Some Federal Workers See Silver Lining in Spring Furloughs

Ersler Dmitry/Shutterstock.com

Spring is near, temperatures are warming, and the Nationals are preparing to defend their National League East crown, raising the question: Is there ever a good time to get furloughed?

With sequestration set to take effect on Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees may soon be facing unpaid days off. While most are no doubt dreading news of a furlough, there are apparently some who see a silver lining.

One reason is that Congress has sometimes granted furloughed federal employees back pay for the wages they missed. There is no guarantee that will happen this time. But after the 21-day shutdown from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996, more than $44 million was approved by Congress and the president to retroactively pay the 284,000 impacted employees, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Another reason is that agencies have to cap the furloughs at 22 days because unpaid leave beyond that becomes a layoff. And while nothing in the law requires federal agencies to schedule 22 days of furlough consecutively, there is also nothing in law that prohibits it.

“Bring it on! I’ve requested the consecutive 22 days so I can draw unemployment and travel,” wrote one federal employee on the U.S. Air Force Web site earlier this week.

“I couldn’t care less,” wrote another on a FederalTimes.com blog. “Let it happen.... A vacation through a furlough is the best kind possible since I would be legally prohibited from doing anything in an official capacity including checking e-mails. I haven’t had such an enjoyable vacation since the advent of cell phones and the Internet.”

These are exceptions, of course. One federal worker, who spoke on condition that he not be identified, said that far from viewing unpaid leave as a good thing, he and his colleagues are “worried also about what is going to happen to jobs in our office longer term.”

Moreover, most agencies are expected to spread out the unpaid, off-duty furlough days—not permit them to run consecutively—to minimize the impact on services.

But Joseph Kaplan, a lawyer whose firm represents federal employees worldwide, says that federal workers should know that they have clearly defined legal rights. For instance, none of the furloughs can begin on Friday. Employees must be given 30 days of advance written notice of a furlough by an agency, and then there must be seven calendar days for an employee to respond orally or in writing, have a lawyer or someone else represent them, and perhaps even appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

That means the earliest the sequester-related furloughs could start is in April.

But there are few grounds on which to challenge furloughs, unless proper notice was not given or some other violation of due process occurred.

Kaplan makes another point: “It does take an act of Congress to get the lost pay.”

Asked about the likelihood that Congress would give federal workers their missed pay for furlough days retroactively this time around, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, did not directly respond to the question.

“Hopefully, President Obama will work with us to stop his sequester and replace it with smarter, common-sense spending cuts—so that will be a moot point,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Mariel Saez, a spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat whose Maryland district includes 62,000 federal workers, said, “Right now, Mr. Hoyer remains focused on replacing sequestration with a balanced solution to prevent the possibility of furloughs for federal employees.”

(Image via Ersler Dmitry/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.