours equate to more than $18 million in wages and benefits fraudulently paid to employees.  

CoA Institute Assistant Vice President Henry Kerner: “Such rampant abuse is particularly concerning given the USPTO’s policies to promote more telework for its employees. Over the last decade, the agency has doubled its number of patent examiners largely through teleworking. The American people deserve to understand whether disciplinary action has been taken to hold employees accountable for telework fraud.”

Teleworking is common in many industries and allows employees to work from home, but requires close oversight to prevent abuse by employees.  The USPTO is particularly susceptible to telework abuse because approximately half of its 12,600 employees work from home full-time without ever reporting to a physical office. The OIG report also found that 415 patent examiners who fraudulently reported hours racked up nearly $8 million in bonuses in less than two years.

CoA Institute today requested all records related to time and attendance abuse at USPTO in order to understand the full extent of the abuse and to identify potential policy changes that could address the problem.

The full FOIA request can be found here.