OPM Issues Final Rule Regarding Compensatory Time Off for Religious Observances

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By on April 29, 2019 in Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments
Decorative gold colored candle holder with four lit candles sitting on a table with a white tablecloth next to an open book setting the scene of a religious ceremony

Federal employees may soon have a new way to make up time missed from work that was taken for religious observances.

The Office of Personnel Management has issued a final rule in the Federal Register which would give federal employees the option “to elect to engage in overtime work and earn a special form of compensatory time off to make up for the time lost in meeting those personal religious requirements.”

The rule states that the option would be offered for employees “whose personal religious beliefs require the abstention from work during certain periods of time.”

In short, federal employees would be able to perform extra work to make up for time taken off from work for religious reasons.

According to the rule’s wording, “personal religious requirements” can be up to each employee’s personal religious beliefs as to the need to take some time away from work. The wording reads, “Those requirements need not be officially mandated by a religious organization to which the employee belongs. It is sufficient that the employee’s personal religious beliefs cause the employee to feel an obligation that he or she should be absent from work for a religious purpose.”

Requests for time off for religious reasons have to be made in advance and must include the following:

  • Name and/or description of the religious observance that is the basis of the employee’s request to be absent from work
  • The date(s) and time(s) the employee plans to be absent
  • The date(s) and time(s) the employee plans to perform overtime work to earn religious compensatory time off to make up for the absence

The rule states that federal employees would have 13 pay periods before and after the time taken off for the event to earn the religious compensatory time off. OPM said it adjusted these amounts down from 26 pay periods before and after (52 pay periods total) based on feedback it received from agencies on its proposed rule saying that two years worth of pay periods was too long and could be subject to abuse and/or impact agency missions.

The rule is a final rule published in the Federal Register and goes into effect May 29, 2019.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.