October 01, 2020

Hirono, Colleagues Introduce Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act

Bill allows federal workers to keep the annual leave they have earned during a pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with her colleagues Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), introduced the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act, legislation that will allow all federal workers to carry over the leave they have accrued when a national pandemic prevents employees from taking time off of work.  

Federal workers that accrue over 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 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.

“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.” 

“Because of the president’s failed leadership, the U.S. has not gotten the COVID-19 pandemic under control. Some federal employees have not been able to take time off because they’re providing critical services to taxpayers during the public health emergency. These public servants shouldn’t lose the ability to take that leave in the future just because they worked hard during the pandemic. This legislation will ensure that it’s easier for those workers to carry over and use the annual leave they have earned,” said Senator Brown. 

“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,” said Senator Murray. “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. I’m proud to introduce this important legislation alongside Senator Hirono, to ensure that federal workers can carry over their leave after this unprecedented year.”

“Over the past six months, communities across the nation have relied heavily on federal workers who have often been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and they deserve to keep the paid leave they have earned,” said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud to join my colleagues on this important bill to ensure those who worked tirelessly to make sure Americans have what they need during this crisis can carry over the time off that they’ve earned.”

“Our bill will allow all federal employees to carry over unused annual leave to next year, making sure no federal employee is forced to lose earned leave due to this pandemic,” said Senator Schatz.

“During any national emergency, members of the federal workforce make incredible contributions and personal sacrifices that often go unseen. We know that many have deferred leave-taking as a result of COVID-19. This bill ensures that they are not penalized for that decision,” said Senator Cardin.

“Federal workers are tirelessly working, night and day, to provide critical services for the country and prevent the spread of COVID-19 -- many of whom may not have the flexibility to take any time, and are now at risk of losing their leave. Whether for this pandemic or for any future public health emergency, our bill would ensure that these dedicated workers get to enjoy their hard earned benefits,” Senator Warren said. 

The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act was introduced in the House by Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

“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. That’s why I’m joining Senator Hirono to introduce this bill to 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.”

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).

“AFGE Local 1234 supports federal legislation for ALL federal employees that preserves and protects annual leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hawaii is unique compared to the mainland United States. During this pandemic, it is hard for many residents of the state of Hawaii to travel to the mainland and back due to strict quarantine rules, regulations, and mandates. This will be very helpful for federal employees that have had to cancel their family plans this year and possibly next year as well,” AFGE Local 1234 President of the Pacific Concetta Fialkowski, Vice-President of the Pacific Joshua Christie, and National Organizer Lisa Marie Akau said.

“IFPTE Local 121 thanks Sen. Hirono for introducing this legislation aimed at protecting the earned annual leave of federal workers during this pandemic. This is particularly important to federal workers here in Hawaii, where essential and frontline workers, as well as those who are teleworking, are not able to use annual leave due to the ongoing pandemic. This bill will allow carry over of annual leave, rather than losing it. We applaud the bill and are hopeful that it will get enacted into law,” Jamie Uyeunten, President of IFPTE Local 121, Hawaii said. 

“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,” 

“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. “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.”

“FMA is proud to endorse Senator Hirono’s bill, which would provide certainty to all feds that the use-it-or-lose-it annual leave they dutifully earn throughout the year will not be unjustly forfeited due to unusual and unexpected circumstances, like this pandemic, that are completely out of their control. Senator Hirono is a strong friend of feds and we appreciate her leadership on this issue on behalf of all federal employees,” FMA National President Craig Carter said.

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