Government lacks coherent policy for religious time off, report finds

Jeff Zelevansky/AP file photo

The federal government should provide more specific regulations dictating policies regarding compensatory time for religious observances, a government oversight agency has said.

The Government Accountability Office found that federal agencies have conflicting policies toward time off for religious observances and it called on the Office of Personnel Management to create new rules to standardize guidelines.

GAO’s report cited examples from seven law enforcement and flight monitoring agencies, including the FBI, Federal Aviation Administration, and Customs and Border Protection. GAO found some agencies provided as many as 120 days for employees to use accumulated compensatory time off for religious observances, while others gave only six.

Title IV of the 1978 Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act “provided the authority for federal employees to work overtime and receive equal compensatory time off in order to meet requirements for religious observance,” the report said.

GAO found a lack of standardization in the policies used to implement this mandate. Workers at some agencies simply use their regular annual leave when taking off for religious observances, investigators found.

“Unless OPM clarifies its regulations and works with agencies such as CBP to revise its policy,” the auditors concluded, “there is a continued risk agencies’ religious accommodation leave policies will not be in accordance with the proper administration of this authority.”

OPM agreed with GAO’s recommendations. 

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