Bills to Restrict Administrative Leave Advancing in Congress

Image of Charles Grassley and Jason Chaffetz

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

Bills in the House and the Senate have been introduced to restrict the use of administrative leave by agencies, and both bills have been reported out of their respective committees for further consideration. The chances of a bill being passed to restrict how agencies use this human resources tool are growing.

The use of administrative leave made the annual government waste book and has been the subject of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Noting that these figures may be too low, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has previously cited figures from 18 agencies that concluded they spent about $80.6 million to place employees on paid administrative leave for one month or more in fiscal year 2014.  His report also noted that tens of thousands of federal employees were on paid leave for at least one month and several hundred employees for nine months to three years, over a recent three-year period.

Senator Grassley has succinctly summarized his view of use of administrative leave as follows: “Paid leave shouldn’t be a crutch for management to avoid making tough personnel decisions or a club for wrongdoers to use against whistleblowers.”

The Senate bill (S.2450) to restrict administrative leave is a bi-partisan effort sponsored by three Republicans and two Democrats. It has been reported by the Senate committee recommending the the bill be given further consideration by the full Senate. It is now being given a 58% chance of passage by GovTrack.

The Administrative Leave Act of 2016 (S. 2450) would do the following:

  • Defines administrative leave as being separate from other forms of paid leave or excused absence.
  • Requires agencies to record other forms of legislatively authorized excused absence separately from administrative leave.
  • Creates new categories of leave, investigative or notice leave, separate from administrative leave, for extended excused absences due to personnel matters, in the rare instances during an investigation or when an adverse action is proposed and that employee needs to be out of the office.
  • Allows agencies to use investigative or notice leave through a multiple step process that involves escalating controls over its use.
  • Establishes that in all cases, agencies cannot use investigative or notice leave unless established criteria are met — the continued presence of the employee may pose a threat to the employee or others, result in the destruction of evidence relevant to an investigation, result in loss of or damage to government property, or otherwise jeopardize legitimate government interests.
  • Directs agencies to consider options prior to use of investigative leave and notice leave, such as assigning the employee to duties in which the employee is no longer a threat or allowing the employee to telework.
  • Requires agencies to provide employees with explanations of why they are being placed on investigative leave or notice leave and keep records of these new forms of leave.

A similar bill in the House (H.R. 4359) was reported by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on March 1st for consideration by the full House. It is sponsored by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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