Two agencies send early-bird furlough notices

March 1, 2013

Two federal agencies that formally notified their employees of possible furloughs even in advance of sequestration taking effect warned of the potential for 14 and 22 unpaid days off.

The Justice Department and the National Labor Relations Board both issued notices ahead of “furlough Friday,” with the former notifying at least some of its employees, in U.S. Attorney’s offices, as early as Feb. 20.

According to that notice, those employees would be furloughed a total of 14 workdays, starting the week of April 21 through the end of the fiscal year in September. It also says that the number of furlough days could vary among the department’s components because of differences in budgets among them.

“This is no longer an abstract concept—these documents show for the first time in concrete terms that sequestration is real, it’s here, and it’s incredibly damaging,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) who obtained and released those notices.

The Justice Department did not respond to several requests for comment.

The NLRB sent out its notices on Tuesday, raising the prospect of up to 22 furlough days, a spokeswoman said. She said the notice states that those savings and others should generate sufficient savings to “prevent more severe actions,” such as layoffs.

The agency acted before March 1 in order to have “maximum flexibility,” she said.

Furlough notices give employees 30 days of advance warning, and trigger employee rights to respond within the agency and to file formal appeals with the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Twenty-two days is the maximum number of unpaid days off an agency can order within a year without triggering complex layoff-type procedures that among other requirements involve a longer notice period. The Defense Department, for example, has said it would spread an expected 22 furlough days for its employees over the same number of weeks starting in mid-April.

An Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman said in an e-mail that she was not aware of any agencies other than Justice and NLRB that sent out formal notices before today.

 

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