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OPM Dismisses Union Concerns About Paid Parental Leave Implementation

Agency Director Dale Cabaniss argued that legislative proposals listed as part of OPM's fiscal 2021 budget justification merely sought "clarification" from Congress, and were not intended to set limitations on the new benefit.

Office of Personnel Management Director Dale Cabaniss last week sought to reassure officials with the National Treasury Employees Union that the agency was not seeking to set limitations on the federal government’s new paid parental leave policy, despite having proposed legislation that suggests otherwise.

Last month, NTEU National President Tony Reardon urged Cabaniss in a letter to withdraw a number of legislative proposals included as part of OPM’s fiscal 2021 budget justification that appeared to seek limits on the new benefit slated for implementation in October.

President Trump last December signed into law legislation authorizing up to 12 weeks of paid leave for federal employees following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. But shortly after its enactment, lawmakers and other stakeholders realized the measure inadvertently exempted a portion of the federal workforce from the policy, including Veterans Affairs medical workers, Federal Aviation Administration employees and non-screener Transportation Security Administration workers.

In OPM’s fiscal 2021 budget justification, the agency proposed fixing those loopholes to ensure all federal civilian employees can access the benefit, but also suggested basing the 12 weeks of leave on each “given child,” as well as a vague set of “limitations” on the use of paid leave following the placement of a foster child.

In a letter obtained by Government Executive, Cabaniss told NTEU that her agency merely raised these issues seeking “clarification” from lawmakers, and that OPM did not intend to propose limiting how federal workers could use the new leave program.

“As OPM senior career subject matter experts began to prepare the draft regulation necessary for implementation of the new benefit, they determined that OPM needed clarification from Congress on a number of issues to ensure that the benefit could be implemented in a manner consistent with the intent of the legislation,” she wrote. “[OPM’s congressional budget justification] referenced in your letter was just that—an effort to request that Congress make a determination as to whether or not there is a need to provide greater clarity on specific enacted provisions.”

Although OPM declined to provide Government Executive with the letter in a timely manner, OPM spokesman Anthony Marucci told Federal News Network that the “12 weeks per given child” proposal was not intended to prevent households where both parents are federal workers from making full use of the new benefit.

“Each parent will have their own 12-week paid parental leave entitlement,” Marucci said.

Cabaniss also appeared to scold NTEU for issuing a public letter on the matter, rather than reaching out to her privately for clarification.

“It is regrettable that you chose to issue a public letter rather than simply reach out to OPM for information,” she wrote. “Your letter appears to cast doubt on the Trump administration’s support for the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act. This is absolutely not the case. The Trump administration is committed to implementing paid parental leave for federal government employees in the same way that this administration was able to work with Congress to finally, after two decades, get this benefit enacted into law.”

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