Legislation recently introduced in the House and Senate would allow all federal employees to carry over the leave they have accrued when a national pandemic prevents employees from taking time off of work. The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and in the House by Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA).
Lawmakers said that using leave hours during a national pandemic may not be possible because a worker provides a critical government service for taxpayers, needs to limit exposure to COVID-19, or follows state and local restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.
Currently, federal workers that accrue over 240 hours of annual leave either lose the hours above the cap or have to use it before the end of the year. While the Office of Personnel Management removed the 240 hour cap for some federal employees during the current pandemic, this legislation would expand it to all employees for COVID-19 and future pandemics.
“Thousands of dedicated federal workers have been tirelessly responding to the coronavirus pandemic, including U.S. Postal Service employees, Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration workers, and National Institutes of Health researchers,” Senator Hirono said. “Our nation has leaned on them as they deliver medicines and Social Security checks, assist Americans with filing their taxes, develop a vaccine, and provide other vital services. This bill makes sure that no federal worker loses their leave because of this or any future pandemic.”
“Federal workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to maintain the Navy’s readiness to respond to national security threats and have avoided unnecessary travel to minimize health risks that could threaten this important work,” said Rep. Kilmer. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice the paid leave benefits they’ve earned because they chose to prioritize national service.”
“Federal employees have continued serving the American people, whether in person or remotely, since the since the start of this pandemic, in many cases forgoing planned vacations or personal leave to ensure that the government’s vital services continue uninterrupted,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley.
“Too many of our nation’s civil servants, through no fault of their own, stand to lose paid time-off that they have rightfully earned, and we are pleased that Sen. Hirono and Reps. Kilmer and Wexton, with the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act, have crafted a common-sense solution,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union. “Across the country, there are thousands of federal employees who were unable to use their annual leave because of pandemic-related obligations at work or restrictions on travel, and it would be wrong for them not to be able to save that leave for next year. We urge Congress to move swiftly on the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act and help federal workers keep the leave they have earned serving the nation’s taxpayers.”
The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act is endorsed by the National Treasury Employees Union, American Federation of Government Employees, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Federal Managers Association, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, FAA Managers Association, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, National Federation of Federal Employees, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).