Watchdog: Patent Telework Program Invites Abuse

An internal watchdog says thousands of federal patent workers are allowed to work from home with little supervision and face almost no discipline even if they lie about the hours they put in.

The Commerce Department inspector general says senior managers at the Patent and Trademark Office are blocked from ensuring that employees actually work the hours claimed, making it appear that time-card abuse is "tolerated" at the agency's highest levels.

Inspector General Todd Zinser told a House hearing Tuesday he has seen no evidence that time-card or attendance abuse is "systemic" at the patent office, where more than half of all examiners work from home.

But he said it would be "extremely easy" for large numbers of workers to submit fraudulent time cards if they wanted to do so.