Union to Supervisors: Stop Making Sick Feds Work

Managers are threatening disciplinary actions against excepted workers who opt into furlough status, AFGE says.

Agency managers are threatening to fire or discipline excepted federal employees who cannot come to work, according to one of the nation’s largest federal employee unions.

The American Federation of Government Employees called on President Obama to “immediately advise agency managers to stop coercing and compelling employees to come to work” despite the threat of delayed paychecks as the government shutdown drags into its third work week. AFGE National President J. David Cox said in a letter that these employees may choose to stay home because they are sick, to avoid paying for childcare or to limit transportation costs when no income is forthcoming.

The Office of Personnel Management has said no excepted employee forced to work during the shutdown can take paid sick or annual leave.

“Excepted employees must be either performing excepted activities or furloughed during any absence from work,” the OPM guidance states. “The furlough must be documented by a furlough notice.”

OPM has spelled out some relief for excepted employees who need to take “intermittent unpaid absences” from work during the shutdown, encouraging agencies to let their workers use alternative schedules or telework procedures.

AFGE, however, said supervisors are discouraging their employees from taking any unpaid time off. Federal employees working during the shutdown already received a paycheck that was only 60 percent of its normal amount. The employees will not receive another paycheck until the government reopens.

Cox suggested several additional steps Obama should take to ease the burden being shouldered by federal employees, including asking the business and financial communities to allow feds to skip loan and mortgage payments. He also said Obama should instruct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make no-interest loans to feds who are not receiving their paycheck, ask public transportation authorities to provide lines of credit that allow cash-strapped employees to get to work, and call on gas companies and grocery stores to allow workers to buy necessary goods with payments deferred until paychecks have been restored.

Many banks and other companies have already created assistance programs to help feds cope with their temporary loss of pay. 

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