OSHA Will Not Furlough Employees

OSHA inspectors work in Brooklyn, New York. OSHA inspectors work in Brooklyn, New York. Bebeto Matthews/AP

Employees at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will not be furloughed under sequestration, according to an agency memorandum.

The agency outlined its plan, which includes a freeze on bonuses and hiring, in a recent communication to employees. OSHA employees will be spared from involuntary unpaid leave if the automatic spending cuts take effect, according to the letter. “While there is little to call ‘good news’ with respect to the sequester, I am pleased to say that by reprogramming funds we have been able to identify sufficient reductions -- while still being able to support our priorities and mission -- to take the required budget reductions without furloughing OSHA staff,” stated the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Government Executive.

The Labor Department, which houses OSHA, did not respond to specific questions about the date of the letter or its provenance. Assistant Labor Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels oversees the agency.

Labor and the Office of Management and Budget have approved OSHA’s request for greater flexibility in how funds are spent, known in government jargon as reprogramming. “The reprogramming flexibility has allowed us to fund our priority programs while cutting other, lower priority areas,” the memo said. “Ultimately Congress will respond to our reprogramming, but the department and OMB have instructed us to proceed under the assumption that we will operate under our reprogrammed sequester plan.”

In addition to the agencywide freeze on hiring and the departmentwide freeze on performance bonuses and other monetary awards, OSHA is eliminating non-essential employee travel and non-mission critical contracts to comply with the impending budget cuts.

Not all Labor Department workers are safe from furlough. Acting Secretary Seth Harris sent a Feb. 20 email to employees saying some agencies in the department will have to furlough personnel if sequestration takes effect.

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