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Government Workers Paid to Browse Facebook, Watch Television

If you snooze, you lose. Or in the case of some federal workers, you might gain. A recent government report shows that some workers at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office "were being paid for not working" to the tune of about $5.09 million of taxpayer money from 2009 to 2013. The probe found that Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) paralegal specialists logged more than 27,000 hours in 2011 and almost 26,000 in 2012 as "Other Time" — watching television, exercising at home, cleaning dishes, and using social media "such as Facebook" — while waiting idle for their next assignment. The average wages spent on those activities at the PTAB rose to $518,663 in 2013 from $318,871 in 2009. Some specialists were logging 50 to 70 hours of "Other Time" per two-week pay period. In 2011, the PTAB reported a case backlog of 23,963 incomplete patents and trademarks.

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-- Rebecca Ungarino