Attention all travelers: misconduct among TSA workers in airports is on the rise, but there might not be much you can do about it.
A recent audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows instances of misconduct among Transportation Security Administration workers climbed 26% in the past three years with 9,622 cases of employee misconduct from fiscal years 2010 through 2012. Fifty six of these instances were for theft, while the most common violations, with more 3,000 during the review time, were for attendance and leave, including unexcused absences or tardiness. Nearly 2,000 of these offenses were violations of screening and security rules, for actions like taking a nap on duty.
The audit also claims the agency can strengthen its investigations and recordings of such misconduct among workers.
The report comes at a time of heightened security with a global travel warning to Americans due to the threat of a terrorist attack.
In response to the GAO’s report, the TSA emphasized its “zero-tolerance” policy toward misconduct in the workplace in a recent statement.
“TSA holds its employees to the highest ethical standards and expects all TSA employees to conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism. TSA concurs with GAO’s four recommendations to ensure that the agency establishes a process to verify that TSA staff at airports are in compliance, and is already working to implement these recommendations…There is zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace and TSA takes appropriate action when substantiated, including anything from a referral to law enforcement or termination of employment,” the agency said in a release.
It’s no surprise that the TSA has workers not abiding by policy, says travel industry attorney Jeffrey Miller, but he says travelers have little room to fight back.
“It’s true in any profession—every profession has people who embarrass it,” Miller says. “I was surprised though, that workers were stealing because everything is taped and filmed.”
For travelers who have had items stolen by TSA workers, Miller says the only option is to either file a claim against the agency or to file a lawsuit.
“If you can prove that it was stolen by them, you can sue the TSA and get it back—you have no rights against the airlines [in that case],” he says. “In some cities like Kansas City, Mo., for example, TSA workers are private contractors, but you still have the same rights against them.”
The potential for TSA employee misconduct is simply another part of the travel experience, says Miller, and travelers will likely endure it without much complaint.
“Sometimes you have hassles, with no rhyme or reason,” he says. “This is just one more travel headache and a small percentage of workers.”