Feds can donate leave to hurricane victims

Federal employees who want to help fellow workers affected by Hurricane Katrina can donate their unused annual leave.

President Bush issued a memorandum Thursday asking the Office of Personnel Management to establish an emergency program to facilitate the transfer of leave for employees wishing to make donations.

The program would permit employees to donate their leave to other employees, allowing federal workers hit by Hurricane Katrina to get time off from work without having to use their own paid leave, or to have extra if they use up their own leave.

In response to the president's request, OPM issued its own memorandum, granting individual agencies the authority to set up leave transfer programs instead of implementing a governmentwide program. OPM said it believes that "agencies with employees affected by Hurricane Katrina are in the best position to determine whether, and how much, donated annual leave is needed by affected employees and to quickly facilitate the transfer of donated leave within their agencies."

Agencies, OPM said, can now determine the amount of donated leave needed by their employees, approve leave donors and leave recipients, and facilitate the distribution of donated leave. In addition, agencies can determine the time period for which such leave can be donated and accepted.

Many of the individual agencies have not had time yet to make determinations about specifics of their programs. The Commerce Department, for one, said it is reviewing its options and will make a decision in the days to come, according to spokesman Brian Walton. The Interior Department, whose Mineral Management Service had a number of employees working in its New Orleans district office, is "responding" to the authorities OPM granted, a spokesman said.

Beyond the donated leave that affected employees may receive, those in need may be given excused absences and other payments to help in their recovery, OPM announced.

According to the rules on donated leave published by OPM in the Federal Register in December 1999, employees who receive donations of annual leave may use those days before they have exhausted all of their own. In addition, the announcement states that if an agency informs OPM that insufficient leave was donated within their agency, OPM will coordinate a governmentwide effort to bring donated annual leave in from other agencies.

Regulations on donating annual leave puts a limit of 104 hours for each employee, but agencies have the authority to waive that limitation "in appropriate circumstances." The minimum donation is one hour. Donors can not specify particular recipients for their leave.

Employees who wish to donate annual leave must fill out this form and submit it to their agency's human resources office. Employees who want to receive a donation must fill out a separate form.

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