Telecommuting infractions found in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has an award-winning telecommuting program, but an internal investigation showed employees lied about the hours they worked, according to The Washington Post.

After whistleblower complaints, the Alexandria, Virginia-based U.S. Patent and Trademark Office conducted an internal investigation into its telecommuting program. The investigation started two years ago and found some of the 8,300 patent examiners — about half of whom work from home — lied about hours they worked.

Also, many received bonuses for the work they didn’t do, according to The Post. The patent examiners who get paid on the high end of the scale make $148,000 a year, The Post reports.

When the agency turned over its internal investigation to the Commerce Department’s Inspector General, the most damaging allegations were gone and the report was cut in half going from about 32 pages to only 16 pages, according to The Post.

“What we hoped to see was an unfiltered response,” Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser said to The Washington Post. “That’s not what this was. It’s a lot less sensational. The true extent of the problem was not being conveyed to us.”

When asked about the document, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Chief Communications Officer Todd Elmer told The Post that it was a “rough draft for discussion purposes” that was an “initial attempt to describe the full investigation record.”

Frederick Steckler, chief administrative officer at the Patent and Trademark Office, wrote both versions of the report. He said the final, shortened report contains “a more accurate, complete reflection” of the investigation, according to The Post.

WTOP’s Kathy Stewart contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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