October 01, 2020

Kilmer, Colleagues Introduce Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act

Bill allows federal workers to keep the annual leave they have earned during a pandemic

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06), along with Representatives Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Don Beyer (VA-08), Ed Case (HI-01), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11), introduced the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act, legislation that will allow all federal workers to carry over the leave they have accrued when a national pandemic prevents employees from taking time off of work. 

Federal workers that accrue over 240 hours of annual leave either lose the hours above the cap or have to attempt to use it before the end of the year. Using leave hours during a national pandemic may not be possible because a worker provides a critical government service for taxpayers, needs to limit exposure to COVID-19, or follows state and local restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

“Federal workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to maintain the Navy’s readiness to respond to national security threats and have avoided unnecessary travel to minimize health risks that could threaten this important work,” said Rep. Kilmer. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice the paid leave benefits they’ve earned because they chose to prioritize national service. That’s why I’m joining Senator Hirono to introduce this bill to ensure that federal workers here at the Shipyard, and across federal agencies, are able to keep the unused paid time off that they have earned while also maintaining continuity of operations. Federal workers shouldn’t have to choose between working to support our nation or using their earned benefits before the end of the year.”

“With COVID-19 travel restrictions still in place across the country, taking time off to spend with family or visit loved ones is not an option for many federal employees across Virginia right now,” said Rep. Wexton. “Pandemics don’t line up with benefit years. That’s why I'm proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation that would allow all of our federal workers to rollover their 'use it or lose it' time off at the end of this unprecedented year. They deserve to have their hard-earned benefits protected, particularly as many continue to serve on the frontlines of our government's response to this crisis.”

“Our legislation would allow federal workers increased flexibility with leave policies during the pandemic, boosting morale and helping ensure strong continuity of government operations,” said Rep. Beyer. “This is something my constituents really want, a simple fix that would help many families. I thank Rep. Kilmer for his leadership, and look forward to advancing this important bill.”

The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with her colleagues Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“Thousands of dedicated federal workers have been tirelessly responding to the coronavirus pandemic, including U.S. Postal Service employees, Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration workers, and National Institutes of Health researchers,” Senator Hirono said. “Our nation has leaned on them as they deliver medicines and Social Security checks, assist Americans with filing their taxes, develop a vaccine, and provide other vital services. This bill makes sure that no federal worker loses their leave because of this or any future pandemic.”

“During this pandemic, our nation’s federal workers—including researchers at NIH, workers at IRS and so many others—have been working hard to help fight the virus, provide important services, and keep us safe. They’ve been going above and beyond—and it’s unacceptable that their non-stop hard work could mean that they lose the paid leave they have earned,” said Senator Murray. “No workers should be stripped of benefits during a pandemic—and that absolutely includes public servants who are working on behalf of the American people. I’m proud to introduce this important legislation alongside Senator Hirono, to ensure that federal workers can carry over their leave after this unprecedented year.”

The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act is endorsed by the National Treasury Employees Union, American Federation of Government Employees, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Federal Managers Association, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, FAA Managers Association, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, National Federation of Federal Employees, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“Federal employees have continued serving the American people, whether in person or remotely, since the since the start of this pandemic, in many cases forgoing planned vacations or personal leave to ensure that the government’s vital services continue uninterrupted,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley. “On behalf of the 700,000 government workers AFGE represents, I applaud Sen. Hirono for introducing legislation that would preserve annual leave for federal workers during the coronavirus or any other pandemic. I also applaud Representatives Wexton and Kilmer for introducing companion legislation in the House.”

“Too many of our nation’s civil servants, through no fault of their own, stand to lose paid time-off that they have rightfully earned, and we are pleased that Sen. Hirono and Reps. Kilmer and Wexton, with the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act, have crafted a common-sense solution,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union. “Across the country, there are thousands of federal employees who were unable to use their annual leave because of pandemic-related obligations at work or restrictions on travel, and it would be wrong for them not to be able to save that leave for next year. We urge Congress to move swiftly on the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act and help federal workers keep the leave they have earned serving the nation’s taxpayers,”

“FMA is proud to endorse Senator Hirono’s bill, which would provide certainty to all feds that the use-it-or-lose-it annual leave they dutifully earn throughout the year will not be unjustly forfeited due to unusual and unexpected circumstances, like this pandemic, that are completely out of their control. Senator Hirono is a strong friend of feds and we appreciate her leadership on this issue on behalf of all federal employees,” FMA National President Craig Carter said.