Here are NTEU’s comments, submitted on August 4 and August 14, 2017, in response to new regulations proposed by OPM that would change how various forms of administrative leave are approved and monitored. Currently, agencies track the amount of administrative leave granted, but do not record with enough specificity the reason for the administrative leave as OPM is now proposing. Among the issues raised by NTEU in the letters are:
- NTEU does not believe that an employee should have to exhaust their block of ten (10) workdays of administrative leave prior to being placed on investigative leave. If the leave is due to an investigation, then it should be marked as investigative leave, not administrative leave under 5 U.S.C. §6329a.
- NTEU would like OPM to clarify that if government offices are closed, then it is presumed that the weather conditions prevent the employee from safely traveling into their traditional worksite. No agency head should be allowed to make a determination on this matter in contradiction to the area OPM decision-maker and/or delegated regional/local decision-maker.
- NTEU does not believe that OPM should remove language in the Regulations about the 59 minute rule. While OPM would still allow agencies to grant administrative leave, the regulations would call for a much stricter basis for all administrative leave requests, thus nearly eliminating the individual reasons behind granting the 59 minute rule leave requests.
- NTEU also disagrees with OPM’s proposed standard for determining when administrative leave is appropriate—a standard that has no grounding in the text of the Act. Under OPM’s proposed rule, administrative leave would be permissible in only three circumstances: (1) “when the absence relates directly to the mission of the agency;” (2) “when the absence is for an activity officially sponsored or sanctioned by the agency;” or (3) “when the agency determines that the absence would be in the interest of the agency or the government as a whole.” In addition to satisfying one of these criteria, the grant of administrative leave would also have to be permitted under a specific agency policy established by the agency head. The Act, which limits administrative leave only quantitatively, does not call for these proposed qualitative limitations, which OPM concocted by taking into account unspecified “past OPM policy and guidance” and unnamed Comptroller General decisions. NTEU believes that these unnecessary, vague, and subjective limitations would cause only confusion and disputes as to the propriety of grants or denials of administrative leave, which would lead to agencies and employees expending resources to resolve those disputes.
- NTEU is concerned with language that allows an agency to deny weather and safety leave if the agency believes the employee is cancelling preapproved leave or paid time off or changing a regular day off in a flexible or compressed work schedule for the primary purpose of obtaining weather and safety leave. If employees have a right to modify their time off or schedule under their current collective bargaining agreement, then the reason behind that change should not be left to the determination of management. Employees make decisions about their work schedules for a variety of reasons. NTEU does not believe management is in a position to determine the “primary purpose” behind the change.
These are proposed changes only. OPM must consider all submitted comments before finalizing any changes to administrative leave. NTEU expects OPM to review and provide feedback later this Fall/Winter.
I will keep you informed of any further action OPM takes on this matter.