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Union Urges OPM Director to Withdraw Proposal to Limit Paid Parental Leave

As part of its fiscal 2020 budget justification, the personnel agency proposed legislation limiting the availability of paid parental leave for foster placements and in instances where both parents are federal workers.

The National Treasury Employees Union last week urged the Trump administration to abandon a legislative proposal that would couple technical fixes to ensure all federal workers can use the newly enacted paid parental leave policy with two new limitations on how feds can use the benefit.

As part of its fiscal 2021 budget justification, the Office of Personnel Management proposed technical fixes to ensure that all federal employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave starting later this year. After years of advocacy, the benefit was included as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, and will be available beginning in October.

But in addition to ensuring Federal Aviation Administration employees, Veterans Affairs medical workers and other non-Title 5 employees can use the benefit, OPM proposed a number of new limitations on the policy. First, the OPM plan would cap the amount of paid leave at 12 weeks per “given child,” meaning a set of parents who are both federal workers could only take a combined 12 weeks after they have or adopt a child.

And the agency also proposed a vague set of “limitations” on the use of paid parental leave following the placement of a foster child.

“This change recognizes that, in some cases, foster care placements may be designed to be for temporary periods of less than one year, which undermines the justification for paid parental leave to allow for long-term bonding with a child,” OPM wrote.

In a Feb. 27 letter to OPM Director Dale Cabaniss, NTEU National President Tony Reardon said the union fears OPM may try to include these proposals in proposed regulations implementing the new benefit.

“We are concerned about OPM’s forthcoming implementation of the program,” Reardon wrote. “According to the [fiscal] 2021 OPM congressional budget justification, your agency is pursuing restrictions to paid parental leave that were not envisioned by Congress and are certainly not acceptable to the federal employees who have waited decades for this benefit.”

Reardon said that the law signed by President Trump specifically includes foster placements as eligible for the benefit, and efforts to chip away at that would run counter to the law.

“The budget justification document is unclear about exactly what limitations might be under consideration by the administration, but nevertheless, the law as signed by the president does not differentiate among births, adoptions or foster placements,” he wrote. “Indeed, the law states that paid parental leave is available for the ‘birth or placement’ of a child, and congressional advocates repeatedly stated that foster families would qualify.”

And Reardon described efforts to make dual federal employee parents split 12 weeks of leave as “regressive.”

“Each federal employee has a right to 12 weeks of paid parental leave, and cutting that in half because their partner is also a federal employee discriminates against those families,” he wrote.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is slated to consider a bipartisan measure to expand the paid parental leave policy to all federal employees—without the proposed limitations—on Wednesday.

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