NDAA will let federal workers carry over leave amid pandemic

Kilmer, Murray successfully pushed to include provision in defense funding bill


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 8, 2020) — Legislation championed by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) that allows all federal workers to carry over the leave they have accrued when a national pandemic prevents them from taking time off of work has been incorporated into the compromise bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA is set to receive a vote in the House and Senate as soon as today. If approved, this will be a major victory for federal employees and their unions.

Federal workers who accrue more than 240 hours of annual leave either lose the hours above the cap or have to attempt to use it before the end of the year. Using leave hours during a national pandemic may not be possible because those workers provide a critical government service for taxpayers, need to limit exposure to COVID-19, or follow state and local restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

Kilmer sponsored the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act (H.R. 8457) to allow federal workers to carry over that unused leave. The latest version of the NDAA includes a provision based on Kilmer’s bill and will allow federal employees to carry over an additional 25% of their annual leave into 2021.

“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,” Kilmer said. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice the paid leave benefits they’ve earned because they chose to prioritize national service. This will ensure that federal workers here at the shipyard, and across federal agencies, are able to keep the unused paid time off that they have earned while also maintaining continuity of operations. Federal workers shouldn’t have to choose between working to support our nation or using their earned benefits before the end of the year.”

In the U.S. Senate, the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act (S. 4777) was introduced by Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and co-sponsored by several colleagues including Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

“During this pandemic, our nation’s federal workers — including researchers at NIH, workers at IRS, and so many others — have been working hard to help fight the virus, provide important services, and keep us safe. They’ve been going above and beyond — and it’s unacceptable that their non-stop hard work could mean that they lose the paid leave they have earned,” Murray said. “No workers should be stripped of benefits during a pandemic — and that absolutely includes public servants who are working on behalf of the American people.”

The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), National Treasury Employees Union, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Federal Managers Association, FAA Managers Association, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, and the National Federation of Federal Employees.

“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 AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “On behalf of the 700,000 government workers AFGE represents, I applaud Sen. Hirono for introducing legislation that would preserve annual leave for federal workers during the coronavirus or any other pandemic. I also applaud Representatives Wexton and Kilmer for introducing companion legislation in the House.”

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