Federal employees are paid millions of dollars each year for overtime. But they also work millions of dollars worth of overtime each year without charging the government a nickel. If you live in Washington, you probably know somebody like that. Maybe it's you.

Many workers -- like their counterparts in the private sector -- put in overtime without pay to help out in a crunch, or to complete a special project. Since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, many civilian workers in defense and health-care agencies have volunteered to work overtime (paid or not) to help out. Many probably are in the office today, an official government holiday.

Government bosses can order people to work paid overtime. But they can't legally order anyone to work overtime without pay.

Despite federal rules, however, some bosses manage to stay within their budgets by nudging employees -- who want to get ahead, or want to keep their jobs -- to volunteer for unpaid overtime.

Today's Monday morning quarterback is a government supervisor who says he's tired of the tactics used to get "volunteers." His letter:

"I'm a supervisor for the National Park Service, and I've objected for years to the way {some} other supervisors pressure employees to donate time with the argument: 'We don't have the money in the budget for overtime, but the job needs to be done anyhow.'

"I often see situations where employees are:

"Expected to volunteer their time at special events. ('It will look good in your personnel file.')

" . . . Required to open facilities before their tour of duty starts and close after it ends. ('That's just part of the duties of your position.')

"Made to work through their lunch hour. ('There is no one left to cover the information desk if you go out.')

" . . . Pressured to attend meetings on their days off. ('Now, you don't have to come, but we'll be talking about stuff you really ought to know.')

"There is usually the promise that employees will get 'comp time,' but the same workload factors that make overtime necessary make it hard to give comp time. Mostly it just evaporates.

"The Park Service is susceptible to this sort of abuse. We're chronically short of money. Managers try to keep facilities open seven days a week without cutting hours. Many of our employees are young and idealistic and respond to the call of duty. It's for a noble cause, after all.

"Most insidious is the pressure on temporary employees. Most of these seasonally employed kids are trying to get a foot in the agency's door. They want to protect their chances for rehire and hope for a shot at a permanent job. They desperately want to impress and rarely complain. The result is frequent abuse. . . .

"I love my job, and I've donated many an hour. But at my own choice. I'll be damned if I'd pressure an employee to work without pay, and I hate it when other supervisors do it. Seems to me like the Fair Labor Standards Act was supposed to prevent this sort of thing. . . . " NPS Supervisor